Soma – The word soma describes the everlasting constantly flowing array of sensory feedback and actions that are occurring within the experience of each of us. A somatic experience is when we viscerally feel connected usually brought on by movement. Even in meditation and states of rest our body and internal experience is always moving. It is an internal representation of our energy force.
Movement – Movement is the language that the nervous system understands very well. Gently guiding a client through a series of small movements allows the body to highlight muscular and systems integration on the voluntary level. It is a communication portal that showcases integration from the muscles, fascia and bone to the client – when the client is open to listening.
Lineage of Somatic Education:
Somatic education emerged during the twentieth century, but has been practiced in Eastern traditions for centuries. Western science classifys somatic healing and somatic education; a term used interchangeably, as an internalized learning process which is initiated by a teacher who guides the client or student through a sensory-motor process of physiological change.
When we speak of self-teaching, self-learning, self-healing, and self-regulation, we know that this is a somatic process, and as coaches and teachers we must guide our clients to the understanding that these are genetically-given capacities intrinsic to all human beings. As practitioners our roles are to merely offer the means to help “turn on” the ability to self manage somatic healing on and off the mat. In essence the client actually teaches themselves, we merely aid in offering the verbal and sequential tools.
Somatic healing is much like corrective movement in this way. When there is a break down in movement or movement patterning; much like in an athletic injury, there can be trauma and compensation patterns that take over proper and once efficient patterns. When this happens the client feels as if they do not have control over their body’s responses, contraction and control over that particular area of their body, muscle group and to an extent this is true because the body’s protective response is to contract and quite frankly.. protect. In somatic medical terms we call this somatic trauma and/or SMA (sensory motor amnesia; which is the worst case scenario.
This somatic trauma can pull the body into what we call somatic reflex. It is the reflex of pain avoidance. Cringing, for example, is the overt manifestation of this reflex. For instance, in boxing when blows occur to one side of the rib cage, the muscles traumatized will go into chronic contraction. Prolonged pain can attribute to chronic contraction, which we see in runner knee and a myriad of load responsive micro trauma. This alters the body’s ability to recover and to properly manage movement.
The internal compensation process is to selectively dis-engage that sensory input and motor control of muscle function and then establish a compensation pattern.
“Pain is impressively humbling. Your regular ambitions and thought processes come to a grinding halt. Emotional factors creep in and generally exacerbate matters. It can even become difficult, if not impossible, to make decisions in your own regard. Yet in this human community, we are never truly alone. Family, friends and professionals come to our aid. And, short of that, or in addition, in my system of belief, we are constantly ministered to by intelligences and forces of orders beyond our normal frames of recognition. Lean into these resources no matter how bad it gets. Relief will come.” ~ Gil Hedley (Integral Anatomy Series)
Primitive Patterning and Somatic Healing:
We know that somatic trauma can occur from injury or prolonged discomfort, but somatically we can also harbor emotions within the tissue well after the injury has healed. Depending on the nature of the injury and the emotional context from which the injury was viscerally felt can still be present at the soma level. Sometimes these somatic reactions are linked to our childhood many years or decades earlier. These visceral triggers can creep up over time and continue to cause bio mechanical breakdowns in the future. This is one fundamental reason why somatic healing and corrective movement are so closely linked.
When we talk about corrective movement there are two pillars that FMS coaches will focus on (1) Primitive Movement Patterns and (2) Foundation Movement Patterns.
Primitive movement patterns are used to describe those movements most humans explore during growth and development. When we look at pediatric development this includes movements that are supine, prone and hand and knees (all fours). As we begin to learn how to crawl, then squat and stand and then walk we form foundation movements. The development of fundamental movement is the foundation that leads to effective functional movement.
Somatic education can include taking the client back to these primitive and foundational movements to better break through somatic trauma and or related visceral connections that still hold negative movement and reactionary patterns.
Gray Cook, co-founder of the Functional Movement Systems, looks at corrective movement is very similar way; which is much like describing somatic re patterning and healing. They are very closely related in the foundational thought and intention process …
“Patterns and sequences remain the preferred mode of operation in biological organisms. Patterns are groups of singular movements linked in the brain like a single chunk of information. This chunk essentially resembles a mental motor program, the software that governs movement patterns. A pattern represents multiple single movements used together for specific function. Storage of a pattern creates efficiency and reduces processing time in the brain, much as a computer stores multiple documents of related content in one file to better organize and manage information. Common strengthening programs applied to muscles with the stabilization role will likely increase concentric strength but have little effect on timing and recruitment, which are the essence of stabilization.” ~ Gray Cook, FMS
In order for the client to regain pattern control it is an internal process; where new sensory information is introduced into the sensory-motor feedback loop through specific movement sequencing and pattern re training, allowing the motor neurons of the voluntary cortex once again to control the musculature fully and to achieve voluntary relaxation and contraction properties.
We see forms of this somatic trauma in today’s corporate world, but it is masked by “stiff muscles”. 80% of those over the age of forty have pain and stiffness from spines that are chronically contracted from the pelvis to the neck and naturally have spent decades in this compensation pattern.
Therefore, understanding the connection between somatic healing and corrective movement can greatly affect your health and wellness and longevity of your chosen sport – even if you classify yourself as just a weekend warrior.