Today I have a guest post for you.
Every now and again you hear me talk about a woman named Anne Dempsey, the lady that teaches Yoga and Somatic movement at Wild Geese.
Well, last week she was helping me out with an old injury of mine and happened to mention that Somatics has its roots in the martial arts. Of course my ears pricked up and I wanted to know more, so with a bit of badgering I got Anne to write me little on the history and background of the method she teaches.
So, I’ll shut up and hand it over…..
Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais (1904 to 1984) was an engineer, a physicist, an inventor and martial artist. He trained in ju jitsu and through this he came into contact with Professor Kano who developed judo. He taught Ju jitsu and judo, working his way up to a second degree black belt in Judo.
Feldenkrais wrote several books on martial arts, “Defense Against Aggression” in 1935, “ABC of Judo” in 1938, “Practical Unarmed Combat” in 1942 and “Higher Judo” in 1952.
He also sat on the international Judo Committee and used his scientific side to analyse Judo principles.
It was injuries that he received that motivated him to find a way to heal and prevent further injuries. His greatest motivation was when he was told that he would have to have knee surgery and that the outcome would be uncertain. His system became known as Functional Integration and later the Feldenkrais technique.
(DH: here’s a pretty cool post giving more on Feldenkrais’ background)
FM Alexander was an actor who was dogged by laryngitis and a reason for this could not be found. Alexander decided that it must be to mis-use or over use of certain muscles. He came to believe that bad patterns of movement and poor posture were the cause of most health problems. He spent years working on himself until he cured his problem and made his mark as an Actor.
He further went on to develop and refine his system which became known as the Alexander Technique.
Thomas Hanna (1928 to 1990) coined the term Somatics in 1970. It means a whole mind and body experience.
Hanna was a philosopher and was greatly troubled by peoples’ physical suffering. He coined the term sensory motor amnesia which means that the body has actually forgotten how to release muscles to their resting length. Muscles can remain contracted even when sleeping and this will contribute to fatigue. The act of contracting and then lengthening is called pandiculation. It resets muscle function, length and tonus.
Think of the fluid movements of an animal and that is what we aspire to. It is about changing patterns in the brain as well as the body. This is not a quick fix and the therapist will not “cure” anyone. The person being treated has to take responsibility for their own health by undertaking to do ten minutes of reinforcement work every day or better still twice a day. Hanna wrote “Somatics – Reawaking the Mind’s Control of Movement”, “Flexibility and Health”, “the Body of Life”, and “The End of Tyranny.”
Alexander, Feldenkrais and Hanna were colleagues.
Thomas Hanna was a Functional Integration practitioner and taught the first course for Feldenkrais in America. However the three went their separate ways each developing their own systems.
Hanna only taught one course of Somatic training before being killed in a car accident. His wife and business partner has continued his training.
We brought Anne on board to provide a balance for all the hard training, the training that creates tension in the body. I see first hand the issues people develop as they specialise into their chosen sports and martial arts, the amount of shoulder issues I see due to the combat posture and “traditional” training techniques employed by the boxers and wrestlers.
I have endurance athletes coming to me with hamstrings that are like violin strings.
And don’t get me started on the bloody hip flexors!
Fortunately Anne loves all this stuff, maybe it’s her background as Nurse or maybe she genuinely likes helping people, but I for one can’t speak more highly of her methods. And now I know that the methods she teaches have their origins in the martial arts, well, I’m a fan!
Anne teaches every Saturday at WG. Currently the class starts at 4pm, but this will be moving to an earlier time slot of 10.45am as of May.
She is also available for private sessions where she will give you the exact exercises you need to relieve your specific symptoms.