Book Review: SOMATICS by Thomas Hanna
Somatics is a theory that approaches the mind-body connection.
Why is it that when we feel depressed our shoulders slump and our heads fall forward? Why is it that when we are feeling positive, we tend to have more upright posture, open our airways and have a more forward gaze? Why is it that assuming specific posture can affect our moods? These are more than societal norms.
In his book, Hanna goes a step further and proposes that the reason we feel older is because we suffer psychological injuries over the years and these get reflected in our bodies.
Whether you believe this or not, his stretches and exercises are very good for overcoming many of the side-effects of ergonomic injury.
By this, I mean that when there is an ergonomic injury, it does not live alone in your body. We cannot detach the sore wrist, painful knee, or aching elbows from the rest of the body.
An injury on one side of the body affects the way we move, the way we do things, and our total posture. It affects the way we live.
Ergonomic injuries usually begin on the dominant side, our stronger and more trained side. After all, we use it the most. It receives the most exposure to any risk.
After the injury we need to develop adaptive compensatory postures, allowing us to use the weaker side of the body more. This would be fine as long as we actually had time to build up strength and skill in the non-dominant side, and if it only went to the point where there was an equal sharing between right and left.
More commonly, however, one side (usually the stronger side) needs to be immobilized or used minimally for some time. We need to find different ways to cut, to fold, to dress, to climb stairs. This results in postural anomalies (unusual positions). Often, we feel a need to be protective of the painful part. This causes even more modification of our usual posture.
One shoulder or hip will often be hiked upwards and forward. Either of these (shoulder or hip posture changes)results in a spinal shift which affects everything from the way you sit and walk to general tension and the way you approach tasks.
Aches and pains, and sometimes injury develop in the newly stressed side. This limits ability to move and act even more than the original injury.
Hanna addresses his book to people who are not in an acute phase of injury. In most cases, these stretch techniques will be useful for all stages of recovery.
Exceptions: those with shoulder and back injures should definately clear these with their therapists before attempting them.
If you have a wrist or finger issue, check with your therapist before attempting any weight-bearing through the wrist.
Many of these stretches are done on the floor and are better done on a stiff surface.
If you do not know how to get up from the floor, you should ask your therapist to practice it with you (occupational therapists have specific training in this, Iím not sure about physical therapists). There are techniques that make it easier and safer.
For your own safety, getting up from the floor with your current limitations is something you should learn in any case.
Remember, follow the general rules for stretches.
- 1. Move to the point of pain, then move back. Do not hold a stretch in pain.
- 2. If you have any questions about the stretch, check with your therapist (occupational or physical).
- 3. Be gentle with yourself.
Do I like this book? It's a fairly easy read about some comples issues. I frequently use it as a reference for easy stretches. Not a book I would pick up for weeked reading, but yes....I like it.