Nerdilates (Pilates for Nerds): What is Neutral?

A couple days ago, I was asked a really interesting question by a client in the Pilates Method Fundamentals Class. What is neutral? It took me a second to answer the question. Well, is neutral relaxed? is it in the middle? Is it defined as the lack other movements or displacements like flexion (bending forward) extension (bending backwards), or rotation?

I guess it really depends on what part of the body we are referring to. When we talk about a peripheral joint (joint in an extremity like a leg or arm) being in "neutral" position, we are referring to a position of the joint, in the midrange of that particular joint's range of motion where it demands the least support from ligaments, connective tissue, and other non-muscular tissues around the joint. It is in this "neutral" position, that stress on the joint is at its minimum and the small, deep, local stabilizer muscles that surround the joint are best able to control the joint's movement. Mobilizer muscles are relaxed when a joint is in a supported, neutral position. Ideally, we would like to keep joints at or near their neutral position as much as possible to reduce wear and tear.

The spine is a bit more complicated. The spine can be divided into sections; the cervical (neck) spine, the thoracic spine (upper back, attached to ribs), lumbar (lower back) spine, and sacrum. Neutral means something slightly different for each section of the spine. The cervical and lumbar spine are both curved forward (the anatomical term is lordosis) where there is a space between the spine and the floor when you lie down on your back. The thoracic spine and the sacrum both are curved the opposite way (kyphosis) so that when you lie down on the floor, your upper back and sacrum (base of the spine) touch the floor.

SpineAlignment

The spine actually requires quite a bit of support to remain "neutral." If we find a position where our ligaments are minimally stressed, muscles of our core have to be "engaged" and working. Neutral alignment in the spine is defined as having the center of C7 (the lowest cervical vertebral body/bone) over the very front, bottom corner of S1 (the very top of the sacrum). In case you don't have x-ray vision, alignment can be approximated by aligning the ear canals over the shoulders over the hips.  

Finally, a "neutral" pelvis indicates that the anterior superior iliac spines (the bony part of your pelvis just above your groin that you feel on either side of your lower abdomen) and pubic symphysis (the bony part of the pelvis in the midline of the body just above the genitals) fall in the same vertical plane/line.

Once you can position your body as close to neutral as you can, I try to distinguish between muscles being "engaged" vs core muscles being rigid. To use volume/sound as an analogy, engaged means that the muscles are working at a hum. Rigid muscles are working at a shout. You want your body to be supported and muscle to be awake, but you don't want to be stiff and full of tension. The goal is to have neutral body position that is supported and still responsive to movement. More on movement in a future posts.

Athleta to Host SOMA Movement Studio for Reformer on the Mat Class

Athleta is hosting SOMA Movement Studio once again for a Sunday morning Pilates Mat Class. We have something special planned! Your favorite Pilates Reformer moves translated into a Mat class! Use flex bands, towels, and gliding discs to float and slide yourself to a stronger Powerhouse. Bring your own mat; props will be provided. back rowing, short spine, footwork, and even Elephant will be included! This class is free and meets at Athleta in Westfarms Mall on the second floor by JC Penny. Preregister at www.somamovementstudio.com to reserve your props and spot in the class!

Anatomy Focus: Eye Gaze During Abdominal Work

One of the top concerns that many of my students have when they begin their Pilates education is neck strain during abdominal exercises that require you to lift your head above the mat. Many people think they just have to build more neck strength and endurance, but strength is usually a small part of the equation. More subtle adjustments in head position, head tilt, and eye gaze have a lot more to do with neck strain and are more easily accessible than the elusive neck strength and conditioning that students believe they need.

A small discussion of anatomy is necessary to understand the biomechanics of skull and neck position. The average human head weighs somewhere between 10-13 lbs. It sits on top of the cervical spine which consists of eight cervical vertebrae. Suboccipital joints associated with the top two cervical vertebrae, referred to as C1 and C2, are uniquely shaped to facilitate movement including rotation as well as flexion and extension. In fact, C1 and C2 are responsible for about 50% of your cervical rotation and about 50% of your flexion and extension. This also means that the other 6 cervical vertebrae together are responsible for the other 50%. Developing and maintaining suboccipital joint motion is necessary to optimally position the weight of the skull during supine (lying on your back), forward flexion (curling up), abdominal exercises.

There is a group of eight, small, muscles that connect the base of the skull to the upper cervical vertebrae collectively called the suboccipital muscles. There are two pairs of rectus (straight) muscles and two pairs of obliques (oblique) muscles. These eight muscles function to tilt the skull as you walk over uneven ground to keep your gaze stable. They are considered stabilizer or postural muscles and consist of highly innervated, slow twitch muscle fibers. These muscles relax to allow your skull to flex down relative to your cervical spine and contract to extend or tilt your head up relative to the cervical spine. The oblique muscles alternate contraction and relaxation to tilt the skull to the right or to the left. 

The most common posture I encounter in the studio is head forward posture, otherwise known as slouching. In head forward posture, the suboccipital muscles tend to be chronically tight. In anatomic terms, head forward posture consists of cervical spine flexion combined with suboccipital extension. The head is brought forward by flexing the neck. However, simple cervical flexion will orient the face (and the eyes) looking downwards towards the floor. In order to restore our forward facing gaze, the suboccipital muscles shorten to point the face and gaze forward. If the client is constantly slouching, the suboccipital muscles never really get a chance to relax contributing to neck tension and strain. In Pilates terms, we will often call this shortening through the back of the neck.

