How many of you do your Somatic Exercises and learn to eliminate your primary muscle pain complaint, only to have it begin to creep back up on you several months later?
It would be great if we could “fix” ourselves permanently – do our Somatic Exercise practice daily and never again develop back pain, hip pain or neck pain. However, the nervous system doesn’t work that way. We are not a machine that can be recalibrated once every five years.
We are an internally experienced, constantly changing system that adjusts and adapts to every piece of information and feedback in our environment. These often unconscious events occur on a second-by-second, minute-by-minute, and day-by-day basis – some of them we’re aware of, and others we’re not. What we can do today may be slightly different from what we can do tomorrow depending upon what is happening in our lives. This is why, when we teach Somatic Exercises (which are pandiculations of common movement patterns and stress reflexes), we ask the question, “does the cat or dog ever stop pandiculating?” No. Every time they get up from rest they lengthen their limbs and shake off the tension.
Hanna Somatics teaches us to be aware of and to unlearn our movement habits (hunching over a computer at work), and our mental and emotional habits. Movement habits make sense, but why our mental and emotional habits? Put simply: what’s going on in your head is mirrored in your body, whether you realize it or not. The Red Light Reflex is a symptom of stress and worry (tight belly, shallow breathing), which can lead to back , shoulder, and hip pain if ignored.
Stress responses can cause muscle pain to return if you are not careful.
During periods of stress your deepest reflexive responses to stress will be the first thing to return in full force. It is the “path of least resistance” for your brain – a familiar habit. You may begin to slump and stop breathing deeply (Red Light), or tighten your back as if ready to run (Green Light), or tilt slightly to one side (Trauma). Often the reflex simply occurs in response to your stress. For example, you learn to eliminate muscle pain that developed due to compensation from an accident. You go about your life, yet you slip down the stairs and now your hip is hurting as it did before. This is not uncommon. What you choose to do about it is what matters.
For some people, given the knowledge and awareness they have from their daily Hanna Somatics practice, they can bounce back quickly and say, “oh yeah, I know what to do and what to be aware of.” For others it’s as if they have to start from scratch again. They forget that the answer lies within their own brain.
When I am particularly stressed I tend to slump to the right or tighten my right hip when I walk. When I encounter these stressful periods I need to do my Somatic Exercises more than ever, and find ways to include some standing “reach to the top shelf,” “diagonal reaches,” (all from my book) or any other “movement snacks” into my day.
Remembering to do your somatic movement daily is as important as brushing your teeth, eating healthy food or getting enough sleep. When stress increases, so does muscle tension. Constant elevated muscle tension means that your muscles aren’t getting enough oxygen or blood. Tight muscles are tired, painful muscles. This is your canary in the mineshaft.
Stress won’t go away; it is a part of life. What matters is whether you know yourself well enough that you can sense your own reflexive responses to stress (mental, emotional, physical or otherwise) and whether you take the time necessary to regain voluntary control over yourself, your muscles and by extension, your life.
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