Essential Somatics Workshop Is a Big Success in India

I just finished up two days of Essential Somatics “Pain Relief Through Movement” workshops here in Chennai, India. In addition to the two workshops offered, I’ve been working with private clients in order to help them to reverse the muscle pain that they hadn’t been able to get rid of up until now: back pain, sciatica, neck, shoulder, hip and knee pain.

The classes were packed, and all were amazed at the differences not only in their movement, but also in the decrease in their pain level.

Here’s a group photo from Leapwellness Studio in Chennai:

Essential Somatics workshop attendees in Chennai, INdia

Several participants were overjoyed to learn that the problems they were told they had were functional problems reversible through Somatic Education. They learned that many functional muscular problems develop due to our movement habits, and to repeated response to stress reflexes, like accidents, injuries, surgeries and repetitive stress.

One woman was told that she had one leg longer than the other and she’d have to learn to live with it. This, she was told, was why she had sciatic pain. She couldn’t walk for more than 25 minutes before her pain set in. She not only attended the workshops, but came to see me for a private, clinical session. At the end of the first workshop (Releasing Legs and Hip Joints), and her session, her legs were the same length and she was walking with a smooth swing in her hips. No pain, equal leg length.What had she learned? That raising children and holding them on her hip had caused her to become tighter on one side of her waist than the other. She’d set herself up for the pattern that creates sciatica: tight back muscles and one side of the waist muscles tighter than the other.

Another participant arrived with terrible neck pain; his physiotherapist had “worked out the knots,” but the pain was still there. After the Pain-Free Neck and Shoulders Workshop, he left the studio pain-free, with Somatic Exercises and techniques that gave him the tools to stay pain-free, and to “fix” himself should the pain return.

Yet another participant – one of India’s top professional golfers – had lost her balance after recovering from a severe virus. She learned that even serious illness can cause our muscles to contract and compensate, which can lead to muscle pain and loss of coordination and balance. The end result for her, after two workshops and one private session was a renewed sense of balance and an easy, more efficient gait.

Interested in an Essential Somatics workshop in your area? Get in touch!

Workshops are easy to set up and your clients with muscle pain will thank you for the new information they can learn that will help them continue doing what they love to do!

Movement Can Be Smoother With Bare Feet

Last week I had the extraordinary experience of participating in a traditional Sri Lankan Buddhist ritual: the climbing of Adam’s Peak…

It began at 2:00am in order to reach the summit to witness the brilliant sunrise.

This experience, grueling though it was, thrilled me on two levels: firstly, I’m a hiker, so I love the challenge of a hard climb. Secondly, I had the opportunity to observe the movement of the local Sri Lankan pilgrims as they climbed – the most amazing part of which was that a majority of people climbed the 5500 steps to the peaks in bare feet. Old women, young children, mothers carrying babies in their arms. Bare feet or flip flops. Nothing more.

I know it sounds crazy – here I am in beautiful Sri Lanka and I’m looking at people’s feet, but I was amazed at something else: the older men and women had good looking, sturdy feet; no bunions, no hammertoes, the toes weren’t mashed together as are many of the toes of my clients. Walking barefoot or in flip flops allowed them to use all the muscles of their feet! They had to feel the ground and negotiate their movement in a more efficient manner.

One old woman nimbly ran by me down the mountain, holding her saree up so as not to dirty it. I suddenly became very aware of my sneaker-clad feet that were thunking down the mountain, so I decided to go barefoot myself. What a difference! I observed a lot of barefoot walking in Sri Lanka, and I was impressed not only with the relative beauty of their feet, but by their movement: smooth, and even.

I’m convinced that the more we practice barefoot walking, the more adept our movement will become and the less our feet will hurt. 

When you walk barefoot you’re more likely to pay attention to your gait; rather than heel-striking first, you will tend to walk with more of the foot, quieter, and more smoothly. This will, in turn, affect the way you hold the rest of your body. Believe it or not, just walking barefoot can begin to help alleviate back and hip pain. Your feet might even look better and you might be able to avoid a trip to the podiatrist! Have a look at the video clips.

Please excuse the fact that this video is sideways! I’m an iPhone beginner, so bear with me.

Sitting – Movement = Bad Health

I will soon be on my way to Sri Lanka and India, and this morning two people sent me the same New York Time article: Is Sitting A Lethal Activity?

Considering the fact that I’m not looking forward to sitting in a cramped coach seat for 19 hours, I didn’t want to be reminded of what I will be experiencing. I’m thankful that I tend to move (even when I sit) because sitting and I have never really gotten along. I tend to do seated Somatic Movements – Arch & Curl, gently pushing of one knee and then the other forward (which releases the sacroiliac and back muscles to lengthen).