One the the fundamental Pilates skills is restoring normal alignment in the head and neck. The tricks Pilates instructors can use to work with clients with head forward posture include placing a foam pad or pillow under the occiput (back of the skull) to compensate for lower cervical spine flexion which displaces the skull forward of the body. The client can then be coached to flex the suboccipital joints by "lengthening through the back of the neck" or sliding the occiput away from the body which results in a gentle "chin tuck" or head nod downwards which requires suboccipital muscle RELAXATION.

Now apply this to an Ab Prep (Pilates abdominal crunch) or other ab exercise like the Hundred or Roll Up. When the client lengthens through the back of the neck, flexing through their suboccipital joints this naturally lowers their gaze. One habit some of my client have when they do an Ab Prep or the Hundred is directing their gaze on the ceiling. When the gaze is high up on the ceiling, the suboccipital muscles are shortened and tense and the client returns to their head forward, tension generating postural patterns. When the gaze is lower, say on the clients knees or thighs, the suboccipital muscle relax and the skull is tilted so that its center of gravity is directly over the flexed cervical spine.

Only once the client has developed the ability to lengthen through the back of the neck to flex the suboccipital joints and relax the suboccipital muscles does it make sense to introduce "strengthening" and "endurance" exercises to the picture, i.e. the Hundred. The Hundred requires maintaining thoracic and cervical flexion and a lifted head and shoulders for 100 counts which will require deep neck flexor muscle strengthening. However, it makes no sense to attempt the exercise if the client falls back into suboccipital extension and their gaze lifts to the ceiling as their head falls back as this position will reinforce their head forward posture pattern and create unnecessary discomfort and strain. 

So try keeping cueing eye gaze away from the ceiling because praying to the sky will not help you in the Hundred......

 

Athelta to Host SOMA Movement Studio for Pilates Matwork with Props class

Join SOMA Movement Studio as we give free Essential Pilates Mat class at Athleta in Westfarms Mall. This is a fun twist on the Pilates mat exercises. Mary will use flex bands, Pilates rings, and mini stability balls, to create a workout that is challenging both to the mind and body. Just bring a exercise mat and be ready to MOVE! A limited number of mats will be available for people to borrow. The instructor will provide all other props.

The class will take place on Sunday, March 26th, 2017 from 9:30 am - 10:30 am at Athleta. Athleta is located on the second floor of Westfarms Mall next near JC Penny.

Introductory Pilates & Yoga Workshop for Charity a Huge Success!

SOMA Movement Studio and the Central Connecticut Ladies Meetup co-hosted an Intro to Pilates & Yoga Workshop. In exchange for a non-perishable food item donation, participants were welcomed to SOMA and experienced a 90 minute workshop on the Pilates Method and Hatha Yoga. The workshop was co-taught by Mary, the studio director, as well as Cara and Jackie who are both certified Yoga instructors. 

The workshop included nuanced Pilates movements that emphasize coordination, breath, and controlled engagement of the core muscles. It then transition into a Yoga practice where asana (postures) elongate, center, and ground you for the evening ahead. The class closed by setting intentions with mindful mediation. SOMA Movement Studio is especially appreciative to all the workshop participants who donated over a hundred non-perishable food items for the Farmington Food Pantry.

Dance Fitness Special Event Classes Starting this Week

Dance Fitness classes in a variety of styles now offered at SOMA Movement Studio. Image courtesy of Visceral Movement.

SOMA Movement Studio is excited to introduce three new dance fitness classes to our repertoire of mind-body fitness instruction. Ally Davis, founder and director of a new Connecticut dance company, Visceral Movement, will be offering Zen Dance (Dance and Yoga-Inspired Fusion), Hip Hop Cardio & Choreography, and Bringin’ Sexy Back- Burlesque Dance Fitness! Each class offers a unique dance fitness workout that’s easy to follow and doesn’t feel like a workout!

Ally’s classes blend various contemporary dance styles with popular fitness styles as well as more classical dance forms like Modern, Ballet, and Jazz. Foundational moves are combined to create dance routines that are accessible to the novice while simultaneously building choreography that will challenge even the seasoned dancer. “I created classes that I would want to take, classes I simply couldn’t find anywhere around me in Connecticut.” said Ally Davis. “The classes for the summer session at SOMA’s beautiful studio are designed mostly with women in mind. I wanted to help ladies to feel sexy & more confident in their own bodies; who want to enjoy their workout & feel empowered by it!”

All three dance fitness classes are meant to be fun for participants of all ages and abilities. The beauty of dance is that you are able adjust the intensity by modifying the moves to fit your body's needs. SOMA Movement Studio’s wonderfully supportive environment is filled with people that are there to help support and inspire you. Check out the class descriptions and try out each class!

ZEN DANCE
New to dance or Yoga? Used to dance growing up and miss it? This class is for you! Explore a blend of dance, inspired by Classical Ballet and Modern, with Yoga-inspired postures and sequences. Open to all levels, this class is designed to accommodate anyone who attends; both the dancer and non-dancer. Class combines dance movement with both gentle and aerobic Yoga sequences in a non-competitive environment. The class will include floor-work, sitting, standing, traveling, and barre exercises. Let go of the stresses of life, release some tension and get free, refresh and renew your mind in good company! Yoga mats provided, or bring your own.

