For the latter part of 2020 my body was talking to me.
Telling me that I needed to spend less time at my desk and that what I was doing wasn't working for me. My hip ached, my mid to upper back all the way up to my scalenes was a network of knots and tight spots. The prolonged stress of living through this last year wasn't helping things.
I took a step back to evaluate what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong.
Right: I was keeping a fairly positive attitude about life in general. I sought out positive people and projects. Things that nourished me.
Wrong: I wasn't paying attention to my physical well-being. I was sitting in one position at the same desk most of my day. When I get into a project I am tenacious. It might be good for the project but it is bad for my body. I started setting timers to force myself to stop, stretch and physically move to a new position and location.
Right: I know being on my mat helps me to heal (physically, emotionally and mentally). I was getting there often.
Wrong: Not mindfully being on my mat. I was going through the motions. I wasn't connecting to my points of discomfort, I was skirting around them. Trying not to poke them and finding movement around them rather than addressing them. This, of course, was happening emotionally, mentally and physically as it always does. I think universally we have all been in survival mode this last year and I know I definitely was.
Right: I was giving myself permission to "just be" for a little bit. I wasn't going to try to solve what was going on until I was ready. I was surviving and staying positive and that was enough.
But, a time comes when you are ready. And in November I was ready. Actually my body was screaming at me and maybe that made me ready. :) Life generally leads you to where you need to go.
I had done training in Somatics right before the first lockdown. My initial attempts at incorporating it into my classes had been a bit clunky. I felt it took a way a bit from the beautiful flow of a hatha yoga class. But, I knew it was also a missing piece in terms of finding functional movement and also in healing what was going on in my own body. I decided to go back to that initial training and expand upon it.
In Somatic Yoga, we don't focus on "stretching" muscles to achieve results.
Instead, we take muscles thru their full range while contracted to teach the brain that it has movement at all these ranges. It is a brain-body repatterning process working through the nervous system. The somatic movement flows that I have learned help to unwind stiffness, pain and postural imbalances, and increase flexibility through brain-to-muscle re-education. At the same time, we are strengthening the muscle from end range to shortest range. Thinking of your arm extended, longest range of motion for your elbow is when you have your arm straight out. Shortest range of motion for your elbow is when you do a bicep curl (bend at the elbow and bring your fist toward your shoulder). We want to keep the muscles strong and functioning in that whole range as we bend the elbow - working to use the muscles in the whole range as we move.
As I was starting to re-introduce somatics into my classes and my personal practice, my massage therapist reminded me of Functional Range Conditioning. I realized it was another missing piece for me. It, just like Somatic Yoga, works to retrain muscle function at the nervous system level. Functional range conditioning, developed by Dr. Andreo Spina (a fellow Canadian), works to teach the brain to reconnect to the body at the shortest and longest range of movement. With a focus on joint health, muscle contractions are held in a stationary position rather than in movement. We build up contraction in a static position to teach the nervous system to have active control at the shortened position and the lengthened position. As well, his system of CARS (controlled articular rotations) moves your joint through its full range and reminds your body/mind it needs to maintain that.
There is so much good to a hatha yoga class.
The slowing down and connecting to breath and to self. The draw inward. For me, the somatic movement flows and movements from functional range conditioning only enhance the drawing inward to self-study. As I learn about my body, I also connect to it. I find exploration without judgement. I just listen to the information it gives me and I work with that information. And at the end of my session I feel good. I feel good physically but I also feel good emotionally and mentally. I feel more empowered and more connected. And those are both good things to carry with my on my life off the mat.
In love and light,