From experience we know that yoga makes you stronger, more flexible, healthier, and more aware, but over the years our practice also causes movement habits. Every time we practice, we contract our muscles habitually to move our bones into the shape of the asana. This lays down muscle memory, which in turn can create habitual muscular tension and dysfunction if we don’t remember to fully release and relax the muscle group which we’ve used. Pause and think how many times you have practiced down dog! Couple this with muscular tension from additional accidents, injuries, stress, or other repetitive motions, we begin to lose voluntarily control and forget how to completely relax muscles.
These sorts of functional problems often seem on the surface to be structural in nature: a defect, damage, or wear. They might even seem incurable! However, the good news is that muscles don’t have a will of their own. They only contract if they get a message from the brain. Therefore if you want to regain control of your muscles you must involve your brain. This can be resolved with the practice of systematic and precise movements designed to retrain the sensory-motor tracts of the brain, freeing the muscles from these involuntary contractions and regaining voluntary, effective control. This method of neuromuscular retraining is known as Hanna Somatic Education.
Thomas Hanna, Ph.D. an American neurophysiologist, movement educator and a philosopher who created Hannah Somatic Education. Hanna believed that,” If you can sense it and feel it, you can change it.” He designed a form of movement education based on improving the sensory motor system to regain awareness and control over the body. Working with specific movements, Hannah taught his clients how to undo the effects of habituated muscular tension and loss of muscular function. He coined this sensory motor amnesia “a condition in which the sensory motor neurons of the voluntary cortex have lost some portion of their ability to control all or some of the muscles of the body.” Hanna believed sensory motor amnesia caused “perhaps as many as 80% of the cases of chronic pain suffered by human beings.”
Hanna identified several ways to overcome this amnesia. He favored a technique he called “pandiculation.” In pandiculation the client “voluntarily contracts muscles or muscle groups against gravity or against a practitioner and then slowly decreases that contraction.” It is what every cat and dog does upon waking. They start by contracting the front of its body and lengthening the back and then reverses the action. It looks like stretching but the key is that the animal is actively lengthening from a contraction. It is like a full body yawn.
Through daily practice, you can develop an even greater awareness of specific parts of your body, find relief from pain, and understand fully how your body works. By improving the nervous systems sensory feedback you improve your control; you can greatly enhance your yoga practice, increase ﬂexibility, enjoy more energy and manage stress better.
Try this movement out to experience how Somatic Movement works to release tension and lengthen your back muscles. Move very slowly and with internal awareness.
Arch & Flatten
Tanya Fitzpatrick draws on a varied background of bodywork and has been teaching movement since 1999. She is a certified as a Somatic Movement Educator, an advanced yoga teacher trainer, and a Body-Mind Centering Professional.
She has trained hundreds of individuals and groups how to move without pain and is regarded as one of Ireland’s leading Movement Educators. Her experience in coaching cutting edge movement education, has helped her clients to move in ways they never thought possible.
As a teacher, Tanya stimulates and transforms her groups through her effective and powerful training, giving them the ability to reach their full movement potential. She always shares high quality content with a commitment to integrity and excellence and does it with an approachable and compassionate manner with a contagious sense of fun.
Preview Tanya’s Approach HERE
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