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Somatic movement is about patterns

We’ve all heard that song telling us that the leg bone is connected to the thigh bone right? Well, the body is also connected through muscles and more importantly, muscular patterning. Although, we are one organism, each part of our body is interrelated to the other parts. Just look to reflexology to find an example of this.

There are more than 600 muscles in the body and they don’t work individually, they work together in groups. This is because it isn’t just one muscle contracting to perform a movement but a whole group, or pattern, of muscles activating to perform a movement such as a side bend, a twist or a head nod, for example.

Because your muscles work together they need to all be working optimally for the entire pattern to function well. For this reason, you can have chronic pain in one area that is being exacerbated by chronic tension in a seemingly unrelated part of your body. For example, tension in your shoulders that can be related to tension in your lower back because one part of the pattern isn’t working and therefore it compromises the rest.

In Hanna Somatic Education we use the concepts of the green light reflex, the red light reflex and the trauma reflex to discuss the three main patterns of bodily movement through the centre of the torso. The red light reflex is a contraction of the muscles in the front of the body, the green light reflex is a contraction of the muscles in the back of the body and the trauma reflex being a contraction of the muscles in either side of the body. For a more detailed discussion on what these patterns are and what they look like, see here. Any tension held in any of these three patterns can affect muscles and posture from the head to the feet.

So, from a somatic movement point of view, releasing chronic tension begins with releasing the muscles in the centre of the body. That’s why it’s beneficial to start a somatic movement session with movements such as arching and flattening your back as this will target release of the muscles in the torso at the front and back of your body, releasing the patterns of chronic tension held in either the green light and red light reflexes. Following that, the side bend will release chronic tension held in the side body, helping to re-set any hiking or twisting in the hips. After that you can target more specific and smaller muscle groups such as those of the neck or around the shoulders or hips and your practice will be more effective.

So keep in mind, whenever you feel something is off in one specific area of your body it may be coming from somewhere else and releasing the muscles of the front, back and side body will be a great start to getting you flowing again.

I have a video on how to do just that here.


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