How does Somatics work?
Clinical Somatic Education works to alleviate and eliminate chronic muscle and joint pain in a number of ways. Somatic movement techniques release chronic muscle contraction by resetting the alpha-gamma loop, a sensory-motor feedback loop which senses and regulates muscle length. When muscles are released, pressure on joints and nerves is reduced. As you learn how to stand and move in a more natural, efficient way, your joints will be able to move more freely and you will cease to do damage to yourself on a daily basis.
Somatic movements have an extremely calming effect, a result of both decreasing muscle tension and reducing the reactivity of the nervous system. With continued regular practice of Somatic movements, you will react less to stress and experience less anxiety, thereby reducing your experience of pain.
Resetting the Alpha-Gamma Loop
Over time, as you develop habitual movement and postural patterns, your brain learns to keep certain muscles tight. Those muscles will remain somewhat contracted all the time, even when you are sleeping. Chronically contracted muscles feel tight and sometimes painful, put pressure on joints, and pull bones out of alignment.
Both your ability to control these muscles and your ability to sense that these muscles are contracted is decreased. The state of having lost control and sensation of muscle contraction and movement is known as sensory-motor amnesia.
Why we experience a loss of control: As you repeat a posture or movement over and over and it becomes automatic, you begin to lose voluntary control over the muscles involved. So, you are not consciously aware that you are contracting your muscles; you are involuntarily, subconsciously keeping them contracted.
Why we experience a loss of sensation: The alpha-gamma loop, a sensory-motor feedback loop in your nervous system which senses and regulates muscle length, adjusts as you learn movement and postural patterns. As you begin to keep certain muscles partially contracted all the time, the alpha-gamma loop adjusts so that the increased level of contraction in your muscles actually begins to feel “normal.”
Clinical Somatic Education uses advanced movement techniques to reset the alpha-gamma loop, thereby lengthening muscles at the brain level. The movement techniques also bring the control of your muscles back into the voluntary part of your brain, restoring voluntary control and allowing you to relearn how to keep your muscles relaxed.
Adjusting Proprioception and Relearning Natural Movement Patterns
Over the course of our lifetimes, we each develop unique postural and movement patterns. Each person’s physical experiences, lifestyle, personality and reactions to stress create a pattern of muscular habituation that is unique to that individual.
As you develop these movement and postural patterns, your proprioception (how you sense your body in space) will adjust so that these patterns feel normal. For example, a person who has slowly developed rounded posture over the years actually feels like they are standing fairly straight because their proprioception has adjusted.
It is difficult to change your movement and posture because just as your brain can learn to keep certain muscles contracted all the time, it can learn to habitually move or stand in a certain way. Our ability to learn and automate these patterns is commonly referred to as muscle memory.
In Clinical Somatic Education sessions, we first work with individual muscles and groups of muscles to release chronic muscle contraction by resetting the alpha-gamma loop. Then we teach you full-body integrative movements which allow you to relearn natural, efficient movement patterns. Finally, we do sitting and standing exercises which allow you to adjust your proprioception so that you are accurately sensing your movement and posture.
Clinical Somatic Education uses both hands-on movement techniques and self-care exercises to reset muscle length, teach natural movement and postural patterns, and adjust proprioception. Clients typically experience significant, lasting pain relief in just 4-6 sessions. Somatic exercises can be done in private sessions with a practitioner, in group classes, or by yourself at home.
Click here to learn what conditions Clinical Somatic Education can help.