The Diverse Ways in Which SMC® CEI Instructors Use Clinical Somatics to Help People
The Somatic Movement Center® Certified Exercise Instructor (SMC® CEI) program was born out of a desire to make Clinical Somatic Education accessible worldwide. With the three in-person training schools all located in the United States, bringing the training online has made it possible for anyone with internet access to become trained in this powerful method of pain relief. Just three years after launching, the SMC® CEI program has trained instructors throughout the US and in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, India, Ireland, Mexico, Portugal, Slovenia, South Africa, and the UK.
The SMC® CEI program has also made training available for health and fitness professionals who want to teach the self-care exercises but not the hands-on methods of Clinical Somatic Education (CSE). Many of these professionals come to Clinical Somatics first to relieve their own muscle and joint pain and patterns of tension. When they experience the profound effects that Clinical Somatics has on their nervous system, they want to teach others.
These instructors and therapists incorporate CSE exercises into their yoga and Pilates classes and combine them with therapies such as yoga therapy, bodywork, osteopathy, and stress reduction. Some work with specific types of clientele like athletes, dancers, and women seeking prenatal and postpartum care. Many say that CSE is what they have always been looking for; it’s the missing link in their professional practice because it allows them to not only relieve their clients’ pain and tension, but also to teach them how to take care of themselves.
In this post I’ll describe how SMC® CEI instructors combine Clinical Somatics with other types of movement and therapies, and how they use the exercises to work with specific types of clientele. I’ll discuss how they use Clinical Somatics:
- To help runners prevent injuries and improve performance
- To help dancers and performers improve their dance technique and performance
- To help yoga and Pilates students release muscle tension, relieve pain, and retrain imbalanced muscular patterns
- As an adjunct to therapeutic techniques
- As prenatal and postpartum exercise to strengthen and balance core muscles and the pelvic floor
- To reduce stress and improve mindfulness
- As an adjunct to parenting counseling
- To help queer, trans, and gender non-conforming people feel connected to their bodies
Helping Runners Prevent Injuries and Improve Performance
Clinical Somatics has endless benefits for all types of athletes, including improving muscular control and coodination, releasing chronically tight muscles, speeding recovery time, and preventing injuries. Two SMC® Certified Exercise Instructors have a passion for working specifically with runners.
Lauren Mayhew of Massachusetts, US works with many runners who struggle with plantar fasciitis that either has them sidelined completely or caught in an endless cycle of stopping and starting. She developed the Retrain Foot Pain Method to offer her clients a comprehensive approach that includes the neuromuscular retraining of Clinical Somatics combined with foot strengthening, ankle mobility, and self-myofascial massage.
One of Lauren’s clients had tried everything—custom orthotics, chiropractic treatments, creams, and massage. After working with her for a couple of months, the client reported: “I have no foot pain now, and I’ve seen improvements across my entire body, not just in my feet—better posture, better balance, and now I can enjoy running again.” You can connect with Lauren through her website, and she has a Facebook group called Happy Runner’s Feet for women over 40 who are looking for lasting solutions for their foot problems.
Masters runner Stephen Coughlan of Ireland races distances from 800m to 5K and has raced marathons in the past. His shoulders, hips, hamstrings, and iliopsoas have released substantially by practicing Clinical Somatics exercises, in a way that had not happened with any other technique he’s tried. Stephen realized that a runner with tight muscles burns more energy than they need to—he describes it as “running with the handbrake on.” A runner whose muscles aren’t holding onto excess tension can run faster with the same energy spend, or at the same pace using less energy. This runner also moves freely and with less risk of injuries.
Stephen sees enormous opportunity for using Clinical Somatics to help athletes reach their full potential. He uses Clinical Somatics to help adult athletes of all ages release their chronic muscle tension, relieve pain, prevent injuries, and optimize their athletic training and race performance. You can connect with Stephen through his Facebook page Running Repairs.
