Here is a quote that exemplifies what we teach in Hanna Somatics:
How easily we allow our old habits and set patterns to dominate us! Even though they bring us suffering, we accept them with almost fatalistic resignation, for we are so used to giving in to them. We may idealize freedom, but when it comes to our habits, we are completely enslaved. Still, reflection can slowly bring us wisdom. We may, of course, fall back into fixed repetitive patterns again and again, but slowly we can emerge from them and change.
While this quote comes from a Buddhist website, it is the same philosophy underpinning Hanna Somatics. From a Hanna Somatics perspective it means that set patterns and habits, while useful in many ways, can dominate our posture and movement if we are unable to control them. The fixed habits of walking that we painstakingly integrate through trial and error as toddlers are important. They allow us the freedom to move forward in life. Yet, when other habits take over and become fixed patterns, like slumping at the computer, gritting our teeth when we’re angry, tightening our bellies when we’re anxious, contracting our back muscles as we rush through our busy lives – we gradually lose our sense of well-being and our freedom. It changes who we are.
Habitual responses to stress become muscular habits at the level of our brain and nervous system. Once we develop a habit we are helpless to change it until we spend thoughtful time becoming aware of:
- What the habit feels like (back pain, hip pain, sciatica, neck pain).
- How it shows up in our bodies (slumped shoulders, face forward, leg length discrepancy).
- How it is limiting us (“I used to dance and now it just hurts my hip…I can only walk a few blocks and then my back gives out…”).
Many people become resigned: “Well, I’m not getting any younger.” “It’s all down hill from here…” or “I probably ache because of my age.” As the quote above states, many people accept their unfortunate limitations with fatalistic resignation. They feel trapped and frustrated by muscle pain and few sensible solutions. They are often encouraged to seek a solution to their pain “out there” – massage therapy, bodywork, physical therapy, the latest gizmos to relax muscles. They don’t realize that in most cases the answer lies within: in their own brain and sensory motor system, and how an awareness of what they’re doing repeatedly, (whether emotional, physical or psychological) can be the piece of the puzzle that they’re missing.
This is the message of Hanna Somatics: freedom comes through awareness of one’s ability to sense and control oneself from the inside out as they move through life. It is a patient and persistent practice of awareness – of what it feels like to be you, how your old habits have created habits of pain and limitation, the meaning you have given to what has happened to you over the years, and how you can change limitation to freedom – on your own, from the inside out. We need habits in our lives; they create a necessary element of stability – in movement. We need, however, to be aware of whether they are serving us or not.
The way in which we move is a reflection of our lives and our thoughts. What does freedom look and feel like to you?