Learn choreographed dance routines just like in music videos while getting a great cardio workout at the same time! Image courtesy of Visceral Movement.

HIP HOP CARDIO & CHOREOGRAPHY
Have you ever wanted to move like dancers in a music video? Do you crave a fun, new workout that doesn't feel like a workout? Hip Hop Cardio & Choreography will be the highlight of your week! Class starts with easy-to-follow Hip Hop warm-ups, using isolations, undulations, and steps that lead up to a final choreographed piece. Hip Hop or street sneakers are a must for every class, and we thank you for ensuring they are a different pair than the shoes you arrive to class in to help keep our beautiful studio clean!

BRINGIN' SEXY BACK - BURLESQUE DANCE FITNESS, Bringin’ Sexy Back Burlesque is an open-level class designed to wake up hips, shoulders, spine, and anything else you might want to move with intention and freedom. Music will be diverse including Blues, Jazz, Postmodern Jukebox, Hip Hop, as well as contemporary popular music. Movements will range from body rolls, isolations, and gestures, to choreography and coordination exercises that will challenge your mind and body. Explore both vintage and Neo-Burlesque dance styles Feel free to go barefoot for most of class, but be sure to bring a pair of cute shoes with any size heel for a seated chair routine! Any other props we use will be provided for you. Burlesque is a workout that doesn’t feel like one!

Visit the Visceral Movement Dance Company website!

Studio HIGHLIGHTS: Going Wireless

Technology moves forward so quickly. Gone are the days of my awesome, giant, silver colored CD boom box that I rocked out with of most of the 90s. I've been connecting our WiFi network, our HiFi network, wireless SONOS stereo system, computers, networking printers, iPads, Spotify, robotic vacuums, even a wireless scale that analyzes your body composition (more on that in another post). It's amazing how much I can control from my smart phone phone.  

Our digital check in station where clients sign into classes when they arrive in the studio. This frees up our instructors so they can spend more time with clients and less time doing paperwork.

Our digital check in station where clients sign into classes when they arrive in the studio. This frees up our instructors so they can spend more time with clients and less time doing paperwork.

As you enter the studio there is an iPad check in station for students to check in if they preregistered for class or to add yourself to the class if you are walking in. Just a click of a button and you're checked in! Very convenient both for student and instructor so the instructor. The instructor can spend more time and attention getting their students set up and ready for class, rather than doing paper work on the computer.

Our music is both wireless and limitless. Each of our studios are equipped with high quality SONOS HiFi stereo systems that communicate with both our computers and smartphones so instructors can play music either from their personal playlists, or utilize our Spotify account where they have access to millions of songs. There is music available that suits anyone's taste.

One of our SONOS speakers, piping in awesome beats to keep you motivated during class!  

One of our SONOS speakers, piping in awesome beats to keep you motivated during class!

 

Our public WiFi network is now active and available for clients to utilize if they are waiting for a class or need WiFi for whatever reason. The network is called SOMA-Surfs and the password is posted in our studio. The password will be changed intermittently to keep our network efficient for our clients.

We would also like to welcome the two newest members of the SOMA Movement Team. Gizmo and Zoomba, our two iRobot Robotic vacuums who work tirelessly each night to keep our studio floors spick and span.  Gizmo is a dark and handsome robot. Zoomba is a sleek, white robot.

We'll keep updating our studios with more technology to make our clients' and instructors' experiences more seamless and enjoyable. 

Announcing GIRL SQUAD partnership with Hartford Marathon Foundation!

SOMA Movement Studio and the Hartford Marathon Foundation (HMF) have partnered to bring you GIRL SQUAD, a really special way to get ready for you 5K, 10K, Half Marathon or beyond!

A photo of two women in one of SOMA's Pilates Reformer classes working on hamstring and hip flexibility.

A photo of two women in one of SOMA's Pilates Reformer classes working on hamstring and hip flexibility.

We've scheduled two EXPRESS classes designed to pump you up before a guided run. Thees EXPRESS classes are 30 minute Invigorating equipment-based Pilates or Barre classes with SOMA's enthusiastic instructors. Then when your body is energized and muscle are loose, jump off your Reformer and head outside for a group run lead by an HMF Ambassador. 

Not sure if a fast-paced, cardiovascularly demanding, Pilates or Barre class is the right warm up for you before your run? Check us out at the Red Dress Run for Women in Elizabeth Park, West Hartford on July 9th organized by the Hartford Marathon Foundation.

Here is the official description of the SOMA-HMF Girl Squad special event:

Start your weekly run off with some movement. Two special event classes and run meet at SOMA Movement Studio, a boutique Pilates and Movement Studio in Unionville CT. Prepare for your run with a Pilates Equipment or Barre workout designed to warm up, lengthen, and energize your body. A customized 30-minute Pilates Equipment class or Barre Class will work your core, relax your shoulders, and invigorate your legs. Workouts will include Pilates ab work, Reformer plyometrics, and dynamic stretching set to fun and catchy music. No cool down in this class….once your heart is pumping and endorphins are flowing, transition right into a run led by an HMF Ambassador from the Hartford Marathon Foundation down the scenic Farmington River Trail Bike Path along the Farmington River. Convenient, trailside parking is available outside of SOMA Movement Studio. Refreshments will be waiting by the studio entrance when you return from your run. No time for Pilates before your run? That’s ok, just show up for the training run and enjoy the group’s company and complimentary refreshments afterwards.

