Holistic healing techniques for the body and soul
It’s that time of day when your alarm clock rattles and your bare feet reluctantly hit the cold floor. But maybe it’s not so bad. You cranked out that ten-page paper last night, with the aid of your Red Bull and a few snack breaks. You’re dressed nice for the first time all week and ready to start learning. Your favorite tunes come on your iPod as you hustle down to class, and you’re in such a good mood you start to dance a little.
Then suddenly you get that feeling—the warning signal goes off in your head and you feel your stomach drop, “splat,” on the sidewalk. In the rush to finish your paper, you completely forgot to do another assignment. The ensuing full panic mode is sparked by your neuromuscular responses. Before you know it, every muscle is tense and you may even be out of breath. Blastoff. You are officially out of touch with your body ––– totally consumed by your racing thoughts.
“All our thoughts get translated into a neuromuscular response in an instant,” Eshelman said.
Richard Eshelman is a somatic and massage therapist who uses Hanna somatic techniques to heal physical as well as emotional pain that has been manifested physically. Hanna Somatic Education is a re-education of the mind and body used to relieve muscular pain.
Somatics is a process that involves a variety of movements that work to readjust the neuromuscular system and reconnect with the mind.
“It’s about self-control and self-maintenance,” Eshelman said.
One of the major benefits of somatic exercises is the readjustment of the neuromuscular system to correct poor posture and the pains that come with it. Adrienne McNair, a regular visitor to Eshelman’s sessions, is seeing the benefits of somatic exercises.
“I am interested in living as healthily as I can for as long as I live,” McNair said. “I recognize that I am not going to be healthy if I do not have good posture.”
We are the only animal that doesn’t know how to just wake up and stretch out the cricks in our backs. This natural adjustment is called self-pandiculation. That’s what you see cats and dogs doing when they stretch all the way out from their tails to the tips of their toes. Humans, on the other hand, have to be taught pandiculation. The somatic exercises help us do just that. Eshelman refers to these exercises as a crucial part of the daily routine.
“It’s like brushing your teeth,” Eshelman said. “You should interact with your neuro-muscular system first thing in the morning.”
During somatics classes, Eshelman constantly reminds his participants to pay attention to how they feel emotionally and physically. This way, the brain can be totally conscious of what the body is doing and learn what is right.
Somatics teaches the neuromuscular responses in the body not to react to every tiny stressor quite so drastically in everyday life. Maybe when your happy dance comes to a screeching halt because of a lost assignment, you could bounce back a little quicker. Instead of your whole jive getting thrown for the rest of the day, you can just breathe.
After having suffered from the devastating loss of a loved one, Jill Swenson found her physical state being affected by her emotional pain.
“The grief was physically so debilitating. A body blow,” Swenson said. “It literally felt like someone had pulled the rug out from underneath me. I couldn’t stand up.”
Swenson’s emotional instability affected her physical balance so severely that she fell and broke her wrist.
“I wanted something natural that would address the emotional toll on my physical being,” Swenson said.
Eshelman said the mental side of somatic exercise has a lot to do with awareness, but also emotional health. In order to be truly emotionally stable, forgiveness must be achieved. For many, this requires digging up any leftover conflicts and letting go of negative emotion.
For Swenson, the results from somatic exercises happened quickly; she felt improvement that she had never accomplished with any other methods.
“It led me to have greater integration between mind and body,” Swenson said.
But this process of self-healing can even be applied to daily situations, especially in college. Somatics would help recenter the stressed university student who feels overwhelmed when the day has just begun.
One of Eshelman’s ten-second techniques involves rating stress levels, putting palms together, deep breathing, and positive visuals. It’s all about keeping your cool, body and soul.
“When you get rid of physical tension, it immediately makes you feel more peaceful,” McNair said. “When you are calm you can be purposeful, you can be aware, and you can be present. When you are worried about things, you don’t see, and you are ineffective.”
So, next time that oh-my-God-it’s-the-end-of-the-world feeling rears its ugly head, stop. Slow down, breathe and try some self-regulation. It works, and it can’t hurt.
Kerry Tkacik is a junior journalism major who self-pandiculates every morning before class. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.