"The slower you go, the more your brain teaches your body" 
-Thomas Hanna

What Is Essential Somatic® Movement? (ESM)

ESM is a sensory-motor training that focuses on the internal sensation and organisation of our movements.

When we bring self-awareness to our movements, we engage the parts of our brain and central nervous system (CNS) that are responsible for perceiving and regulating muscle tension.

We learn to direct change for ourselves – releasing a tense shoulder for example - in an immediate way, right in the moment that we become aware of it.

How Does It Work?

The sensory and motor nerves in our brain direct the actions of our muscles upon our bodies. Our muscles operate in patterns, one group linking with and influencing the connecting ones.

 

As we re-create the same posture and way of moving each day, the brain maintains these patterns as stored instructions and we just feel ‘ourselves’.

 

When you engage in your chosen exercise, you will be operating through the same unconscious patterns and, over time, they will begin to hold you back, causing restriction, maybe even pain.

What Can a Class Offer Me?

A relaxed muscle tone – one that supports and enables whatever movements we would like to be doing in our lives. Easier balance brings better co-ordination and freedom from tension patterns that - over time -  evolve into joint strains or injuries

In a Somatics movement class we learn how our aches and pains may well be related to patterns of tension that we didn’t really notice any more. Any movements that we repeat on a regular basis become organised and stored in the brain in order to free us up to be able to concentrate on something else.

This is good and necessary: you need to move hand to mouth pretty often without paying too much attention.

 

But, it also means that faulty, un-balanced movements patterns - maybe as a result of a fall or accident -  also get repeated. Our habits are stored by the brain and shifted away from our immediate awareness. We simply experience ‘it’s always like that with me’.

A Somatics  class brings us to our real centre – our ‘core’ – and out of the unconscious way that tension controls our posture and limits our potential to move, to breath well, to feel at ease in ourselves

Pandiculation – Rather Than Stretching.

Lion_stretching_at_Ouwehands_2010.jpeg

Every time your cat or dog gets up to move they pandiculate their muscles. Which is to say they re-set their muscle length to be relaxed and available to move. They contract their back and legs, they slowly release their muscles, they pause and then they are good to go. They do this over and over again throughout their day, and in so doing, they stimulate their nervous system to notice (the contract phase), to release the contraction (the slow release phase)  and then a pause which integrates the new muscle length into  their whole system. Then they are ready for movement, either fast or slow.

Big cat, big pandiculation. This lion is pandiculating his back and neck, not stretching his belly. (By B. Geurts, upload by Erik1980 - Own picture by B. Geurts, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9964610)

When we yawn we do exactly the same thing for exactly the same reasons. However, we might do so once in our day rather than the 30-40 times that an animal does.

In this way, our muscles remain maintained in their shortened position. We rarely experience the full length and potential of resting length, released muscles.

 

An example of a movement that would pandiculate our muscles could be an arch of the back.

If we were to make that arch as a deliberate movement, then to slowly pay attention to letting the muscle fibres relax, pause to integrate this new length into our system overall, we would immediately find that our spine is longer, freer and more supple.

 

In an ES class we ‘wash away’ the tension in our bodies through pandiculating the muscles with gentle, but deeply felt, movements.

Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA)

SMA is the term coined by Dr Thomas Hanna (upon whose work Essential Somatics has its foundation).

It describes the loss in the sensory/motor tracts of our brain over some or parts of our movements.

It naturally develops in us all through the habitual rhythms of life.

 

SMA becomes a problem when the normal stresses and strains of life, or injuries, alter how we hold ourselves and how we move. Then, we take this slightly off-balance postural pattern into all our activities.

 

SMA is what we change in a Somatics class by bringing into our awareness what we are doing as we move, and developing the skill to bring ourselves out of the pattern.

Three Fundamental Reflexes

We are programmed to react and respond to stress with three basic reflexes. They tighten our bodies in contractions that draw the system together from top to toe: these are our basic fight or flight responses, however subtle.

  1. The ‘Green Light’ reflex: when we have to take some action, meet a demand, be somewhere, do something, the posterior muscles of the body contract from the neck and shoulders, the spine, the gluteal and hamstrings, the knees lock and the feet tense.

  2. The ‘Red Light’ reflex: the startle response to worry or pressure, actual or perceived, shortens us from the back of the neck  through to the chest, the diaphragm, the abdominals, the inner thighs. Our breathing is restricted and our back is rounded, our knees are tense.

  3. The ‘Trauma’ reflex: where there is injury or pain we respond by protecting the area or pulling away to use other parts of the body. We feel the strain over time by pain in a knee, a hip, a shoulder.

Does an ES Class Replace my Pilates/Yoga/Run/Tennis/Golf?

No! Your Somatics practice keeps you injury-free and prepares the way for you to go to your activities with your ‘new neutral’. It gives you the chance to achieve your potential and to do so with ease of movement, rather than greater force or tension in movement.

 

Short daily practice brings over time a new experience of ourselves, from the inside out.

Class Options

‘RELEASE RESTORE REALISE’

A weekly class held at The Kenilworth Centre, Abbey End, Kenilworth, Thursdays 1-2pm

This Essential Somatics movement class aims to tackle stiff muscles and joints, our balance and control and bring a sense of a core that extends beyond the abdominal area alone.

All Group Classes follow short terms of 4-6 weeks and are payable in advance as a block. Missed classes cannot be refunded but joining the alternative class that week is possible, space permitting.

Judy Herbert A5 flyer.png