Your learning process
There are three aspects of the Clinical Somatics learning process that are often very challenging for people when they begin learning the exercises. The first we just talked about—the challenge of having to focus your attention inward to discover the answers. We’ve been taught to rely on doctors and other health experts to fix what’s wrong with us, but that approach rarely works or has lasting effect.
The second challenge is getting past the “quick fix” mentality. We are a goal-oriented society; we want the answer or the end result NOW.
But developing internal awareness and control of your body doesn’t work like that. Believe it or not, you will experience more benefits and actually make faster progress if you focus on the learning process rather than the end goal.
How do you do this? Practice the exercises every day, as long as this is comfortable for you. Close your eyes, and focus all your attention inward on what you’re feeling in your body as you breathe and move. Approach the exercises each day as if it is the first time you’ve done them; this is essential. This is how your nervous system will learn a new way of standing and moving. After 16 years, I still feel new things and learn new things about my body every day.
You’ll figure things out along the way. I remember many times over the past 16 years when I would release an area of my body, and suddenly be standing or moving in a new way, and think “Ah, that’s it! I figured it out!” And then a week or a month later I’d release something else or sense something new and think “Okay, that’s it!” As you go through this process—which can and should be a lifelong process—you will have many, many of these “ah ha” moments.
You will have good days and bad days. The process of change rarely follows a straight upward path. Your muscles may feel sore as they adjust to new ways of being used. As your sensation of your body increases, some things you feel may not be entirely pleasant. You may get injured, stressed out, or have an old tension or pain pop back up. This is all normal.
I like to compare the process of releasing tension in your body to peeling an onion. Muscle tension doesn’t actually exist in layers like this, but it’s a useful comparison. Your muscles will not release completely all at once; the process of releasing them happens gradually, in the same way you built up the tension. Likewise, the process of changing your posture and movement patterns happens gradually.
Whether you are 20, 50, or 80 years old when you begin this process, keep in mind that you’ve spent your entire life developing the habitual patterns that now cause your tension and pain. Your nervous system and the tissues of your body can only change so fast, so be patient with yourself and with the process.
Embarking on a process to change your habitual patterns is like beginning a journey without knowing exactly when you’ll arrive or what you’ll encounter along the way. You simply have to start. Take it one step at a time, one day at a time, and know that you are heading in the right direction.
The third challenging aspect of the learning process is that you must do the exercises extremely slowly and be gentle with yourself. Sadly, we’re taught to believe in the adage “no pain, no gain.” Even massages, which should be completely relaxing, are often painful during or afterward. Do people think this is working? Why do we think that pain is beneficial?
When you push your body to the point of pain, it will tighten up responsively. There is no benefit to painful massage, stretching, or manual adjustments. Stop doing these things, and stop letting other people do them to you.
When you move your body slowly and gently, your muscles relax. Even though Clinical Somatics exercises are extremely slow and gentle, I believe that some people do them with too much tension and force. Doing the exercises this way greatly decreases their benefit.
Instead of forcing a movement, instead simply allow it. This simple shift in mentality will have an enormous effect on your process.