Are you in tune with your Mind & Body?Heidi Hadley
Over the years many people develop injuries, undergo surgeries and encounter stress and health diagnoses which contribute towards added pressure and trauma to their SOMA or whole person. In today’s blog I am going to discuss how we can overcome this issue and I have provided a 45 minute detailed soma scan with arch and flatten to increase awareness to how your soma is moving, sensing and feeling.
Firstly I am going to discuss family dynamics. If you find it hard to sense, feel and notice sensory feedback from your body, you are not alone. The way you think, move, reason, speak and function is unique to you. But sometimes this can be a hindrance. We develop our idiosyncrasies from our upbringing as well as life events. Neuroscientists discovered the powerful effects of mirror neurons. Mirror neurons fire when an individual acts and the other person observes the action performed by them. As a result the neuron mirrors the behaviour of the other, as if the observer were acting itself.
So consider how this huge neurological influence could affect a person in so many ways. The way they walk for instance. Have you ever noticed a father and son walking side by side with an almost identical stride? Have you ever noticed the mannerisms of a family member looking almost identical to another family member, it is uncanny! This is all due to mirror neurons.
Consider your personality. Do you feel you have traits similar to your parents? Maybe you were raised to ‘push through the pain’ or ‘work through it and keep busy, it will go away.’ This stoical attitude can be a hindrance. We can become numb or dismissive to the sensory feedback our soma (whole person, including mind and body) are telling us. A client I have seen recently had endured a lot of stress and when I asked her to notice different areas during her soma scan, she informed me that she felt she had had a general anaesthetic from the neck down. This is a clear sign of self preservation or survival mode, it is a form of stress and trauma. She had become numb and living in her head, rather than experiencing and noticing all areas of her soma.
To deal with this issue I broke down the soma scan and you will find some of the techniques I used with her on the audio at the end of this blog.
Injury, Surgery or Diagnoses
Sometimes an injury, operation or diagnosis can cause us to tighten up and become very hesitant and cautious about every movement that we do. Consider the arch and flatten movement that I cover in the audio. If you have spinal stenosis either in the lumbar, thoracic or cervical region, your muscles will be very tight. The spinal nerves become compressed and this can produce symptoms such as sciatica from lumbar stenosis. In turn any pain will cause fear and a further tightening up of muscles. When there is a ‘story’ or ‘history associated with pain’ in an area, quite rightly so a person will become apprehensive. But once they learn through somatic education that you can move this area mindfully with somatic movement and release chronically tight muscles, a person feels both educated and empowered in the area of their own physical, emotional and mental health and wellbeing.
“What if my stenosis, back pain or injury limits the amount of movement I can create?”
This type of question is asked a lot in somatics. Every soma is different. The trials, events, experiences and your own make up as a person is unique and that’s what makes us all so interesting.
So with the knowledge we have with somatic education, we know we approach the movements by listening to what our body is telling us. The tools or skills we acquire in somatics will help us work with our soma. Each day we will find our soma is different according to what we have endured in the past 24 hours since our last “software update’ with our personal somatics practise.
If you have very limited movement in your back, we are not wanting to ‘achieve goals’ by seeing if we can get an arch or flatten in our back. Rather we are wanting to see how our soma is working as a whole. You will notice in the audio I ask you to draw your public bone towards your ribs and ribs towards your pubic bone. You will notice I ask you to swell or release tension from your belly which will start to create an arch in your lower back.
You see, if you have been a person who is very serious and intense, you will have a large amount of tension in your abdominals. So to ask a person to arch their back can be a challenge because for decades that person may have held onto tension through their belly, leading to shallow breathing. Plus as I mentioned earlier, there is an element of self preservation and protection. So to ask somebody who has habitually pushed or held their tension down and ‘internalised’ their stress, to make a movement which requires them to open up an area which is associated with stress, trauma and long held emotions; it becomes an emotional as well as a physical challenge. Their central nervous system will be in ‘lock down’ mode. The brain is holding groups of muscles habitually tight, and has done so for years, often contributing to the issues that person has today. Due to these factors people can develop co-contraction. They are basically walking around in a figurative corset. They move and walk like a robot or like C-3PO from Stars Wars. Their muscles are tight in the front, back and sides of their body. This muscle tension always starts from the centre. The centre of the body includes muscles within your pelvis, abdominals, lower back and muscles through the side of your body.
Are you moving freely or like C-3PO?
Start thinking and acting mindfully
So we need to think and act mindfully when we know the brain has created a ‘lock down’ mode to protect your body from further injury. Plus from habitual movements, behaviours and actions your brain thinks that the way you stand, move, bend and walk is the ‘new normal’ and unless YOU teach it the correct functional movements, it will continue to operate in this manner.
So in order to work mindfully with somatics we need to realise that the way we move is different to our partner or friend. Don’t compare your movements or lack of movement to someone else. Their soma has had different experiences and exposed to different life events and their make up has made them deal with it differently.
When you listen to my audio at the end of this blog, don’t go straight into aiming to do an arch and flatten. Try visualising the movement first. The Total Somatics online program at www.TotalSomatics.com discusses in more detail the neuroscience behind visualisation and why this is instrumental in our Total Somatics approach to health and wellbeing.
We know that brain rehearsal in the form of visualisation has been used for years with athletes. Have you watched the tennis players prepare to receive the ball before a serve? Notice how the bounce on their toes and swing their tennis racket, visualising that winning point. Their brain is fired up and ready for the real thing to happen. We can do the same with visualising the arch and flatten movement BEFORE actually doing it for real. So when you listen to my cues the first time you use this audio, visualise it. Allow your brain to rehearse the movements so it can start to notice and then wake up areas of your brain which communicate to your body. This practise of mind and body communication is vital. Areas of your body have simply gone into ‘autopilot’ and forgotten how to relax and release chronically tight muscles because the brain has changed according to habitual behaviour, movement, posture and actions.
If you feel frustrated with the detailed scan because you just want to get on with the movements, use this as a sign that you need to wind down and notice what is truly going on in your soma. If your mind is so analytical that it is blocking you from actually sensing and feeling what your body is trying to tell you, this needs to change. Throw the analytical mind out of the window and start sensing and feeling what your soma has been trying to tell you for years.
Remember if you have been raised (even if it was 40, 50 or 60 years ago) with a ‘work through it’ or ‘stop navel gazing and get on with it’ mindset, we have to address that area too. That is why I refer to the soma. The soma encompasses everything from our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health and wellbeing. What we think influences our physical health and likewise our physical health will influence our mental and emotional health. So we are very complex individuals and we need to take time each day to recalibrate and reset our soma because the long held limiting beliefs have played a huge role on us and continue to do so….if we let them.
Start living a somatic life
Once you start living somatically and mindfully, you will notice that you are able to actually achieve more in your daily pursuits because you are living more consciously by using your pre-frontal cortex. This area is associated with focus, awareness, concentration, decision making and emotional intelligence. When we forgot to live somatically, we start living in a figurative “hamster’s wheel” trying to cram as much as possible into our schedule. This is when we start living in the ‘fight or flight’ mode and we become less attentive of our health and wellbeing and become more reactive when somebody is giving us well meaning feedback or advice. This intense attitude is draining and is associated with high functioning anxiety. So we need to be aware on a daily basis that we are not going back into our old habits which are detrimental to our health and wellbeing.
So let today be the start of living somatically and mindfully. After all we are diligent about updating our computer and phone software, but what about our own software?
Use this audio to heighten your awareness to how you feel, sense and move.
Heidi Hadley xx