Helping Dancers and Performers Improve Their Dance Technique and Performance
Professional dancer and performing arts teacher Andrea Mislan of Minnesota, US has extensive experience with movement and physical training, having studied anatomy, yoga, Pilates, and other methods. But when she began the SMC® CEI program, she was shocked to find out how little she knew about how the body works from a functional movement perspective.
As Andrea learned Clinical Somatics exercises, she became aware of where she was holding excess tension and how she was recruiting muscles unnecessarily as she moved. She learned how to consciously release her tension and regain voluntary control of her movement patterns by pandiculating muscles throughout her body. Andrea immediately saw how beneficial the Clinical Somatics approach would be for dancers. She began teaching some pandiculation exercises at the beginning of her dance classes to help students sense their patterns of tension, release their tension, and improve their proprioception (internal sense of posture). Andrea now also incorporates Clinical Somatics concepts into her dance teaching, helping students approach their movement from a different perspective—simplifying the movement, moving with more ease, and discovering hidden strengths.
Clinical Somatics has allowed Andrea to become aware of the entire internal process of movement and all of the factors that affect how and why we move. This alone has changed the way she teaches, because it allows her to nurture and be aware of the whole person and their unique learning process. Each dancer can be trying to perform the same movement or position, approaching it with the goal of achieving it aesthetically, but in the process often forcing or muscling through the movement or position. This creates excess muscle tension, restriction of movement, and fatigue. Andrea can now help her students more effectively by helping them discover their unique patterns of tension and how to use their body efficiently.
Andrea also uses Clinical Somatics with dancers, singers, and actors in performing arts programs. As these performers release physical tension and mental stress, they become better able to express themselves onstage and give truly honest performances. They also become better able to adapt to fluctuating performance conditions like new environments, unexpected sounds, lighting changes, and cast members. The performers find that somatic training helps tremendously in feeling the connection between their emotional self and their physical self.
You can connect with Andrea through her website and through Instagram.
Helping Yoga and Pilates Students Release Muscle Tension, Relieve Pain, and Retrain Imbalanced Muscular Patterns
People often begin practicing and teaching yoga in order to release tension in their bodies, relieve pain, and become more centered and focused. While yoga does allow some people to attain these goals, others find that they aren’t able to get to the root of their tension and pain with yoga alone. Sometimes the deep stretching and challenging poses of yoga are too demanding for students who have a great deal of pain and tension to start with. For these students, Clinical Somatics may be a necessary precursor to beginning yoga practice.
Many SMC® Certified Exercise Instructors have a background in yoga instruction and find that Clinical Somatics is the missing element in their teaching. When they add Clinical Somatics exercises to their yoga classes, students report finally being able to release deeply held muscle tension that they’ve been struggling with for years. CSE exercises are also an ideal warm-up for yoga, as the muscular release they provide allow students to move deeper into yoga poses.
You can learn more about combining Clinical Somatics and your personal yoga practice in this post.
Pilates instructors also find Clinical Somatics to be an ideal addition to their teaching, because the intention of Pilates and CSE are quite similar: to address underlying imbalances in body use by retraining learned patterns; to elongate muscles, relieve pain, and improve posture and overall physical function; and to improve internal awareness of the body. Yet, like yoga, Pilates can be too intense for people who are starting out with a great deal of pain and tension. The extremely slow, gentle, tension-releasing technique of pandiculation is a highly effective way to help these clients get out of pain and be able to practice Pilates safely.
Giving Therapy Clients an Effective Method of Self-Care
Bodyworkers and movement therapists are highly skilled in helping their clients release muscle tension and relieve pain during in-person sessions. But when their clients return to their normal daily activities in between sessions, their pain and tension often return.
