What is Somatics?
Somatics, simply put, is brain-body (neuromuscular) education. It helps you to understand the unconscious “holding” patterns of your body and enabling you to become more comfortable, balanced, and relaxed. Somatics engages you in an active learning process through slow, conscious movements and exercises, allowing you to restore proper function and control over your muscles. The aim is to empower you, teaching you to be self sufficient instead of dependent. Training your body-mind connection and getting to know your habits is a key ingredient to a life free of unnecessary tension.
In recent years, scientific research on ‘neuroplasticity’ has changed the way we approach the brain. We now know that our nervous system is capable of changing and evolving throughout our entire lives. Therefore, just as our nervous system has learned to keep certain muscles tight, it can also learn to release chronic tension!
We “learn” our movement patterns throughout our lives, as we experience trauma (both physical and emotional), engage in repetitive movements, and move through the stresses of life. Over time, the way our bodies respond to these conditions can actually perpetuate dysfunction in our bodies. Thomas Hanna coined the term ‘‘Sensory-Motor Amnesia,’’ a habituated state of forgetfulness of how certain muscle groups feel, and how to control them. Our patterns become so deeply rooted that we don’t even have to think about them, this is known as muscle memory. Sensory Motor Amnesia, or unconscious muscular contraction, can result in common conditions such as chronic pain, limited mobility, loss of balance, discomfort in the joints, shallow breathing and compromised posture.
There are three major components to Clinical Somatics:
- Assessment: A thorough postural assessment, both standing and lying down, will help you sense and understand your body’s holding pattern, and give you and your practitioner a baseline to compare with throughout treatment.
- Facilitated Pandiculation: Pandiculation is the nervous system’s natural way of waking up the sensory-motor system. A basic example is how a cat or dog takes time for a luxurious stretch after laying down. This voluntary contract-relax method resets your muscles, thereby readying you for efficient movement. In treatment, you engage your muscles through specific functional motions with gentle resistance from a practitioner, which helps your body send biofeedback to the brain regarding the level of engagement in your muscles. Pandiculation aids in restoring conscious control over the body, helping muscles that were held tight to relax, and those that weren’t firing to become awake and stimulated.
- Independent Awareness Exercises: Although we can achieve substantial unwinding on the table, it is important to have tools that allow you to tune into your body to strengthen new neuromuscular pathways. You will be given specific embodiment exercises that will reinforce your sensory-motor awareness. These exercises are meant to be practiced on a regular basis in order for you to maintain your new found freedom of movement and also to continue to explore and unwind your body as life continues outside the treatment room.
The Somatic approach aims to address the root cause of chronic pain and tension by rewiring the nervous system. As you regain conscious awareness and motor control over your body, your brain will remember this new felt sense, and allow you to continue to perpetuate the balance and softness that is attained from each exercise. The process of somatic education can effectively decrease muscle tension, release trauma reflexes, and empower you to move and live in a more free and relaxed state. We look forward to working with you!