Abbreviated Body of Theory
by Lawrence Gold Credentials | Publications | Personal Page
The stage is set for SMA when the person fails to end their self-guarding behaviors after the injured area has healed or the stressful situation has passed. As the self-guarding reaction persists, it becomes so familiar to the person that they cease to notice it. The associated tensions become automatic. In a state of un-awareness and automatic guarding, they use muscles inappropriate to a movement to help the affected muscles, whose job it ordinarily is to do the movement. This kind of movement behavior sacrifices coordination and grace and instead adds undue effort to movement -- a feeling something like trying to understand a poorly expressed idea or working with buggy software.
SMA is, therefore, a functional disorder that causes pain and distorts or restricts movement without any organic lesion being present.
People who have never developed much bodily feeling or coordination are particularly susceptible to SMA, as are people with complicated and resistant personality structures (who hold much nervous tension).
The pain associated with sensory-motor amnesia is part of a distorted body image; parts of the body have too much sensation (pain) and parts have too little sensation. Some muscles are potentiated and some are inhibited. Muscles are strong in some parts of the range of motion and weak in others.
Clients of Hanna somatic educators typically discover (to their surprise) that their muscles twitch or tighten involuntarily when body parts are moved by someone else (e.g., their somatics practitioner); that they move jerkily or lose strength in certain positions; that they inadvertently apply excessive force to some movements and too little in others; and/or that they experience a restricted range of motion.
Simple in principle, the techniques of Hanna Somatic Education have the client assume positions and perform movements slowly enough and with enough attention to feel the movements continuously. Constant sensing and control, in combination with the hands-on techniques of the process, shifts the resting set-point of muscle tonus from highly contracted to relaxed.
A typical maneuver begins with an act of muscular contraction, mindful of the sensations, regulating the amount of effort so as to remain within ones comfort zone; continues with slow relaxation, still mindful of the sensations; and ends at complete relaxation. The client typically relaxes to a deeper level than when the movement began.
The clinical somatic educator helps to guide the client into position. For example, to involve the muscles of the front of the neck, the client may be guided into position lying on the back. In that position, lifting the head activates the muscles of the front of the neck. More precise, hands-on guidance into position, incorporation of related movements (in this case, an example might be to lift the hips), and coaching such as, "Slowly lift your head and constrict your throat as if you were swallowing," enable the client to locate and activate the muscles effectively in coordinated patterns. Instructions such as the following, used in alleviating TMJ syndrome (habituated clenching of the jaws) might be used: "Now, keep your throat constricted and slowly lower your head. When your head is down, relax your throat," might end such a maneuver. Position, movement, attention to the sensations of the movement, and pacing of the movement produce the result.
Different movement functions involve different positions and instructions for movement.
With practice (usually within minutes), participants in Hanna Somatic Education enjoy a significant, lasting, and cumulative improvement of muscular control, coordination, and range of motion. They relax excessive muscular involvement, recover their physical comfort, and move more gracefully. Moreover, they spontaneously detect and relax excessive muscular tensions ordinarily present through habit.
The typical sensations upon recovery from SMA are that the person feels longer, straighter, more comfortable, more secure, and more movable(a result of relaxation), yet easier to move. Sometimes, people report more "energy moving through the involved areas" -- a sign of greater sensory-awareness.
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