Somatic exercises are gentle movement patterns that shift your central nervous system to create new muscular habits. These new habits can alleviate chronic muscle spasms and pain caused by overuse patterns and other problematic musculoskeletal conditions.
Perform somatic exercises at home in a quiet place while lying on a mat or a thick carpet. Move slowly and mindfully and try to experience movement from the inside out.
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This is a full-body exercise that opens the shoulders, torso and hips. You should feel as if you are wringing out a washcloth at your center.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat. Extend your arms wide, turning your right palm down and your left palm up. Slowly roll your arms in opposite directions, so your right palm turns up and your left palm turns down. Rotate your arms farther each time.
Make this a full-body movement by incorporating the legs. Moving in time with the arms, lower your knees toward the palm-down side and turn your head toward the palm-up side. Repeat in the other direction. Continue to roll back and forth in a fluid movement.
Move slowly, noticing how your coordination shifts after practicing the full movement five to 10 times. Perform this series with your eyes closed to enhance the shift in your body awareness.
This fluid exercise involving just the lower body emphasizes the relation of movement in the legs and lower back.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with your legs extended. Close your eyes and twist your right leg outward, allowing your lower back to arch. Twist it inward, allowing your back to flatten. Repeat this pattern on both sides five times, noticing how the movement of your leg affects your lower back.
Next, try rotating both legs inward and outward in a pigeon toe and duck foot pattern. Practice this five times, noticing when your back wants to arch and flatten and allowing it to move accordingly.
Read more: 5 Myths About Back Pain Debunked
Balance out the right and left sides of your torso and back with this fluid twisting exercise.
HOW TO DO IT: Bend your knees slightly and rotate your legs to the right at the same time and then to the left at the same time. Allow your back to arch and flatten in a natural pattern. Repeat this movement pattern five to 10 times on each side moving in a slow and fluid motion. Notice how this feels on the right and left sides of your back.
Extend your legs long and try the same movement pattern, rotating five to 10 times to each side. The sensations in your back should be similar, but more subtle.
Diagonal Arch and Curl
This movement pattern frees up your spine. Remain relaxed and comfortable as you do it, never straining or crunching.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Pull your left knee toward your chest and hold it with your left hand. Place your right hand behind your head.
Exhale and lengthen your spine as you lift your head to your left knee. Inhale and arch your back as you lower your torso down. Repeat this movement three times, then switch to your other side.