Your health: Somatics explained

There is a damaging belief prevalent among fitness fanatics that there is “no gain without pain”.

Wednesday, 30th October 2013, 11:00 am
Somatics movement lessons are available at Physio and Therapies, Todmorden

We have been led to believe that you cannot have a good workout until you “feel the burn”, but doctors, physical therapists and bodyworkers tell us a very different story.

That pain is, in fact, our body’s natural way of indicating something has gone awry. That pain is a flashing warning light on your body’s dashboard.

Another common misconception which is accepted in most people’s lives is the belief that as you age you will suffer more aches and pains. But what if a lot of those aches and pains are a result of chronically tight muscles?

What do you do when you’re wound up like a spring and just can’t relax your muscles? Imagine what it would feel like if you could press a reboot switch. It might seem counterintuitive, but you need to learn how to control your muscles in order to relax them.

Bear in mind this kind of relaxing is not the same thing as collapsing into the armchair. One is conscious relaxation, the other is not!

Stress and repetitive motion have similar effect. Whether we are at the computer for hours without a break, sitting in traffic on the daily commute or running six miles, our bodies react to life’s daily stresses.

Sometimes we tighten so often, or for so long, that the feedback loop between the brain and the muscles goes into a sort of ‘auto pilot’.

Thomas Hannah, the founder of Somatics, called this sensory motor amnesia. In other words, we develop an unconscious habit of tightness.

When muscles become chronically contracted, they lose their flexibility and elasticity and are much more prone to be go into spasm. Muscles pull on our bones like the guy ropes on a tent.

When our muscles get too tight they can have profound effects on our posture and how we feel about ourselves.

The inability to relax these muscles usually culminates in persistent pain. This is often followed by a visit to the GP who will attempt to remove the metaphorical light from the dashboard by prescribing painkillers.

Somatic movement is a relatively young approach to healing the body and eliminating the pain without the use of drugs.

What would it be like if you could train your brain to communicate better with your body and train your body to listen more clearly? It’s like learning to speak a language fluently.

Most of us are still stammering beginners when it comes to clearly connecting the mind and body.

Through awareness and specifically designed movements, you can learn to recognise the muscular tension and contraction patterns in your body. And then, crucially, release them.

Somatic movements have been used to help alleviate a wide variety of neuromuscular complaints.

Somatics movement lessons are available as one to one clinical sessions or as group movement classes.

If you would like further information please contact Chris Halliday at Physio and Therapies, or visit