Jump Scare by a T-Rex

C & I playing with dinosaurs

For the past few days (weeks? I can’t tell anymore), I’ve had this feeling that something is about to jump out and take me by surprise. I don’t know when it’s coming, but I feel it. It keeps my nervous system on edge, and it’s generally very, very uncomfortable. Is this a common sentiment right now? Is it common in other, non-pandemic times? I rationalize with myself that it’s just my primal brain, always searching for danger – for that tiger or snake that’s going to pounce out and kill me. But there’s no tiger or snake (or T-rex). Forty thousand years ago, this was a useful warning system. Even 200 years ago it was useful. But now, in our highly technologically convenient age, the “T-rexes” are more about emotions. It’s the weight of a job you don’t like, the stress of balancing family & work, or relationship stresses – all of which we are dealing with right now as usual, in addition to, y’know, the uncertainty of businesses or schools opening, losing a job, getting sick, staying at home, political turmoil, and racial injustices. Our current uncertainty IS our modern day T-rex – when is something going to “get us”? That long-term emotional stress from a metaphorical danger can cause all sorts of issues. If we were truly running from a big animal about to eat us, once we got away, our nervous system could chill out a little in safety. But nowadays, we hold onto that stuff – and it’s like we’re constantly running.

So although our own evolution hasn’t really caught up to the fact that we don’t have large animals chasing after us anymore, we have the self-awareness to help alleviate, reverse, and grow from these unsettling & uncertain things happening around us. Shifting attention inward to the breath, to a simple movement in a toe, to how the air feels on the skin – all helps to chill out that primal “ACKKK! SOMETHING’S GOING TO EAT ME!” feeling. I deal with it everyday too – just waiting for that jump scare, and taking a deep breath.

This week, we’re going to focus on the neck and jaw – two hotspots of unconscious tension. We’ll build on the basics to directly address the small muscles of the neck, and how those are so closely affected by tension in the entire spine.

Thursday, 12:00pm Eastern
Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 981 4575 4454
Password: somafull

Classes run from 35-45 minutes. Make sure you have a yoga mat-sized space for the practice. Your video and audio will be off when you first get in the “room”, you have the option to turn both on. I’d love to *see* you, but feel free to remain off if you’re more comfortable that way 🙂

Class fee is by donation. Feel free to join anytime, and if you’d like to support my teaching (THANK YOU), you can do so here.

Altering Perspective, on purpose

Ahhhh. 48 hours without my phone (mostly, I did cheat a little bit). Camping by a river, looking up at the sky from my hammock, listening to the water rush by – all very good for my nervous system.

How easy is it for us to get caught up in news cycles and trapped “scrolling” these days? More than usual, yeah? Most of you who are experienced at some sort of mindfulness/Somatics practice have the tools to keep yourself from getting trapped in these cycles and can return to ground, but I’m guessing it can still be a HUGE challenge, even with experience. When you find yourself spiraling, or feeling trapped, ungrounded – do you feel disconnected too? Does it feel like even taking a deep breath can be challenging to pull yourself out of that disconnected-ness or ungrounded-ness?  

I am curious to explore what happens when we go the other way – that is, instead of only utilizing tools when we feel challenged or overwhelmed, what if we challenge ourselves when we feel safe, grounded, and connected? Would that be a practice that could help calm us when we need it the most? Purposefully going from one end of the spectrum to the other, in a controlled way, may help us have more control when we feel most out of control.

This week, I’d like to explore just that. In our Thursday class, we’ll dive into the usual breath and movement from the center of the body, focusing inward, and then see what happens when we look out from that internal focus. We will also utilize the movements of the eyes to shift perception and perspective.

Click here to join this week’s Somatics Restart class on Thursday.

Curious if a one-with-one online session would work for you? I offer free 15 minute consults via Zoom or by phone. Email me for more information.

Doom, Gloom, and Zoom

I’m not sure what’s going on here, but I liked the composition. Discovered at Fletcher Park, NC.

Get outside
Practice gratitude
~~    Do less & unplug    ~~
Move your body, breathe
Seek support when you need it

After a couple of weeks of spiraling into news cycles, I am cutting off all technology to go into the woods for a few days on a camping trip this week. I figure it’s a fairly low-risk activity – basically packing up a much smaller version of my house & wares, to sleep in the woods next to a river. It’s time to give my brain another focus other than doom, gloom, and Zoom.

