This week’s classes are based on this helpful Gentle Somatic Live Class by the lovely James Knight who will be training me in Level 2 Somatics later this year (September). I think he will be the best one to guide you in teaching points and techniques so I will only add some useful anatomical notes to this post.
James mentions the upper back muscles in his video in particular Rhomboids and Trapezius. It’s not too hard to see why these are named thus:
Throughout this week’s session you will be stretching various muscles in the neck:
Attached to the trapezius:
Close your eyes during the movements
You are learning to self‐reference. Keep your awareness on the sensations of your body. If your eyes remain open you could miss the subtleties of the movement and lessen the benefit.
Honour your limits‐Feathering Technique
Be aware of what your body is telling you. You should never endure pain.
Once you identify your “edge” of soreness or tightness, then back off a little and explore that area of your body safely. Gracefully move in and out of the movements by varying the angle, speed and range of motion. Sometimes less is more. There are modifications for every exercise, so learn to trust what your body is telling you and adjust accordingly. Also, the benefits of doing these exercises are cumulative. Each time you practice them you will experience, if even small at first, an improvement in range of motion
Move slowly and make it smooth!
Take your time. The way to reverse old habitual patterns is through building internal awareness. Moving slowly and consciously will re‐empower your muscle coordination. Think of these exercises as an exploration and not something to move through quickly so that you can say you’ve done them.
Ease and mobility will come over time! Never try to force, struggle, or push yourself. Some of these exercises may be challenging at first, but they are not meant to cause you strain or pain.
On the flip side, if something feels good… then keep doing it! If an exercise is bringing you pleasure, then enjoy and accentuate those feelings!
Focus your attention specifically on the muscles you are using
These movements are designed as a way to reeducate your mind and muscle cooperation. It is best to keep your attention focused on the specific muscles you are instructed to use.
Isolate each muscle or muscle group while keeping the rest of your body relaxed. For example, if the instruction is to lift your left shoulder only, then do the best you can to keep your right shoulder relaxed while you do the movement.
The unique signature of this work is the empowerment you gain because you are learning to self‐regulate and regain control of the muscles in your body. The more control you have, the more choices you have in your body, which equals freedom on every level!
Pause and Enjoy! Become “Witness Consciousness”
Take time to feel the benefits from your efforts. After each exercise pause for at least 60 seconds and feel all of the new sensations in your body. Also notice your breath. I call this process using “witness consciousness”. It is when you become the observer. It isn’t so much a thought process as it is a “feeling” state.
As well as being enjoyable, the feedback that you are registering is important in the re‐patterning. Your brain is integrating the new learning. Your brain especially enjoys learning through contrast. It is great to have “before and after” awareness of how you feel. This is easy to do when you are doing an exercise that first isolates just one side of your body. You pause, witness, and then do the other side.
Think of the re‐set button on your computer. Isn’t it nice when you run into difficulties on your computer and you can press one button and it brings you back into a neutral state and you can start over? Your muscles are doing the same thing after each exercise. Your body is re-calibrating to a renewed and refreshed state.
The benefits of these exercises are cumulative.
I recommend doing these exercises several times a week. If you are strengthening injured muscles, it is beneficial to do these exercises once a day. If you are practising these exercises as maintenance, it is beneficial to do them several times a week. Use your intuition and learn follow what your body is telling you.
The average repetition for each exercise is between three to ten. Usually we do more than ten. Don’t overdo it. Less (and remember SLOW!) is better for this style of movement. Keep your attention focused on the muscle group you are re‐patterning.
Remember, this is a “re‐education” that you are giving your mind/body. The brain needs time to integrate the new learning before you move on.