Many bodyworkers and therapists find that Clinical Somatics exercises are the key to teaching their clients how to take care of themselves in between sessions and preventing the pain and tension from returning. And since CSE exercises retrain the nervous system, the progress made by practicing them every day at home is cumulative. Therapists who teach their clients CSE exercises to practice at home for self-care find that they are finally able to make progress with their clients who suffer from chronic pain. SMC® Certified Exercise Instructors who practice osteopathy, physical therapy, yoga therapy, Body Stress Release, massage therapy, and other types of manual therapy teach Clinical Somatics exercises to their clients with great success.
Helping Expecting and New Moms Strengthen and Balance Core Muscles and the Pelvic Floor
Kazimira Mattes of Ontario, Canada is a yoga and movement educator with a special interest in core rehabilitation. She found that nothing else addressed the imbalances in her own body the way that Clinical Somatics has. As a Certified Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist, Kaz has a deep understanding of how core muscles work to support the body, and how important it is to have a movable and responsive core system.
The muscles in the core of the body must be able to move and adapt in order to regulate intra-abdominal pressure caused by breath and movement. Both chronic tension and the inability to fully contract core muscles, as can result from pregnancy, disrupt the core’s ability to be responsive. Tension and/or the inability to use muscles can also shift posture and movement out of alignment, causing pain and even damage to the structure of the body. Kaz has found that Clinical Somatics is an excellent tool to help new moms, and all people, reeducate their nervous systems, release patterns of core tension, and become reconnected to their bodies.
In her postpartum clients, Kaz sees all three patterns of core imbalance that Clinical Somatics addresses. New moms often have tight back muscles and weak or inactive abdominal muscles, causing them to stand with an arched back and stick out their stomachs. But soon, they develop rounded posture as they spend hours nursing, feeding, and holding their babies, and due to pure exhaustion. And as they start carrying their baby around on one hip or the other, they tend to lean their weight to one side, resulting in lateral pelvic tilt/functional leg length discrepancy or lumbar scoliosis.
Kaz finds that reeducating the core muscular system with both Clinical Somatics and corrective exercise is also extremely successful for helping new moms heal from diastasis, pelvic organ prolapse, and leaking, all of which are intra-abdominal pressure issues. You can connect with Kaz by email at [email protected] and via Facebook.
Other SMC® Certified Exercise Instructors use CSE exercises in prenatal care as well. The exercises release muscle tension in the lower back, hips, and legs that so often occurs during pregnancy, and helps expecting mothers maintain balanced posture and movement as their bodies change. The exercises also help reduce labor and delivery trauma, reduce stress, and allow for easier recovery after childbirth. And since CSE exercises are so slow and gentle, they’re an ideal way to start moving again after childbirth, before strenuous exercise is advised. Whenever possible, women should begin practicing Clinical Somatics exercises even before conceiving, as a way to prepare for all of the changes that their bodies will be going through.
Reducing Stress and Improving Mindfulness
Clinical Somatics alleviates stress in several important ways. First, studies have shown the connection between stress and anxiety and muscle tension; our natural stress response causes our muscles to tighten, and chronically tight muscles and high lactate levels increase our stress and anxiety. So when we reduce our baseline level of muscle tension, our stress level naturally goes down. Second, by relieving pain, Clinical Somatics alleviates the stress caused by being in pain. Lastly, the slow, conscious movements of Clinical Somatics calm the mind; they are moving meditation because they require total mental focus.
Lisa Firer of South Africa is a facilitator of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. Lisa feels that there is a natural resonance between somatics and mindfulness. People who are drawn to somatics are often in distress and pain, so learning the basic tenets of mindfulness can support the deepening and enriching of a somatics practice. In Lisa’s words: “The first foundation of the Buddha’s teaching is mindfulness of the body. Being with what arises in the moment without judgment, slowing down, paying careful attention, meeting pain and discomfort with spaciousness and gentleness—these are qualities we develop when we begin a mindfulness practice.”
Lisa observes that her clients may want to disconnect from or reject their bodies because they have been a source of constant pain. But as she teaches them the somatic skill of releasing their muscle tension, they also learn to cultivate a loving attunement toward their bodies and themselves. Lisa now offers mindfulness-based Clinical Somatics sessions. You can connect with Lisa through her website.
