Somatics classes are one of those things that are SO MUCH easier to experience than to explain….but for you, I’ll try! Classes involve a series of slow, mindful movements , with the teacher (in this case, me) calling out instructions and the pupil (you, perhaps) following the instructions and concentrating on the feel of each movement and exploring the relationship between the different body parts as they move in relation to each other. Most of the classes involve you lying on the floor. Movements are slow, repetitive and the aim is to make each movement as smooth, pain-free and as easy as you can. The exact opposite of the do- the-fastest-hardest-longest-best movement you can, which a lot of movement and exercise classes involve……. It can be so HARD for people to resist the urge to push into pain or to DO YOUR BEST……a true learning process!
And it’s dead interesting: Classes are termed ‘movement explorations’ and here is why: let’s say we are doing a section on gentle shoulder circles. You might find that one shoulder moves easier than the other, that in your left shoulder the movement is jerky, your neck tenses to help out and your spine rotates in a different way than when you move your right…like the movement blocked. This is something you never notice when you move fast or at a normal pace……It’s then up to you, during the classes to see if there is something you can soften ( maybe your waist), or something that can help this movement ( e.g.leaning the shoulder blade into the floor) to ultimately make the movement smooth and free. So although I’m calling the instructions and giving cues, YOU are doing the discoveries and coming up with your own solutions….people power! AS a physio, I love the self-help aspect of somatics….
Generally, each class has a different theme, or focuses on a particular body part so in a series of 6 classes, you’ll get good variety. If slow, repetitive movements sound like torture to you, I totally hear you, but guess what? It’s surprisingly good for relaxation, is really effective at reducing pain ( for some people, at least – more of that later) and seems to be a really good way of stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system and releasing lots of feel-good hormones into your blood stream (More of this in future blogs but in short, the parasympathetic system is FINALLY having its day in the sunshine).This is the rest-relax-heal element of our nervous system, as opposed to the stress-fight-flight response of the sympathetic nervous system. Let’s be honest, most of us spend more times in stressed states than relaxed ones. Being stressed doesn’t feel nice and what’s more, long term stress is a factor in many diseases and illnesses. For most people, the classes induce a parasympathethic state of relaxation – for me, it’s like the feeling I have gotten after doing T’ai Chi , but other people have different experiences……Many report a really good night’s sleep after doing an evening somatics class. Because I do them by Zoom, they are done in the comfort of your own home and you can snuggle up in bed straight after..!
So there you go, I’ve done my best to describe somatics classes…they are something that’s easier to ‘get’ once you experience it. For the curious amongst you who like to know how things work, read my other blogs in this subject.