The 30 minute GIRL SQUAD pre-run warm up workout class is only $8 class. The guided run is FREE!. You can purchase classes through our online class scheduler.

More information about the Red Dress Run for Women:

Saturday - July 9, 2016
Elizabeth Park, Hartford CT (Asylum Avenue)
Start Time:  Kids 8:00 AM, 5K 8:30 AM

A 5K run/walk exclusively for women of all ages & abilities to celebrate women’s fitness. The 3.1 mile route starts and finishes in the beautiful Elizabeth Park Rose Garden (with over 15,000 roses in full bloom!) and travels through shade covered residential streets on wide, well paved roads.

Nerdilates: What causes tight muscles?

One of the more common issues our clients deal with when starting an exercise program is chronically tight and sore muscles. If your muscles are tight and sore, then you are not going to move comfortably and fluidly. We at SOMA Movement Studio believe that you should first relax those muscles, then proceed to challenge yourself athletically. There many situations and scenarios that can lead to tight muscles, but all have a unifying theme: some type of stress whether it is mechanical or perceived, causes a unconscious and reflexive contraction who's goal is to protect the muscle and the structures in the body that are associated with it.

Voluntary, or intentional movement originates in the cortex of the brain. Involuntary movement, may not involve the brain at all. Instead reflex loops may be mediated by the spinal cord and nerves in close proximity of the muscle.

Voluntary, or intentional movement originates in the cortex of the brain. Involuntary movement, may not involve the brain at all. Instead reflex loops may be mediated by the spinal cord and nerves in close proximity of the muscle.

A basic understanding the functional anatomy and physiology of the neuromuscular system is necessary to understand chronic, tight muscles. There are main two systems that can initiate muscle contraction; the brain mediated (conscious voluntary system) and the spinal cord mediated (unconscious reflex system). The conscious voluntary system is that one that carries a message from the cortex, or outer layer of the brain, through the spinal cord and nerves, to the muscle to initiate a movement that you thought of. For example, it is this system that moves your arm to pick up a pencil when you want to write something on a piece of paper.

The unconscious reflex system is used when there is not enough time to "think" about a movement. In this system, sensors (neural receptors) in the muscles or skin sense pain, muscular stretch, or other "danger" signals and send those signals to the spinal cord. If the danger message is strong enough, the spinal cord converts this sensory information and sends a message back to the muscle to contract, thus protecting the part of the body in danger. This system does not require input from the brain. An example of this system is when you touch a hot stove and your arm pulls back before you've even realized you've burned yourself.

This unconscious reflex system also responds to stress and chronic mechanical trauma in addition to acute situations. One way to look at stress is that it is a perceived or anticipated danger or fear. Emotions and the ability to anticipate the future predispose us to initiating our body's "danger" response in reaction to stress and anxiety, just the same as we would if we were to encounter dangerous situation, requiring us to defend ourselves. The end result is tight shoulders, necks, backs, etc from constant stress.

The average human head weighs between 10-12 pounds. Head forward posture greatly increases the amount of strain on the neck as the head moves in front of the body. This leads to poor biomechanics, compensatory patterns, and discomfort during exercise.

The average human head weighs between 10-12 pounds. Head forward posture greatly increases the amount of strain on the neck as the head moves in front of the body. This leads to poor biomechanics, compensatory patterns, and discomfort during exercise.

Additionally, mechanical injuries can initiate muscle contraction. The average human head weighs somewhere between 10-12 lbs. Displacement of the head forwards or backwards due to poor posture, even just a few inches, can put an incredible amount of stress on the spine and the muscles that support the spine.  This is analogous to carrying a heavy bucket; everyone knows that it is easier to carry a bucket next to your body than it is to carry it on an outstretched arm. The extra work that bad posture puts on your skeleton and muscle causes them "defend" themselves by contracting. The same applies for repetitive injuries such as pounding the knees with running or typing with unsupported wrists.

There are many causes of chronically tight muscles, and only a few are described here. If you do experience chronic muscle contraction, it is important for you to attempt to address the cause(s) in order to avoid discomfort especially before starting an exercise program where you will be putting even more stress on your body. Improving posture, managing stress, working and functioning in an ergonomic environment, and increasing your fitness level can all help alleviate chronic tightness. Ultimately, you must be aware of the way your body moves and the way you feel, and identify your limitations in order to address them. Then you are moving efficiently and freely, challenging your fitness in a progressive and logical way.

Studio Highlight: Trapeze Table Group Classes Starting Now!

Joseph Pilates working out on his bednasium, the precursor to the Cadillac/Trapeze Table. The Cadillac evolved from the bednasium with the addition of taller posts and overhead, horizontal bars. The Trapeze table was nicknamed the Cadillac because of its versatility being used for everything from precision rehabilitation to high level athletic training.

