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.
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 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’.
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. It’s about being present to sensation, gravity, breath, tension, softness. 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 stress response pattern, and not to align with a spiritual, energetic or aesthetic point of view (newer concepts like the rehabilitative Neurodynamics have some of the same movements as a component of the work). 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.
What does it mean to be truly free? This question is at the heart of the practice. We move towards more freedom, more self-responsibility for how we act and react, without the need of a spiritual framework. Restoring what it means to be ourselves, finding that grounded sense of wholeness.
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 effort 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 ‘somatic’ 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.
Self-sensing, self-correcting, self-healing as Thomas Hanna said. And he didn’t mean ‘bodily alignment’ with this!
*the way these classes are available to the general public…