In an airplane, Somatic Exercises need to be modified – there’s only so much room between you and the person in front of you. These movements will help you to prevent back, neck, shoulder and hip pain that can occur when sitting, cramped in an airplane. There are many helpful movements on my Pain-Free At Work DVD to help you stay moving, even in a tight space. You can apply this to your office or cubicle at work.

I have written before about sitting and the effect it has on our bodies, especially for an extended period of time, which teaches our muscles to stay frozen and tight, leading to the development of Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA). The NY Times article was especially interesting, because it didn’t deal with what most of us already know and feel as we sit – that sitting hurts the body. The study in the article was more about calories, weight gain and lack of exercise, and how some people in the study gained weight while not exercising and others didn’t. Dr. Jensen, a Mayo Clinic researcher, explains,

“The people who didn’t gain weight were unconsciously moving around more,” Dr. Jensen says. They hadn’t started exercising more — that was prohibited by the study. Their bodies simply responded naturally by making more little movements than they had before the overfeeding began, like taking the stairs, trotting down the hall to the office water cooler, bustling about with chores at home or simply fidgeting. On average, the subjects who gained weight sat two hours more per day than those who hadn’t. “

The upshot of this study is that you can change your environment to encourage more activity, even if the bulk of your work requires that you work with a computer. The more you move, the healthier you’ll be. It’s just how it is.

While visiting India in 2008 I visited one of the Tibetan Children’s Village schools. The children had no desks. They sat on the floor and were allowed to squirm around. They changed positions, sat cross legged or on their bellies. They incorporated movements into their English lessons as well. Apparently this kind of classroom environment is now being experimented with more in the United States. Not having to sit in the same position, with “hands on the desk, eyes straight ahead” could go a long way toward supporting good overall physiological health.

The need to sit and focus for long hours on external events (like a computer screen, cell phone, television, blackboard) not only has detrimental physiological effects on our bodies, but it also teaches us to stop paying attention to the sensations of our own bodies. Proprioception – your awareness of your body in space – begins to take a backseat. When you can’t feel your body and movement, you learn to stay tight, to limit your muscular range of motion and your ability to move naturally. This “unlearning” of movement is what Thomas Hanna called a true public health crisis some 25 years ago. Not being aware of what you’re not aware of is a dangerous place to be when it comes to your own body.

If you want to learn to move again – intelligently, effortlessly, efficiently – and without pain: attend a workshopbook a clinical Somatics session, or visit the Essential Somatics® store for instructional DVDs.

                             Life is movement, movement is life. Make the most of it!

How To Stretch Without Straining

Traditional stretching routines involve forceful pulling or pushing of muscles.

Traditional stretching routines focus on individual muscles rather than on any pattern or group of muscles. This approach to readying muscles for action can cause muscles to become tighter than they were when you started. What works better than traditional, passive stretching? Pandiculation.

A pandiculation is a conscious, deliberate contraction of a muscle, or muscle group, followed by a slow, controlled lengthening of that muscle – followed by complete relaxation. This intentional sensory feedback wakes up the brain (the command center of the muscular system) so that the brain can reset the muscle length and relax the muscle past its previous point of contraction.

You can pandiculate any traditional stretch and make it a “Somatic Stretch.” By this I mean an intentional, mindful contraction of the muscles, followed by a slow lengthening of the muscles. When you pay attention to your movement instead of forcing a tight muscle to relax, you will begin the process of reeducating your muscles.

  • You begin to feel which muscles are involved in the movement (back, quadriceps, hamstrings and quadriceps, etc.)
  • You become more conscious of how far you can comfortably lengthen a muscle
  • You begin to feel how much better your muscle control is
  • You begin to learn which muscles, when working together can be involved in your “stretch” in order to more effectively reset muscle length.
  • You begin to learn how to reverse chronic muscle pain (back, neck, shoulders, hips, feet, etc.)

You can pandiculate any traditional “stretch” for greater effectiveness.

Here’s a short video example of how to “stretch without stretching.” It is of a traditional stretch that worked better when turned into a pandiculation. The young athlete in the video participated in his team’s stretching routine. While he had good overall flexibility, his back and hamstrings were tight. This made static stretching a particularly unpleasant experience for him. He enjoyed the following exercise, however:

Send me your most troublesome traditional stretches (the ones you keep doing because you’re told that they’re good for you), and I’ll be happy to make a short video showing how you can make them into a pandiculation.

Learn how to stretch without stretching for improved awareness, muscle control and injury prevention – and how to move without pain to get the most out of the activities you love to do!

To learn these methods at home for long term pain relief and increased mobility, visit the Essential Somatics® store.