How Somatic Movement has made me stronger in Pilates
Since my Somatics training in September 2014, I have noticed something remarkable - without trying, I have become stronger in Pilates! Which is great but I wish I’d known this sooner.
First let me explain what Somatic Movement is, as I know the terminology can confuse a lot of people including me. In the most basic terms, Somatic Movement releases unwanted muscle tension, muscle tension that may be causing us pain or muscle tension that we didn’t even realise we were holding.
The technique used in Somatic movement is the method of pandiculation, again another long word! To pandiculate means to strongly contract muscles. Animals do it all the time, upon awaking and as much as 40 times a day. Imagine a cat upon waking; you may think the cat is stretching. No it is pandiculating, it is strongly contracting muscles, then releasing them. The cat is waking up the brain for normal sensing and movement so it is ready for pouncing, catching etc. so the brain is aware the muscle is contracted followed by a slow release then followed by a rest. The slower the better, why so slow? Isn’t it a bit boring? Maybe for some it is, but not for me as I have benefitted from Somatic movement and seen the effects in clients. The reason we move so slowly with this movement system is because we are bypassing automatic movement; the brain notices the muscle is tight as we have highlighted this, so the brain can then learn how to release and basically set the muscle back to the correct length.
Why is Somatic movement so magic? Because it works on muscles that we were unaware we held tension in. Muscles that over time by either habituation (always carrying baby/ a bag on one shoulder/ slumping at a computer) or injury (broke right collarbone so hunches forward unconsciously to protect it) have lost the communication (sensory, motor feedback) from the muscle to the brain. Basically the rewiring is lost.
So let’s get back to me. Before my training I was having a niggle under my right shoulder blade. It would go through Pilates movement but come back again. It was achy and annoying. During my training, I had released it, think it was my rhomboids and a bit of my lats, just like that gone! After training I felt it coming back, but this time I knew how to get rid of it. I thought about where I was feeling the tension and found the Somatic exercise to fix it. A year on, I’ve not had that dull ache.
I still have a long way to go but what has surprised me by practicing my somatic movements, I’ve noticed flexibility in other areas. My quads for instance have always been tight - yes they have improved with Pilates no doubt, but now after a run when I stretch them, my knee comes back much further. This has happened not because I’ve been constantly stretching my quads, because I don’t but because tension has been released around my hips so my quads have released. I’ve also noticed in class when I go to demonstrate an exercise that I used to find tricky, I’ve found it easier and have more range of movement. This all from moving slowly, amazing!
Who is Somatic Movement For?
I would say pretty much anyone, however I’d say those who already have good body awareness will fly with this as they can really hone in and fine tune movement. Those with chronic muscle pain greatly benefit. Athletes, I’ve been having really astounding results with my elderly population. Anyone who wants to improve on their body awareness to a deeper level.