Somatics & Pilates – Part 1

by Katrin Neue

What is Somatics?

Over the next two blog posts I’m going to write about how and why Somatic Movement and Pilates complement each other so well. You maybe aware of the benefits of Pilates, but what is Somatic Movement exactly? Let’s break it down. Soma is greek and can be translated as your body as experienced by you. Somatic Movement teaches your body awareness and how it feels to be yourself at its core. Is everything moving smoothly? Can you focus your attention to any part of your body?

Try this

Inhale and lift your right shoulder up towards your ear. Do you feel the muscles around the neck tighten? Does your shoulder roll towards the front or squeeze towards the back at the same time? What does your left side of the body do? Now exhale and see if you can slowly bring the shoulder back down by slowly releasing the muscles again. Did the way back have a few jerky and shaky bits? Did it feel like jumping down a couple of stairs? Try again. Did you notice that you have to concentrate and ‘blend out’ distractions around you to really feel what’s going on in your muscles? Good.

Why can’t I control the movement? Somatics Backlift

You might have felt a few jumps on the way down. This is called Sensory Motor Amnesia, which means that you have lost voluntary control over your muscles. The brain is not sending the right signals anymore and the muscles have gone on ‘auto-pilot’. You might feel stiff occasionally – especially when life is stressful, or sometimes treat yourself to a neck massage to iron out ‘knots’. In a Pilates class, you might feel that whenever you lift your head, your shoulders automatically lift up and the movement doesn’t feel too nice.

How can I get rid of this?

Simple. Through Somatic Movement. A unique technique of releasing tight and stiff muscles through moving in your comfortable, pain-free range. You re-train your ability to sense your muscles more precisely, which will allow you to release them more fully. Once the muscles have regained their natural resting length – neither contracted nor stretched – using those muscles will be more efficient again.
I was talking about the shoulders, but you might have felt tension somewhere else in your body when you lifted your right shoulder. In Somatics, we recognise tensions as full body patterns. If you come to one of my classes, you surely have heard me say you can’t locally ‘fix’ something, but have to look at yourself as a whole, as one unit.

Let me give you a real life example

I went through two knee surgeries back in 2002 on the left side. Somatics WalkingNaturally, I was on crutches for a good while. To keep as much weight off my hurting knee, I (unconsciously) started lifting my left hip, contracting my left waist muscles and low back. This happened over a few months, my left side and back pulling together, so that my ribcage finally seemed to have a twist to the right. My left arm was resting on my front of the thigh while my right arm was hanging freely in standing. My gait was uneven. My right foot felt heavier. This lead to multiple aches and pains, bursitis in my hip, low back pain that required long periods of rest, etc. After my pregnancy in 2013, all those pains were so strong that I couldn’t lie on my back anymore. The residues of surgeries over 10 years prior still created problems! To cut a long story short, after a while of practicing Somatic Movement and receiving hands on lessons called Clinical Somatic Education, my left waist, back and hip muscles gained length again and the ‘twist’, together with the pains that I learned to ignore or mask with pain killers, went away. With Somatics, I could slowly get rid of old, painful habits of holding myself and introduce new, healthy and natural movement again.

For more information about Somatic Movement, have a chat with Katrin in the studio or email us on [email protected].  You can check our timetable for current Somatics classes too.

Book a 6 week course on Somatics with Katrin, starting September 2015.

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Read Part Two