There is so much to choose from! Mindfulness is in fashion, being fit and active is a given. Pilates, Yoga, Zumba, Barre, TRX, handstand classes* … all movement, all fun. And movement is good for you, no matter what it is!
Unless you go there with those little niggles that you’ve learned to ignore for most of the time (until you lift up an unwilling child off the ground, carry a heavy shopping bag just a bit too long, are stressed out to the max in work or have rediscovered the joys of gardening and walking on long hikes). All of a sudden you’ve ‘done your back in’ in a class; although it was taught precisely and should not hurt you, you might come out with neck discomfort. A new thing to ignore to ‘get better at x’? Or maybe you don’t feel the ‘mind-body connection’ benefits, because your body simply doesn’t go into the desired shapes that apparently are needed to reach the state of connectivity, to ‘really get it’.
Or you go to a class for a year without getting anywhere, without changing your posture you were supposed to improve by going to a specific exercise class. Or a physical therapist who works on the same issue for years and years and you have gotten used to regular sessions just to keep you more or less functional – at least during the session, by the time you’ve crossed the car park, your achiness might already be back!
Somatic Movement Education is different.
Somatic Education is a process-oriented sensory awareness training you might call counter-cultural (and has been called that by Thomas Hanna since he came up with what I am teaching). It’s not about speed, loosing weight, looking better, getting fitter.
It’s about filling gaps in our awareness, integrating past events mindfully to be in control of our whole being. It’s about being present to sensation, gravity, breath, tension, softness in the here and now. It’s painting a more detailed inner landscape with richer colours.
It’s not about making shapes. The movements are designed to release your habitual muscular response to stress, not to align with a spiritual, energetic or aesthetic point of view. The movements are there to rediscover your balanced being, from which you truly and freely can make choices that are not governed by habits of movement or thought.
We shape our habits until they shape us.
What does it mean to be free to change? This question is at the heart of the practice. We move towards more freedom, more self-responsibility for how we act and react. Restoring what it means to be ourselves, finding that grounded sense of wholeness. More awareness for ourselves also means a responsibility to act with the same respectful and kind awareness towards others.
Making shapes can be fun, and Somatic Education complements all your exercise classes (and your life!), because you explore finding your neutral – your relaxed, balanced, centred self without effort. No ‘pulling up’, reaching to the ceiling, chanting, bracing, mental strain needed. We are not working from the outside in, but from the inside out, when we practice Somatic Movement Education.
While you can and should be mindful of the internal awareness of movement in all your favourite classes, you will never purely work with sensation, when there is a repertoire, a spiritual ‘goal’, or a movement to master. These are aspects of movement governed by an outside perspective, and always will be, no matter how ‘somatically’ your teacher teaches.
‘Now I simply feel like my true self. I don’t care what other people might think of me’.
This is what I think of as ‘neutral’ (not in terms of alignment, because that is always dynamic) – finding your true, comfortable self, centred in your self, not in relation to a practice.
We are self-sensing, self-correcting, self-healing as Thomas Hanna said. Awareness of our whole being is the first step to moving forward with confidence, not being held back by our past.
*the way these classes are available to the general public…