From Living Fearful and Limited to Adventurous and Able
by Julie Katt
I found Somatic Movement Center at the age of 50 after I had been incorrectly adjusted by a chiropractor who ended up herniating discs in my lower back. I was in intense pain and could barely walk without getting shooting pains up my back, dropping me to my knees. After getting x-rays and an MRI, an osteopathic doctor informed me that I’d most likely end up having surgery if it were to continue long-term. He said we’d see how I felt in six months and get another MRI. He had no answers beyond prescription meds to deal with the pain.
Not only did I dread the idea of doing another MRI (along with the financial burden), but to continue to be in pain without drugs was simply unacceptable to me. I began my search for natural solutions online knowing that our bodies were created to heal themselves. I just had to find out what that “secret” was. I landed on Sarah Warren’s website and after reading her experience, I signed up for her course with great faith.
The very first exercise immediately brought relief because I had been experiencing hyperlordosis accompanied with lower back pain all my life. I felt the muscles surrounding the bulging discs start to release their grip on my spine. It was like claws finally retracting. I did the Arch & Flatten twice a day—before going to work in the morning and then again before bedtime. I noticed at work I was walking straighter and had no more shooting pains. My back would fight me trying to maintain my poor posture of supporting my aches and pains and twisted spine, but I continued to retrain it with each new exercise.
My spine had twisted and was damaged as a result of a fall down basement stairs when I was just four years old. I’d fallen so hard that I had bitten off my tongue and was knocked unconscious. I went in and out of consciousness on the short trip to the hospital back in 1975 and ended up waking up during surgery on my tongue. My tongue ended up successfully reattached and back to normal, but my back never fully recovered with the limited technology back then.
I am adventurous by nature and desired to be in gymnastics, dance, roller skating, and anything else where I could move with high energy. However, I was unable to go very far in gymnastics due to the limited mobility in my back, unbeknownst to me or my parents at the time. As I grew taller the curvature began to affect my posture even more, bringing me pain if I stood for more than an hour. It was also difficult for me to maintain proper balance when I started dancing. The pain became more prominent again as a cheerleader in high school and when standing for long periods at my part-time job. I started to see a chiropractor only after the birth of my second child at 28 years old.
In my 40’s I began competitive ballroom dancing, but again, it seemed I was always getting injured either in my back or hips. It was so frustrating that I had to stop wasting my coach’s time and stopped taking lessons in my late 40’s. I was so upset because I absolutely love to dance!
I had been diagnosed with piriformis syndrome and experienced pain for at least 10 years originating from my psoas muscles. It was exacerbated by a minor car accident in December 2015. I had been twisting in my driver’s seat looking over my right shoulder to the lane next to me when I was rear-ended, causing contraction of my muscles stretching from the right side of my neck down to my left hip.
All of these lifelong touch points compounded to the moment that I was re-injured when my chiropractor pushed down on the one spot he knew not to push down on, immediately putting me in pain and leading me to find my own solution.
Not only did I sign up for both courses at once, but I also purchased Sarah’s book and poured over it. I was eager to absorb everything she could teach me to get out of pain throughout my entire body and learn how to combat it from now on for the rest of my life.
Fast-forward to continuing the lessons through the Back Lift, Side Curl, and Arch & Curl that by the time I got to the Iliopsoas Release I was completely out of pain and was hiking rocky trails in the Ozark mountains. I told my husband, “Can you believe that only a month ago I couldn’t even walk up and down the stairs without crying in pain?!” I was so ecstatic that I had found the answer to my prayers! I also noticed that my neck was not hurting as much after sleeping each night. When I do experience any pain from how I’ve slept, I found the Arch & Curl and the Side Curl relieve it.
Now don’t get me wrong, some of these exercises were a bit uncomfortable to maneuver at first. But knowing the freedom I was already experiencing with each exercise, I continued to take my time in the release of each movement in order to achieve complete freedom, not just in my lower back but also through my hips, where trauma is most held.
I had learned in my yoga training from several years ago that trauma is held in the hips and can be released with the proper movements. As I did the Iliopsoas Release, the Hip Circles and the Hip Rotations on a daily basis I began to feel more release. I would remember Sarah’s words in my head, something to the tune of, “When you start experiencing shaking in your release, you are experiencing sensory motor amnesia, so slow down your release even more.”
It was in the Level Two Course with the Gluteal Release, Iliotibial Band Release, and Hip Directions when memories of my experience with the fall from over 40 years ago that I had long forgotten came back to mind and I felt a great sense of release that I no longer had to hold onto that pain. I didn’t even realize how much that accident had affected how I viewed my ability to move. I had been carrying a lifelong attitude that “I can’t do this” or “I can’t do that” because of how it limited my mobility, and I was scared of hurting myself even more. My muscle tension was in big part a result of my subconscious fear.
Now I have zero fear in doing things such as riding a motorcycle with my husband. Even if we hit a hard bump, I don’t worry because it usually doesn’t cause pain—and if it does, I have the knowledge to relieve it!
The somatic movements not only released chronic muscle tension, but also helped me release unrecognized fear of moving freely. I no longer say, “I can’t do that” or “I’m afraid if I do that, then (this) will happen…” I now say, “I can do that with no problem! And if for some reason I end up in a bit of pain, I know how to fix it!”
I knew before I completed the courses that I wanted to teach others this amazing answer to becoming pain-free. I simply had to share this great news of self-healing! Some may say that is a bold claim, but it is nothing less than a miracle to be out of pain and to have the hope that I don’t have to submit to aging simply because my digits increase every year, and my skin wants to sag! My nerves and muscles don’t have to submit to such absurdity.
I first shared this with my 29-year-old daughter when she was experiencing painful back and shoulder issues. We do not live in the same state but I was able to guide her over the phone.
In regular discussions with people it’s easy to find someone with pain that is stopping them from doing something and I offer to help. My friend Lisa has continual migraines—something I’d also been experiencing last year but no longer due to the various neck and face and jaw exercises. I first started her with the lower belly breathing and Arch & Flatten. We’ve met on three different occasions, and now her migraines are less frequent.
I’ve also helped my husband with his shoulder, hips, and elbow issues. He is extremely inflexible which causes him many issues. He has done construction for a couple of decades and now sits behind a desk every day and as we know, that can create issues of its own. He notices loosened hips and release of tightness in his back when he commits to doing the exercises.
I have also shared this with my friend Sabrina, who used to be the nurse at my naturopathic doctor’s office. She was amazed by how her elbows were able to touch the floor after doing just one lesson with the Arch & Curl. It excites me to see the change in people after I’ve taught them just a few exercises!
Julie is passionate about teaching others how to feel better throughout their bodies, recover from chronic tension, and how to live without fear of pain so they can chase their own adventures. She offers group classes in Overland Park and the greater Kansas City area, and private Clinical Somatics movement instruction in-person and online. Julie is available for workshops locally and nationally. She also offers chair classes and private chair sessions for those unable to lie on a mat. Her specialties are working with sciatica, scoliosis, piriformis syndrome, disc problems, headaches, neck, back, and shoulder tightness, as well as neurological issues.
You can contact Julie through her website: MidwestSomatics.com or via email: [email protected]
The Pain Relief Secret: How to Retrain Your Nervous System, Heal Your Body, and Overcome Chronic Pain by Sarah Warren, CSE
Somatics: Reawakening the Mind’s Control of Movement, Flexibility and Health by Thomas Hanna