The Benefits of Exploring Micromovements
If you practice Clinical Somatics exercises, you know how slow and gentle they are. But if you’re in a lot of pain to start with, your nervous system is highly sensitized, or you’re dealing with joint inflammation or a structural issue, even the slow, gentle exercises might exacerbate your pain. If you’ve ever emailed me about this, I’ve probably recommended doing “micromovement” versions of the exercises.
Basically, this means turning the Clinical Somatics exercises that you already know into extremely small movements. So instead of lifting up your arm or leg through your full range of motion, you lift it up just an inch or two. Instead of arching your back as far as possible, you do the smallest arch you can.
If you’re in a lot of pain, or if moving through your full range of motion causes pain or discomfort, then doing micromovements can help you begin releasing your muscles and retraining your muscular patterns in a non-painful way. You might be amazed by the changes you feel from doing these extremely small movements. And, as your muscles release and your pain lessens, you can gradually start moving through a larger range of motion, whenever it feels right for your body.
If you can do Clinical Somatics exercises comfortably through a full range of motion, but you want to go deeper into your practice and learn more about your body, micromovements can help you do that. We’re used to doing big movements and automatic stabilizing movements with the core of our body, so learning how to do extremely small, conscious movements with our core muscles is very beneficial. It will bring you a new level of fine control over your core muscles. And it will allow you to make more subtle shifts in your posture and movement, and improve your proprioceptive awareness.
In the video above, I demonstrate micromovement versions of a few parts of the Back Lift. I did the Back Lift because you can see my elbow and leg lifting up, which is much easier than trying to see me arch my back just a little bit. But keep in mind that you can turn all of the exercises into micromovements.
As you explore micromovements, you’ll probably notice that it’s hard to judge distance correctly with your eyes closed because you’re so used to doing big movements with your core. You may have noticed yourself doing this in movements like the Iliopsoas Release or the Iliotibial Band Release. I tell you to lift up only to a certain height in those movements because I know the tendency is to lift higher.
The key when doing these micromovements is that you need to do them just as slowly as you do the bigger movements. The more slowly, the better. The more slowly you contract up and release down, the more awareness and control you’ll develop. Challenge yourself to move more slowly with each repetition you do. You can count to help you slow down if you want to; try counting to 8 as you release the first time, then 10, then 12.
When you do these micromovements, especially full-body movements like the full Back Lift, you’ll become very aware of your muscles engaging and preparing to move your whole body before you actually move. When I was coming into the micromovement of the full Back Lift, I could feel my muscles gradually engaging and preparing to lift my body for about four seconds before my arm or leg actually lifted up.
Be aware of the opposite as well – after you release down slowly and your body finally touches the floor, take several seconds to slowly melt out of the movement, gradually releasing all of the muscles that were working.
If you’re in a lot of pain and big movements don’t feel good to you, you can do your whole practice like this. And if you’re not in pain, try exploring one exercise like this, or do one micromovement repetition of each exercise you do.