Joseph Pilates working out on his bednasium, the precursor to the Cadillac/Trapeze Table. The Cadillac evolved from the bednasium with the addition of taller posts and overhead, horizontal bars. The Trapeze table was nicknamed the Cadillac because of its versatility being used for everything from precision rehabilitation to high level athletic training.

Pilates’ first invention was called the bednasium. During and shortly after World War I, Joseph Pilates was interned with other German citizens in a British prison camp. He worked as a rehabilitation nurse and took the bedsprings from mattresses and attached them to the headboard and footboards of the bed frames of bedridden soldiers and taught those injured soldiers to do rehabilitation exercises using the springs as resistance. Legend has it, that no soldiers died on his ward while he worked with them.

One of SOMA's Pilates Reformers converted into a Tower Unit. The Tower unit plus the elevated mat below it approximate half a Trapeze table. The Tower unit has a push through bar just like the Trapeze Table and additional springs can be attached for arms and legs. However, as the Tower Unit does not have overhead, horizontal bars, it lacks the versatility to suspend the body as the Trapeze Table does.

One of SOMA's Pilates Reformers converted into a Tower Unit. The Tower unit plus the elevated mat below it approximate half a Trapeze table. The Tower unit has a push through bar just like the Trapeze Table and additional springs can be attached for arms and legs. However, as the Tower Unit does not have overhead, horizontal bars, it lacks the versatility to suspend the body as the Trapeze Table does.

The bednasium evolved to become the Trapeze Table consisting of four vertical posts at the corners of a firm, raised mat/mattress as well as two horizontal, overhead poles. The Trapeze Table developed the nickname, the “Cadillac,” as Pilates felt that the Trapeze Table, like the car it’s named after, had all the bells and whistles you could possibly want in an apparatus. There are so many elements to the machine: leg springs, arm springs, fuzzy loops to hang from, a push-through bar to stretch you out, and even a trapeze. This versatile piece of equipment can be used for everything from precision rehabilitation to high level athletic training where the overhead poles are used to simulate to suspend parts of the body and even to do inversions. The Trapeze table lends itself well to doing asymmetric exercises as one’s limbs are attached independently to springs rather than the predominantly symmetric exercises performed on the Reformer.

Many studios offer what are called “Tower classes,” where a Cadillac is simulated by doing exercises with springs attached to a vertical frame on a reformer or a frame attached directly to a wall. These classes are wonderful, but do not approach the variety and versatility of using a full Cadillac as Towers lack the overhead horizontal poles and the namesake Trapeze bar. See the pictures to see the difference between the tower and the full Trapeze table.

SOMA Movement Studio's group Trapeze Tables in our Equipment Gym. Notice the white, fuzzy hanging straps that can be used to suspend the entire body as well as the spring loaded trapeze bars that hang from the overhead, horizontal poles. Tower units are not able to replicate Cadillac exercises that use the overhead, horizontal poles.

SOMA Movement Studio's group Trapeze Tables in our Equipment Gym. Notice the white, fuzzy hanging straps that can be used to suspend the entire body as well as the spring loaded trapeze bars that hang from the overhead, horizontal poles. Tower units are not able to replicate Cadillac exercises that use the overhead, horizontal poles.

SOMA Movement Studio offers two levels of Cadillac Classes. The Beginner/Intermediate class introduces students to the Cadillac, principles of muscle isolation, spine articulation, and how to utilize being partially suspended from the horizontal, overhead poles to maximize activation of stabilizer muscles in the entire body. The Intermediate/Advanced classes increase challenge as the exercises become more airborne and with less support from springs. Upper body strength and core stability are emphasized. Instructor permission is necessary to attend the Intermediate/Advanced Cadillac class.

Announcing the winner of another Facebook Contest!

We announced a contest when we launched our Facebook page. For each 50 people who "like" our Facebook SOMA Movement Studio page, we would randomly chose one person to receive a pack of five Reformer classes. The winner for "likes" 51-100 is Caitlyn Logan, lucky number 67! We are looking forward to meeting you in person in the studio!

We are going to randomly chose another lucky winner for a five pack of Pilates Reformer classes for the next fifty people who "like" our Facebook page. Stay tuned....it might be you!

Nerdilates (Pilates for Nerds): A bit on Spine Mobility from different perspectives

Lower back tightness and discomfort is one of the most common issues our clients deal with when they come to our studio. We offer a few different movement disciplines and I want this post to clear up some of the confusion with regards to the different approaches to developing spinal mobility and stability. At first glance, Somatics' Arch and Flat, Pilates' Neutral and Imprint, and GYROTONIC's Arch and Curl seem very similar, but I assure you that their intentions and the muscle activation patterns that generate the movement are very different.

Hanna Somatic Movement

The primary goal of Hanna Somatic Movement, also known as Hanna Somatic Neuroeducation is to gain voluntary control of your skeletal muscles tension. One way to do the Arch and Flat exercise is done in a supine position (lying down on your back) on a carpet or blanket on a hard/smooth floor (rubbery Yoga mats are generally designed to generate traction so you don't slip and fall during Yoga so they restrict movement and aren't great for Somatics). Lie down with knees bent, feet on the floor about hip width apart, arms falling away from your body in a comfortable position at your side with palms up towards the ceiling.

