The cat stretch is a series of exercises intended to be done everyday to help “reset” the nervous system in order to encourage healthy muscular habits. These are best done first thing in the morning before any other activity. The reason for this is that during sleep, especially REM sleep, our motor control system is taken “off line”. When we establish healthy motor habits (i.e. with somatic exercises) before the body has a chance to fall back into habituated patterns, we can begin to re-train the brain to muscle communication.
These exercises can take as little as 5 to 10 minutes a day. Very little time needs to be spent to gain the full benefits of these basic somatic exercises.
Begin on your back, legs straight on the floor and arms down by your sides with the palms up. Take note of the feeling of your body on the floor, the weight of your feet, pelvis, shoulders, and head. Notice the differences between each side- does one side of your pelvis feel heavier than the other? Do your shoulders touch the floor, or are they slightly raised? Sense the space between the floor and your lower back. Breathe deeply, and just make note of your body patterns and sensations. Once you have fully relaxed your weight into the floor, you are ready to begin with the arch & flatten.
Arch & Flatten
The Arch & Flatten is the quintessential Somatics movement exploration. From a supine position (lying on your back), slowly bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor, about hip width apart, and a comfortable distance from you hips. Begin by taking a deep breath, deep into the belly. Notice the belly rising on the inhale, and floating back down on the exhale. Deepen the breath even further by pressing the tailbone down into the floor on the inhale, arching the lower back off the floor, allowing the belly to raise up even higher with the inhale. Your pelvis remains on the floor while rocking forward. On the exhale, release the tailbone and allow the lower back to release to the floor. Repeat at least 5-10 times noticing the wave of breath with the movement of the pelvis and lower back. Also notice that on the inhale you contract the lower back muscles while lengthening the front of the body. On the exhale, you release the contracted back muscles, and shorten the belly. Arch & Flatten works directly with the center muscles used in green light and red light reflexes.
(please check back for more exercises, or contact a practitioner for detailed instruction)