Last year, while visiting my parents at their retirement home, a nonagenarian resident tapped me on the shoulder. She said, “You do not walk like the rest of your family.”
I was not clear on her comment and my face must have reflected that.
She continued, “I have watched your mother, father, sister and brother walk -- You do not move like any of them. They all move the same, but you ….. you are different.”
This stranger had scrutinized the movements of my family over the past 18 months. As I reflected on her observation, she was correct. I definitely moved with a pattern quite distinct from my family.
Pause for a moment.
Have you noticed similarities within your own family - of gestures, gait or stances?
How do we develop our patterns of movement? Are they learned by watching, created by habit, formed out of injury or pain, and a tell-tale story of how we have moved physically throughout our life? A more interesting question would be, do we have the ability to change our movement patterns? The answer is YES, most certainly we can.
I have experienced this shift first-hand through Clinical Somatic Education and somatic movement. With somatics, I’ve become aware of my muscles that won’t let go, or are constantly firing and holding me hostage in pain or discomfort.
You know-- “those” muscles that are always in trouble.
Have you heard of Somatics?
Somatics, (in the tradition of Thomas Hanna) is a gentle practice that releases chronic muscular tension to allow more ease of movement while minimizing or eliminating pain.
It’s also beneficial for those who already move well, as it maintains fluidity with less effort for the muscles to move.
Clinical Somatic Education (CSE) is a relatively new term for most people. It’s a movement modality, which is often described as a Neuromuscular re-education practice, but what does that mean? Simply, it helps to reconnect the conversation between your brain and your muscles. That “dialogue” might feel more like a broken telephone game especially when there have been injuries, surgeries, stress, repetitive movements, and more.
Does that make sense?
Think of this – you hurt your neck, and then won’t turn your head or move your shoulder for fear of more neck pain. You might even be tensing your whole body as an unconscious response. After time, this adapted pattern becomes habitual and your movement is affected big time. You are on auto-pilot and your neck forgets its full ability to move, but in reality, your brain has re-set this as your norm. The muscles are stuck in some form of contraction.
In somatics, this is termed Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA). Basically, you’ve lost the ability to voluntarily control your muscles. It’s gone under the radar and you aren’t even aware of it. Eeeks.
Clinical Somatic Movement works with these responses (or reflexes of the muscles) with a technique called Pandiculation. Pandiculation is when you intentionally tighten a muscle, then super slowly release it in a smooth motion, and finally let that muscle find zero effort in relax mode. You (and your brain) need to pause and soak it all in.
BIG note here, pandiculation is not a passive movement. YOU are actively paying attention in order to send a message to the muscle or pattern of movement having trouble. Voila.
The conversation has started when you regain voluntary control of the muscle and its ability to both contract and release. Pretty amazing, and totally do-able.
Next week, how certain issues you are dealing with may be directly related to three specific reflexes focused on in Somatic movement.