Start in your most comfortable individual natural position of your spine. This may be slightly extended (arched) or flexed (flattened) depending on your posture. Breath naturally and fully so that your ribs and belly swell full of air and you aren't holding any tension in your abdominal muscles. Place a hand on your abdomen and feel your hand rise and fall smoothly like the waves in a calm ocean. When you are as relaxed as you imagine yourself to be, proceed to movement.

Schematic representation of the spine during the basic Hanna Somatic Movement, Arch and Flat where the position of the spine is changed based on coordinated contraction of the back and abdominal muscles combined with breath.

Schematic representation of the spine during the basic Hanna Somatic Movement, Arch and Flat where the position of the spine is changed based on coordinated contraction of the back and abdominal muscles combined with breath.

From here, on an inhale, attempt to contract your back muscles SLOWLY lifting your lumbar spine into more extension, a deeper arch. The space we call the "small of the back" between the lower back and the floor gets larger and the pelvis tilts away (extends) from you so the sacrum becomes more vertical. Reach the apex of your arch with deepest engagement of your back muscles when you ribs and belly are at their fullest with air, abdominals are relaxed.

Then, as you initiate your gentle and slow exhale, begin to relax and release your back muscles, allowing your spine return towards the floor in a controlled decent, passing through your starting position. As you pass your "neutral" spine, begin to engage the abdominal muscles to flex your back further towards the floor until the small of your back all but disappears. Try to time the ending of your exhale when your back reaches a fully flat position. Begin to inhale again relaxing and releasing the abdominal muscles, allowing your back to return to its "neutral" starting position.

It is really important to remember that the primary goal of this movement is about engagement, release, and coordination of the abdominal and back muscles. Range of motion, the extent that you are able to arch and flatten your spine and the distance your lumbar spine ultimately moves, is secondary and happens AS A RESULT of muscle engagement. If you find yourself tensing up in your shoulders or neck, or pressing into your feet and glutes as you TRY to arch further or flatten further than your abdominals/back muscles allow you to, then you are missing the point of the exercise. The arch and flatten motion of the spine will increase as you gain greater control of your core.

Pilates

Cartoon representation of the average degrees of curvature of the spinal column. Notice that the cervical and lumbar spine are both lordotic and the thoracic spine and sacrum are kyphotic. We seek to "lengthen" or flex the  lordotic curves when we imprint.

Cartoon representation of the average degrees of curvature of the spinal column. Notice that the cervical and lumbar spine are both lordotic and the thoracic spine and sacrum are kyphotic. We seek to "lengthen" or flex the  lordotic curves when we imprint.

Pilates is a mind body exercise system that works to develop a strong and stable core from which movement can then occur. Pilates referred to the core muscles of the abdomen, the lower back, pelvic floor, and a few others as the "Powerhouse." At SOMA Movement Studio we teach contemporary Pilates so we teach clients to exercises in neutral and imprinted spine positions

The neutral spine is just that, the natural curvature of your cervical (neck), thoracic (upper back, attached to ribs), lumbar (lower back), and sacrum/pelvis as an extension of the spine. There are "normal ranges" for spinal curves that are measured by the angles your vertebral bones make when measured off of x-rays, but that is too detailed for this discussion. What is important is to realize that just because the spine is neutral does not mean that it is relaxed. This one way that the neutral spine in Pilates differs from the neutral spine in Hanna Somatic Movement. Pilates teaches that the core should be engaged to support the spine in its most neutral position. That means that when you do a Pilates exercise, your core is never "off." It is always engaged.

These are muscles of the "core" including the three layers of abdominal muscles, the external oblique, internal oblique and the transversus abdominus. What is not illustrated is the differing direction of muscle fibers that result in compression of the abdominal contents and support of the spinal column.

These are muscles of the "core" including the three layers of abdominal muscles, the external oblique, internal oblique and the transversus abdominus. What is not illustrated is the differing direction of muscle fibers that result in compression of the abdominal contents and support of the spinal column.

So, how do we engage the core? There are different types of muscles that make up the core musculature; some of which can be voluntarily (i.e. you can engage/contract them by thinking about it) and others that are at least in part, engaged through involuntary, or reflexive signals from the nervous system. The abdominal wall is made up of three layers of muscles from outer to inner being the external obliques, internal obliques, and the transversus abdominus (TVA for short). The external and internal obliques are easy to find and activate, the pull your rib cage and pelvis towards one another. The fibers of the TVA encircle your abdomen like a corset with fibers running all the way from your back, around your sides, to just a few inches shy of your midline in the front. The TVA is best engaged through active, slow exhalation against resistance (imagine flowing up a balloon or breathing out through pursed lips) to compress the abdominal cavity contents while your lungs deflate. This compression by the TVA provides support to the lumbar spine and works best in conjunction with pelvic floor activation to further support the abdominal contents. Core activation is a lot of work, right? And we still haven't moved.

Now to imprint. Imprint is similar to flattening in Hanna Somatics as the lumbar spine flexes as a result of abdominal muscle activation. However, as the goal of imprinting is to place the spine in a stable, protected position for exercise, rather than mobilizing and gaining dynamic control of the core muscles as in Somatics. The degree to which the lumbar spine flexes (flattens) is less so the goal is not to press your back into the floor. If neutral is zero, the arch in Somatics is +10 and the flatten in Somatics is -10, then Imprint moves from a neutral spine (position) zero to a -5 to -8 position depend on how much of an imprint the exercise requires.

