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Developing Your Daily Practice of Clinical Somatics Exercises

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While the exercises in my online courses are taught in a certain order and at a set pace, the intention of the courses is that you gradually develop your own daily practice that addresses your unique patterns of muscle tension. Everyone’s patterns are unique, so there is no prescription that works for everyone.

In this article, I answer the most common questions that students ask me:

1. What time of day and how often should I practice?
2. For how long should I practice each day?
3. How do I decide which exercises to do each day?

What time of day and how often should I practice?

The time of day that you do your Somatics practice is up to you. My favorite time to do my practice is shortly after I work out. Somatics exercises are, in my opinion, the best way to cool down after a workout. Pandiculation releases any muscle tension you’ve built up during your workout and prevents chronic tension from building up. I find that the exercises also improve circulation and speed up the recovery process. As long as I do my Somatics practice every day, I never feel sore or tight, and I’m always ready to work out the next day.

If I don’t have time to do my practice right after my workout, or if I don’t work out that day, I’ll do my Somatics practice in the late afternoon or evening when I’ve done most of my movement for the day. The exercises release any tension that you’ve built up during the day. They’re also very relaxing, so they’re a great way to wind down before bedtime.

With all that said, there are some people who prefer to do their Somatics practice first thing in the morning or during the first half of the day. These are typically the people who wake up in the morning feeling tight, achy, sore, or in pain. For these people, practicing the exercises in the morning helps them loosen up and feel better as they start their day. If you’re one of these people, my suggestion is that in addition to your morning practice, you also add in a short evening practice. That will allow you to release tension you’ve built up during the day, and it should make you feel better when you wake up in the morning.

As far as how often to practice, ideally you should practice every day. Pandiculating your muscles and releasing muscle tension is an important part of self-care that everyone should do daily. Remember, you’re not just trying to retrain old, deeply learned patterns of muscle tension. Your daily practice also releases the new tension that you build up every day as you go about your daily activities. So, in that sense, your daily Somatics practice is like brushing your teeth. If you don’t do it daily, tension will start gradually building up.

For how long should I practice each day?

This again is up to you. I practice for about 30 minutes every day, and sometimes a little longer. I find that this length of time allows me to work through and explore my entire body and release any tension I’m feeling, and 30 minutes fits into my daily schedule. In the beginning, if you’re having a hard time setting aside 30 minutes, start with 10 or 15 minutes. Something is better than nothing! You may not make a great deal of progress if you’re only practicing for 10 or 15 minutes per day, but you will be creating the daily habit for yourself, which is extremely important. And as you start to feel how pandiculation releases your muscle tension, you’ll probably find yourself practicing for longer each day, because the exercises feel so good!

There are people who do really long practices on a regular basis, like an hour to an hour and a half. If that works for you and makes you feel good, that’s absolutely fine. Just remember that practicing more in order to get your nervous system to change faster doesn’t necessarily work. There’s an element of time passing and allowing new posture and movement habits to be gradually integrated into your nervous system that needs to happen. So, no matter how long you practice each day, remember that you can’t force your nervous system to change quickly. Whether you practice for 10 minutes or 30 minutes or an hour, just relax and take the time to explore your patterns of tension.

How do I decide which exercises to do each day?

If you’re just starting my online program, focus on learning one exercise at a time. When you feel comfortable with the first exercise, add in the second exercise, and so on. By the time you’ve learned three or four exercises, you might find that you don’t have time to practice all of the exercises every day. Don’t worry! Over time as you learn and internalize the exercises, at some point you’ll probably stop using my audios, and your practice will become more efficient. So, you’ll be spending less time on each exercise.

When you get to that point where you feel like you don’t have time to practice all the exercises you’ve learned, that’s when you have to start picking and choosing which ones you want to practice each day. You can start alternating; so, you could practice three or four exercises one day and then practice three or four different exercises the next day. Or you might decide to do one or two certain exercises every day—the exercises that you feel help you the most—and rotate through a few others with the remaining time that you have each day.

I strongly recommend that you don’t get too hung up on doing a certain series of exercises as a “prescription.” This is an exploratory learning process in which you become the expert in your own body. You are the only person that is able to practice these exercises and notice internally how they affect you. If you’re focused on doing a set series of exercises and a certain number of repetitions of each one, you’ll be focused on the goal of completing your prescribed exercise practice, and you won’t benefit from your practice as much as you could.

The more effective way to practice the exercises is to take your time to explore them. Don’t go into each exercise with an idea of how many repetitions you’re going to do. Close your eyes and just feel your way through each exercise. Notice how each movement feels today as compared to yesterday. Notice what feels different. Notice your muscle tension, and notice how that tension releases as you pandiculate your muscles. Try to notice and learn new things about your body every day.

Another important aspect of your practice is the Standing Awareness exercise. You should do this every day at the beginning and end of your practice. When you’re learning an exercise for the first time, be sure to do the Standing Awareness before and after that individual exercise. It allows you to notice how the exercise affects your muscle tension and posture. As you notice how each exercise affects you, it becomes a tool in your toolbox that you can use to release certain patterns of tension.

As you gradually learn and internalize the exercises, you’ll probably start to develop a fairly regular routine that feels good to you and addresses your unique patterns of tension. This will come in time—don’t expect it to happen right away. And even when you settle into a regular routine, it’s always educational to revisit exercises that you don’t do very often, because you never know what you’ll learn!

If you’re diagnosed with a specific condition, you may find it helpful to look at the lists I’ve made of exercises that are typically most helpful for certain conditions. These are included in my blog articles; you can do a search of the blog to see if I’ve written about your pain condition. But keep in mind that everyone’s muscular patterns are unique, so there is no prescription of exercises that works for everyone. Two people with back pain may have very different patterns of muscle tension that are causing their pain, so they may find that different exercises are most helpful for them.

A few last words of advice. It’s taken your entire life up until this point to create and learn your unique muscular patterns, and it’s not possible to retrain them in just a few days or weeks. This process of retraining your nervous system takes time and patience, and it’s worth it. What matters most is that you’re headed in the right direction. Just keep practicing the movements with an open mind, exploring your body and learning new things about your body every day, and you’ll continue to make progress in releasing your tension and retraining your posture and movement.