How are you doing? A friend of mine shared with me today that they’ve never been the anxious-type, but this has thrown them into regular panic attacks and extreme anxiety. They said “no matter what kind of day I have – good or bad – I am panicky at bed time”. We need other things to draw our attention, other than the constantly changing news stories. Life is extraordinarily stressful for most of us these days; with so many unknowns for our futures. Basic decisions we used to take for granted can take on a life or death consideration. It’s more important that we allow ourselves time to “put our masks on first” (pardon that pun). We become useless to loved ones and our own support networks when we don’t take care of ourselves first. And make no mistake, you are needed. Whatever self-care works for you, boost it up if you can. For me, movement and body awareness ground me, shifting my nervous system so that I can stay informed watching the news, while not getting sucked down into a vortex (or at least keeps me from going over the edge). What’s your outlet? How do you ground yourself, find support, and connect?

There will be no Thursday class this week, but we will return next week with something great. Have a great, safe, healthy week!

Curious if a one-with-one online session would work for you? I offer free 15 minute consults via Zoom or by phone. Email me for more information.

Curiosity in Change – Expressing Ourselves through the Mask

Can you tell I’m smiling?

Call me kooky, but I have been enjoying wearing a mask when out in public (which is good, since it is mandated in many municipalities). Sure, at first I felt freaked out & had to get used to breathing normally, plus my sunglasses would get fogged up – but then it offered me some new tools in communication that I had to work out. I’m a pretty soft-spoken person, so figuring out how to speak up through a mask was a challenge. I also realized I had to rely on eye contact and expressiveness more than a smile with my mouth. I started to really enjoy the exploration of it! I’ve started to pay more attention to how tension in my forehead and cheeks affect my neck and shoulders. It also helps me to become more aware of the space I take up in the world, and how that my space interacts with others’ spaces going through similar adjustments.  Life is constantly changing, and even though our brains are always searching for balance and stability, we also search for novel experiences with curiosity. There’s a challenge in itself – how do we maintain balance & stability while also remaining open to curiosity in the changes?

This week, we’ll be exploring how the movement of the eyes affects the rest of the body – especially the head, neck, and shoulders. You can get a jump on class by moving your eyes slowly to the left and your head to the right – then slowly going the other way. It’s a weird feeling!

Click here to join this week’s Somatics Restart class on Thursday.

Tat Tvam Asi – You Are That

One of my favorite bumper stickers

One of my favorite phrases is “Tat Tvam Asi”, or Thus thou art. A more common English way of saying this is “There but by the grace of god, go I”. I love this phrase so much, because it reminds me that I could be anyone. I could have been born into any circumstance, with different parents, in a different part of the world, with a different skin color, or a different economic place. This phrase has helped me to be less judgmental, and aided me when I completely and utterly cannot for the life of me figure out a viewpoint that I don’t agree with. “That could be me”, I say to myself. And at the very least, it helps me not be so shut off from hearing another point of view.

As a Somatics practitioner, I was trained to try to see things from the perspective of my students, not just from the outside. It helps to be able work with someone as a whole soma (body/mind/beyond) and consider what it’s like to walk in their shoes, rather than see them in one dimension. It’s a helpful practice, not just in my work, but in my daily life. These days, there are plenty of people to disagree with and polarize. Repeating “Tat Tvam Asi” could help bring more compassion and understanding to this current divisiveness we are experiencing right now.

Resiliency

from Mt Mitchell peak, NC. June 2020

One of my favorite words right now is resiliency.

noun: resiliency

  1. The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

We’ve all had a lot of challenges and difficulties in the last few months – whether they are personal to our own lives, or the world surrounding us, I don’t think there is anyone who has not been somehow affected by some aspect of current global events. It’s easy (for me, at least!) to contract against it, curl up in a little ball, stick my head in the sand, search for more comfort & escape. It’s sometimes hard for me to even take a deep breath – a breath that I know would be so nourishing & restorative – seems unsafe to expand even that little bit into the world sometimes. But I know, from all the body & feeling explorations that I’ve done over the years, we need to expand in order to contract, and we need to contract in order to expand. That can be applied to a lot of things – as simple as the breath, muscle patterns, even emotions and feelings. If we can become aware of this flow, from one edge of discomfort to the other edge of relief, then we’re able to find a constant comfort in that process so these daily challenges become more of a flow. When we practice noticing both sides of this expansion/contraction, discomfort/comfort, we gain more range to experience more, and recover more quickly when something does overwhelm us. This is always an important tool, but especially important (even essential) right now. Slow down, step back, be gentle – when that overwhelming feeling of the state of the world or the state of your own life starts to creep in, see if you can look at it with curiosity. Curiosity helps that resiliency to recover and handle the dips down when we realize it’s just one side of our own personal ebbs & flows. Continue to move, breathe, and look outward & inward with curiosity.

Movement, Safety, and Freedom

Most people stumble upon Somatic practices because they are searching for some sort of pain relief. As a field, Somatic Education encompasses a lot of methods, but the one thing they all have in common is that it encourages everyone to be aware of all aspects of YOU (body, mind, feelings, beyond), and this awareness helps to lead to important changes and growth – including pain relief. As somatic educators, we help guide people to learn more about themselves – how to relieve pain and improve quality of life. The different methods (Hanna Somatic Education, Feldenkrais, Somatic Experiencing, to name just three) may have different approaches to help open doors for their students, but the goal is the same – self-awareness, self-regulation, self-correction, and self-empowerment.