Portrait of Joe Pilates with "scooped" abdomen where the transversus abdominus and obliques are activated, the abdomenal muscular corset compressed and lifted in and up.

Portrait of Joe Pilates with "scooped" abdomen where the transversus abdominus and obliques are activated, the abdomenal muscular corset compressed and lifted in and up.

To return to neutral the mobilizing abdominal muscles (obliques/rectus abdominus) release slightly to allow the lumbar spine to return to its neutral posiition in space, however, the goal is to maintain TVA and pelvic floor activation throughout, even when in neutral. Easier said than done.

In Classical style Pilates, students are taught to "scoop" the abdomen rather than imprint. The scooping maneuver is a more pronounced version of the imprint where on an exhalation, the TVA is activated, compressing the abdomen down and then additional contraction to pull the abdomen up and in towards the rib cage. The flattening of the lumbar spine (more often referred to the lengthened lumbar spine in Classical Pilates) is more pronounce as the abdominal muscles allow your spine to relax into a deeper flexion which allows for greatest activation of the "powerhouse."

GYROTONIC Expansion System

The GYROTONIC Arch and Curl actually refers to the position of the pelvis rather than the spine. The pelvis is made up of three bones; two ilia (plural of ilium) on either side and a sacrum in the back with is a curved, keystone shaped bone that connects the spine to the pelvic ring. In a sitting position, when you extend your pelvis the pubic symphysis (the middle front part of your pelvis, right above the genitals) rotates downwards and the sacrum lifts. As the sacrum is an extension of the spine, the spine follows suite and also extends (arches) while the rest of your spine lifts up and lengthens. The curled position refers to flexion of the pelvis where the pubic symphysis rotates upwards and the sacrum rotates down downwards towards whatever you are sitting on and the lumbar spine flexes to follow the sacrum. There is a lot more that goes into creating the Arch and Curl movement, but that is the bare basics of how the bones of the pelvis move.

Schematic representation of some of the musculature around the pelvis that is utilized for the GYROTONIC basic, seated Arch and Curl movement. Notice the involvement of the core muscles, psoas, as well as muscles of the legs all of which are used to maximize mobilization of the pelvis and spine.

Schematic representation of some of the musculature around the pelvis that is utilized for the GYROTONIC basic, seated Arch and Curl movement. Notice the involvement of the core muscles, psoas, as well as muscles of the legs all of which are used to maximize mobilization of the pelvis and spine.

If neutral position of the lumbar spine is zero and Somatics took your lumbar spine from  a +10 arch to a -10 flat, GYROTONIC methodology will take you +20 arch to a -20 curl (the goal being to reverse the curve of the lumbar spine). Because the GYROTONIC methodology utilizes the full pelvic floor, gluteal muscles, and position of the legs to rotate the pelvis from the arch to curl (extended to flexed) positions, the range of motion achieved through the lumbar spine (and the rest of the spine for that matter) is greater. Additionally, the basic arch and curl is done in a seated position rather than supine (lying on your back) so the floor does not get in the way of movement (conversely, you have to support yourself through the exercise, rather than the floor supporting you). 

Summary

Hopefully this summarizes some of the similarities and differences between the some of the movement disciplines that are offered at SOMA Movement Studio. In general if someone is really tight though their lower back it is generally most efficient for clients to start with Hanna Somatic Movement to gain voluntary control of their core muscles and the ability to coordinate movement with breath before moving on to Pilates and the GYROTONIC Expansion System. We find that Hanna Somatics, Pilates, and GYROTONIC methodology are wonderfully complementary techniques for achieving strength, flexibility, and freedom of movement through the spine. As Joe Pilates said, You're only as old as your spine feels.

SOMA Movement Studio does not "treat" acute low back pain or injuries nor can we accept health insurance as a form of payment. We will however work with your physical therapist, chiropractor, or other health care professional to develop a post rehabilitation exercise program to meet your individual needs. If you have questions about integrating movement-based fitness into your post-rehab recovery, give us a call at (860) 470-MOVE (6683).

Equipment Highlight: Stability Chair

A view of the Pilates Wunda Chairs, also known as Stability Chairs in the SOMA Movement Studio Equipment Gym. We offer both group and private training using this versatile piece of equipment.

A view of the Pilates Wunda Chairs, also known as Stability Chairs in the SOMA Movement Studio Equipment Gym. We offer both group and private training using this versatile piece of equipment.

This is an awesome piece of equipment that adds more upright exercises to your Pilates repertoire. While exercises on the Stability chair run the full gamut from rehab to beginner to advanced, it's no secret that Joe Pilates' exercise chair has more than its share of challenging exercises. The stability chair, also known as the Wunda Chair (pronounced Vun-Dah) or low chair (yes, there was also a high chair), has a much smaller footprint which leaves you mostly hanging out in space, having to support your body weight against gravity with minimal support from its spring loaded pedal.

A bit about the history of this versatile piece of equipment. The Wunda chair was originally designed as a home exercise machine for New York City apartments. Early designs actually converted from a chair you could sit on, complete with cushions and trim, to a Wunda chair you could exercise with.