Jacqui Neurauter of Illinois is a Body Mind Therapy Coach and certified iRest® Yoga Nidra practitioner. iRest is a body-centered guided meditation practice that teaches tools to promote deep relaxation, deep inquiry, and mindfulness. iRest has been shown to help alleviate symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, sleep issues, and chronic pain. Jacqui finds that Clinical Somatics is a natural complement to iRest as it is a mindfulness practice as well. Each of these practices leads one to experiencing deep peace and well-being.
Jacqui now teaches Clinical Somatics to individual clients and groups who are experiencing amazing results in alleviating pain and postural issues. She also weaves somatics into her group iRest courses which focus on stress, pain, and sleep management. Her clients experience improvement with conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, injuries, vertigo, and chronic stress. You can connect with Jacqui through her website.
Helping Parents Reduce Stress, Be Present, and Deal With Challenges
Having children brings many unique challenges and stresses that often surprise and baffle both new and experienced parents. While practicing muscular release exercises may not be the first thing you’d think of as a way to deal with these stresses, as a parent, I can attest to the fact that having a daily Clinical Somatics exercise practice reduces my stress level, makes me more present, and makes me much better able to deal with both the physical and emotional challenges of having a child.
Emilie Leeks of Berkshire, UK is a Certified Hand in Hand Parenting Instructor. As a former pediatric speech and language therapist, she worked with parents for many years, supporting them with their parenting challenges. As her own family grew, she realized that more than anything it was her own reactions that determined how challenging parenting situations would play out.
Emilie became determined to do the inner work she needed to do to learn how to support herself on this path. But she had very little awareness of her own internal sensations, and was carrying a lot of stress and tension. Emilie’s personal journey with Clinical Somatics has been a huge part of learning to be more present in her body and learning to release muscular tension—which in turn means she is more aware of her reactions in difficult situations, and more able to manage things when they get challenging. Emilie loves teaching Clinical Somatics to her community, and it has been very well received by the parents she works with. You can connect with Emilie through her website.
Helping Queer, Trans, and Gender Non-Conforming People Feel Connected to Their Bodies
king yaa shange of South Africa is a movement coach and bodyworker whose practice is focused on helping queer, trans, and gender non-conforming people become connected to their bodies. They offer Clinical Somatics, massage therapy, body conditioning, well-being coaching, energy healing, and full spectrum birthwork.
We hold memories of accidents, trauma, abuse, neglect, hurt, and anxiety in our physical bodies as tension, pain, and numbness or disconnection. People who are going through transition, who carry the stress of being misgendered, and who fear transphobia may struggle with how to approach dealing with pain and tension in their bodies that they don’t identify with.
king yaa believes that movement is healing for the mind, body, and soul. Through functional movement, people can restore and rebuild their resiliency to deal with everyday challenges and to reconnect with a body that they may have a complicated relationship with, for various reasons. king yaa works with their clients to move through physical and emotional pain, and to help remove blockages and negative patterns in the mind, body, and spirit.
king yaa creates personalized, gentle, effective, and accessible holistic movement practices which respect and honor each person’s capabilities and fitness level. They provide a safe, non-judgmental and affirming space for individuals to navigate change and transitions, to live in their truths as their authentic selves, and to show themselves compassion in the midst of their complexity. king yaa finds that Clinical Somatics, in addition to increasing internal sensory awareness and relieving pain, is a wonderful tool that their clients can use to take care of themselves at home in their own private spaces. You can connect with king yaa through their website.
The diverse ways in which SMC® Certified Exercise Instructors use Clinical Somatics to help people are truly inspiring. Thank you to all of the instructors who contributed to this article, and to all of the SMC® Certified Exercise Instructors for their dedication to teaching Clinical Somatics. I’m excited to see where the future will take us!
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