Your hectic lifestyle – keeping the boss satisfied, the friends entertained, the house cleaned and your body nurtured, can leave you haggard. Face it, the burdens of a 24/7 society eventually wears on your health. Thomas Hanna theorizes that stress can present itself as pain, and through therapeutic moves, the body can heal itself. He created Somatic exercises that release muscle tension, and are ideal for tight hamstrings. Check with your doctor before trying somatic exercises.
Energetic, cardio fueled activities rely on your hamstrings, especially if you are running or jumping. Somatic hamstring exercises slowly release and lengthen the muscle, instead of stretching them. From a slight traumatic experience to daily stresses, your reflexes adjust and can cause real muscle tension and pain. Somatic exercises re-train your muscles and promote flexibility by releasing pent up tension from psychological causes. Akin to Yoga, somatic exercises aim for fluid, focused movements, while you concentrate on how your muscles respond to each exercise.
Standing Somatic Exercises
Try releasing your tight hamstrings with standing, sitting and lying Somatic exercises. Certified Somatic educator Lawrence Gold uses non-forcible stretches to loosen the hamstrings. Begin Gold's sequences as you stretch your fingertips to the ceiling, look to up and rock your pelvis. Then slowly bend forward. Do not let your fingers touch the floor. Move on to a diver's squat, with your palms turned up and your arms pulled back. Stay in this pose and lower your bottom toward the floor three times. Lower your arms and straighten your leg before slowly rising. Stretching the hamstring should never feel forced.
Lying and Seated Somatic Exercises
Lying and seated Somatic exercises can be done with or without a Somatic educator. The "Five Pointed Star" and "Wiggling" sequences are advanced exercises, and require an educator's assistance. You can do seated hamstring pandiculations yourself though. Sit on a soft surface and straighten your legs in front of you. Grasp your right shin and gently bring your knee toward your chest. Keep your left leg on the floor. With your back straight, lift your right foot but keep the heel on the floor. Grab your right sole and slowly pull up while you inhale. Look to the ceiling as you arch your back and pull the foot. Lower your body as your exhale and gently slide your leg forward. Stop extending if the stretch becomes uncomfortable. Repeat on the left leg.
Whenever you have hamstring pain, first check with a doctor to rule out an injury or medical condition. You'll likely see health professionals specializing in physical therapy, chiropractic care or massage therapy holding Somatic education credentials. If you are considering Somatic exercises, always check the educator's credentials. Somatic educators take three comprehensive exams after going through a rigorous three-year program to be certified. When going to a session, wear comfortable clothing and check with your insurance company about coverage prior to the visit.
Having studied at two top Midwestern universities, Catherine Field holds degrees in professional writing and patient safety. Writing since 2000, Field has worked with regional newspapers while publishing fiction online. She conducts medical communication research at a Midwestern medical institution and is slated to write a book based on her research findings.