“The common idea that we need to “stretch out” injuries and pain was working against my body; all the stretches that I was faithfully doing were causing me more pain! Moving into the pain and making connections between my mind and my hip, my shoulder, my knees, and the rest of my body through small, targeted movements led to greater progress than I had experienced in six months of conscientious treatments.”
Bahr’s Five Basic Principles of Somatic Healing
1. Each of us has an innate ability to heal our bodies.
We know we can feel pain. So, why do we not also know that we ourselves can lessen or eliminate that same pain? The truth is, we can.
Somatic yoga therapy shows us that we can not only alleviate our pain for the short term but can reteach our bodies to function in healthier ways for the rest of our lives. We just need to learn to listen; to truly hear our bodies, and to learn how to respond well. Somatic yoga therapy is a way to learn both how to hear and how to respond.
2. What happens in one area of the body affects the others.
As a kid, I was taught a song with the lyric “Foot bone connected to the heel bone…Heel bone connected to the ankle bone…” and so it went, all the way up the body. It’s so true! The bones are connected one to the other by a well-architected network of ligaments, tendons, and muscles. They all work together to keep us moving in the world.
Try this short exercise:
Stand and lift one of your heels. See how the muscles in your calf wake up,
the knee joint bends and your hip joint changes its position? It’s all connected.
Somatic yoga therapy methodology focuses on the muscles, as they are the engine for the bones to move. Contracted or lengthened muscles determine where the bones go or don’t go. In sessions, the combination of my external observation and my client’s internal sensing and feeling lead to finding muscle dysfunction. At that point, the reeducation process begins…
3. The brain and the muscles are in constant communication.
The nervous system, command central for the body, is made up of communication channels between the brain and the muscles. A continuous stream of messages back and forth between the brain and muscles guide muscle movement. When a muscle is used to complete the same tasks over and over, the brain views the habit as normal and adapts accordingly. Muscles become fatigued and lose connection with the brain.
The good news is that our brains can change and adapt as a result of repetition. It’s like any other learning. The more we do it (whatever ‘it’ is), the easier it becomes until we find that we’re able to do it without thinking about it. Somatics optimizes neural muscular communication channels to reteach the body to move in ways it’s forgotten.
4. Muscles cannot be forced into movements they aren’t able to perform.
Muscles are intended to move in two directions, contraction and length. Overworked muscles get stuck in contraction. They feel tight and can’t move freely. Most of us were taught that tight muscles can and should be stretched. Well, somatics says no, and here’s why.
Muscles have a natural mechanism called stretch reflex that regulates the length of the muscle automatically by pulling it back when it goes farther than its comfortable limit. If we try to pull it past its current ability, it will reflex back and tighten even more. It’s a protective mechanism. Somatics helps us take conscious control of the tight muscle and slowly reintroduce length in a way that the muscle can adapt to it.
5. All physical movement originates from the torso, pelvis, and shoulders.
You’ve read that what happens in one part of the body affects the other parts of the body. That interdependence is particularly evident in the connection between the torso, shoulders, and pelvis.
Try this short exercise:
Sit in a chair and try to rotate the torso to the right without moving the shoulders.
You might be able to start to rotate the low back, but as soon as the rib cage joins in,
the shoulders and arms will come, too.
What did you find? Were you able to feel the connections in your body? Awareness of these types of connections allows us to take conscious control of the muscles and guide them back to functioning well.
“The human body is not an instrument to be used,
but a realm of one’s being to be experienced, explored,
enriched and, thereby, educated.”
Thomas Hanna, founder of Clinical Somatic Education
How to get started
If you are currently under a doctor’s care, receiving physical therapy, or visiting a chiropractor, please schedule a free 30-minute phone consultation to discuss when would be the best time for you to begin your somatic yoga therapy.
Otherwise, schedule your first appointment, either in person in my Saint Paul studio or as a virtual visit.
YogaFresh students, email Elen to schedule your appointment.
I look forward to working with you!