An often missing piece in the healing process is reconnecting the body and mind. In truth, they are pieces of a whole, integrated in ways we don't fully understand yet. However, there are well developed methods that can help reintegrate the body-mind to support ease of movement and reduce pain.
Over time, the brain (in particular the cerebellum) creates dysfunctional movement patterns, due to emotional trauma, injury, adhesions, poor posture, sedentary lifestyle, and overuse. During childhood, most movement is easy and functional. But when various restrictions come into play, the brain adapts by telling the muscles to be used in a new way to adapt to the restrictions. Some of the most problematic patterns are small muscles compensating for large muscles that are inhibited or turned off during certain movements.
Various triggers also numb certain parts of the body as they disconnect from the nervous system. Even if you try a new movement and you have access to the range of motion, you may not be able to do it without a lot of help at first. This is very common in shoulder injuries. A client may think they can't move their shoulder much, but in fact, there is a more of a neurological signal blip or residual bracing that prevents the full movement.
Somatic education teaches clients to listen to their body and respond to sensations by consciously altering movement habits and movement choices. The field of somatics is quite wide and includes the Rolf method, Hanna Somatics, Feldenkrais, Alexander Method, Trager Method, Neurokinetic Therapy, PDTR and much more. I would broaden this to say that all movement therapies offer some somatic education, including Pilates, Yoga, and Tai Chi/Qi Gong. The more conscious the movement and the more help from your trained instructor, the more therapeutic it is.
The cases that I assess to benefit most from somatic education are:
In these cases, the nervous system is in a way either rebelling or failing to recognize the newly accessible movement patterns. Somatic education gently asks the nervous system to try out a more functional movement pattern in a conscious way. Occasionally this can support an emotional release that is also gentle.
In the form of structural integration that I practice, I use client movement to support myofascial release. This has multiple benefits, including neural reconnection and functional movement awareness of the part of the body we are working with. Often it surfaces to awareness that the client forgot that a range of motion or movement pattern was even lost. This is a big "Ah ha!" moment.
Additionally, the form of craniosacral therapy that I practice uses the clients own gentle movements to unwind, exploring forgotten movement while the client is relaxed. This helps when the nervous system and emotions are resisting letting go as it is extremely gentle and client driven.
I advise my more challenging cases, on top of our treatments, to find a movement therapy that calls to them. There are few practitioners of more formal somatic education mentioned above because the training is sparse, long and expensive, and clients often want you to perform a quick fix for them. But long-term healing requires at least some client participation.
If you can't find a class near you, try out these free somatic education videos to get you started:
Susan Koenig videos
James Knight videos
Essential Somatics videos
The videos above are based on Hanna Somatics. There are many other kinds of somatic education. This article gives you an overview of a few other options. Linked here is a more detailed historical perspective on the topic. Further, I love this article by a yogi turned Feldenkrais teacher and her healing journey, "Why I Do Feldenkrais Instead of Yoga."
Enjoy reconnecting with your body!