The movements I choose each week in class focus on a couple of things –

1) Helping you recognize the natural patterns that can keep muscles “stuck” that may be causing you pain & imbalance in the body. This is in the gentle movement we use, playing with the “edges” of your own movement patterns, and how to recognize your neutral, starting point.

2) Relaxing your nervous system in order to bring you back to sense of safety in your body, so that you have the freedom to respond to (and recover from) all the different challenges in your day.

Being able to recognize that “safety zone”, or neutral place, helps you to recover from any demands on your nervous system when faced with a sudden challenge – whether that’s a physical challenge (tripping on the sidewalk, recovering from injury), or an emotional one (listening to current events, a disagreement with a loved one).

Curious if a one-with-one online session is for you? Set up a 15 minute phone call or video session to find out. Click here to email me.

The Edges of Comfort

“While we see anger & violence in the streets of our country, the real battlefield is inside our bodies. If we are to survive as a country, it is inside our bodies where this conflict needs to be resolved.” 

~ Clinical therapist and trauma specialist Resmaa Menakem

It can be uncomfortable to cross your comfort zones. I talk a lot in class about “going up to your edge”. What do I mean by “the edge”? Muscularly, I’m suggesting that you recognize where a movement starts to cause discomfort. Go up to the discomfort, say “hello”, and then back away. Resist the urge to push past or force through that pain or discomfort. The nervous system likes to feel safe, to be in balance (homeostasis), so when we force muscles to move past a comfort zone, we actually end up losing ground to move forward. It may seem counter-intuitive, but if we can gently become aware of that edge – the edges of our comfort zones – the nervous system gains trust that we won’t push through, possibly causing injury, and that trust leads us to expansion and length in the muscle. We can think of this in relation to emotions and habitual programming of all sorts. Sidle up to your comfort zone, say “hello”, own it, then the next time you come up to that comfort zone, you may find you get a little bit farther.

This Thursday, we’ll explore the “edge” of breath, and how that can start to open up not only muscles in the center of the body, but also open perception to the external world around us. Click here for information on my weekly class, and feel free to email me with any questions.

Cultural SMA

Catherine Day-Palmer, Feb 2020

Sometimes, in order to make sense of things, I use analogies and replace the thing I cannot understand with something I can. The civil unrest that’s going on in many cities (and in many hearts) is hard to unravel. Our country has been going through this for centuries, and we are piling up more social dissonance in this very moment in time. It’s hard for many of us to see others’ perspectives – it’s a kind of “blind spot” in our consciousness, a cultural “sensory/motor amnesia”.

Here’s the connection: Often when we experience muscle pain, it’s because our brains have put us on a cruise control, and we are no longer voluntarily in charge of those muscles. We can try to force ourselves to relax, to stretch, to push out of the pain, but what really works is becoming aware of that “amnesia”, and then trying something different; becoming conscious of other possibilities for ourselves so that we have the power to change. I believe that’s what happening to us as a culture. We are collectively becoming aware of some places in ourselves that we previously couldn’t see, didn’t deal with, and now we are collectively experiencing pain. Some of us resist, some try to be compassionate, some of us put our heads in the sand. Probably most of us do a little of everything, and then some. Because much of society is shut down due to COVID-19, we have an opportunity to slow down our own thinking, examine our own patterns, and choose something different – changing our narratives. I’m in this with you – unraveling bias, programming, and all of my own sensory/motor amnesia.

Moving with the Bad Feels

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If movement can help improve moods, heal pain, and help general well-being, what happens if you feel too low or depressed to move? What if you only feel like curling up in a ball, or just moping around with a cloud over your head? In these times especially, sometimes that’s going to be your day. Some days are going to be mopey and full of clouds. What’s important to remember is that it’s OKAY (I’m pointing at you in the mirror, Carrie Day), and to be gentle with yourself. When those moods hit, even taking notice of tiny movements, small tasks, and little sensations can help prevent a spiral into a darker mood. Meditation teacher Tara Brach talks about being aware of “the second arrow” – that’s the feeling you get after an initial “bad feeling”, like feeling guilty for feeling depressed, or angry at yourself for not being “productive enough”. Next time you feel cloud formations around you, notice a sensation outside or inside of your body, take a deep breath, or, when you do find yourself curled up in a ball because nothing else feels better, see how the smallest of wiggles or curling in more can shift you just a little. And remember that we are adaptive creatures, always changing, tomorrow might be that much better. We can’t avoid the first arrow, but we can be aware and shift the second one.