Joe Pilates demonstrating some of the beginner to intermediate exercises on his Wunda chair. Exercises are more upright so they require more balance, coordination and strength than some of the more supported exercises done on the Reformer, Mat or Cadillac/Trapeze Table.

Joe Pilates demonstrating some of the beginner to intermediate exercises on his Wunda chair. Exercises are more upright so they require more balance, coordination and strength than some of the more supported exercises done on the Reformer, Mat or Cadillac/Trapeze Table.

The basic idea of the chair is that there is a seat with a spring loaded pedal in the place where your legs would normally go. This pedal  can be depressed with either your legs or arms to provide resistance or support, depending on the exercise. Additionally, there are optional handles that can be mounted to the sides of the chair for either support during beginner exercises, or to hold your body suspended in air for advanced exercises. Pilates’ background in gymnastics is reflected in some of the chair exercises. Men often prefer this apparatus because of its emphasis on upper-body strength.

What is it like to exercise on the Stability/Wunda chair? Most exercises are done either sitting or standing so gone is the luxury of laying down on Reformer, Mat, or Cadillac. To perform the intermediate and advanced exercises you need good upper-body strength, scapular and pelvic stability, and good control of your core. The upright position of exercises which are great for functional and athletic training.

At SOMA we have a bunch of these wonderful apparatus available for both private and group training. Click on the interactive, three dimensional picture for a closer look at our Stability/Wunda chairs.....Or for an even more up close and personal experience, come into the studio for a free demo!

Welcome Kristen to our SOMA Movement Team

We are excited to announce that Kristen is joining our team of movement instructors here are SOMA Movement Studio! She's been teaching Classical Pilates, both on the mat and on equipment for years. She graduated from Oklahoma City University in 2001 with a BA in Dance. Upon graduation Kristen moved to Las Vegas, NV and performed in such renowned shows as Illusions and Beyond and Legends in Concert. She is a Classically trained and certified Pilates instructor and you can now register for her Reformer classes as well as private sessions with Kristen starting next week. See our online Class Scheduler to register for classes with Krisen.

Reclaiming Your Body: More On the Tabula Rasa

Since The Valley Press article came out earlier this week, I've had a couple people ask me to explain more about SOMA Movement Studio's unique approach to exercise (click here for more on our Philosophy & Mission). Our primary goal at SOMA is to teach people how to move more freely and comfortably; fitness then becomes more enjoyable and exercise comes naturally. 

There is nothing magical about our studio. We don't wave a wand and make fitness easy. If your neck and shoulders are chronically tight and sore, and you walk into one of our Pilates classes for the first time off the street, guess what. You'll be doing Pilates with a tight neck and shoulders. What does make our studio different, is our approach to preparing our clients for exercise. This is what we call re-discovering you're body's tabula rasa state of being.

Tabula rasa is a Latin phrase that literally means blank tablet or blank slate. The concept of the tabula rasa refers to the idea that individuals are born without built-in mental content and that therefore all knowledge comes from experience or perception. This concept dates back to the Greek Philosopher Aristotle, however, it is the English philosopher John Locke's interpretation of the tabula rasa from the 1600s that SOMA uses as an analogy to our initial approach to movement. 

In Locke's philosophy, tabula rasa was the theory that at birth the (human) mind is a "blank slate" without rules for processing data, and that data is added and rules for processing are formed solely by one's sensory experiences. Have you ever watched a healthy, two-year old child run? They have perfect posture, are free of muscle tension, flexible, and move without hesitation. Then as we grow we are introduced to stress, deadlines, early mornings and late nights, unhealthy habits, computers, cell phones, the list goes on. Gradually, the our shoulders round in towards the chest, the head moves forward, the pelvis tucks while the lower back becomes rigid, and our breathing becomes shallow. We begin to avoid certain activities and become complacent with our new state of being. The slate is no longer blank. Evolution now looks like this:

SOMA Movement Studio believes that it is possible to rediscover the freedom of movement we once had as children. We offer movement classes, called Hanna Somatic Movement or Hanna Somatic Re-education, that are focused on identifying the underlying, reflexive muscle activation patterns that interfere our body's ability to move freely. 

A somatic muscle (also known as skeletal muscle), i.e. muscle that moves you (as opposed to the smooth muscle of the vicera or blood vessels), has no internal controls. It simply does what the nervous system (for simplicity's sake, lets say the brain) tells it to do.  A muscle that is cut off from the nervous system is flaccid and loose. Restore input from the nervous system, and the muscle regains tone. A "tight" muscle is one that is simply receiving inappropriate input from the nervous system and so its "tone" is too high. The problem lies in the control center (brain) not in the muscle itself.

So, in order to efficiently address the problem of tight muscles, we must relearn how to control our muscles by consciously overriding these subconscious muscle activation patterns. The mind body connection becomes more of a "how the brain controls the body" connection. Muscles are relaxed through conscious intention rather than by stretching, massaging, or other muscle-centric approaches that only produce fleeting results.  In Hanna Somatic Movement jargon, these subconscious muscle holding patterns are referred to as Somatic Motor Amnesia. So in pictorial terms, our goal at SOMA Movement Studio becomes:

EvolutionSOMA.jpg

So how do you figure out where to start at SOMA Movement Studio? We recommend you start with a Pre-Pilates Introductory Class/Movement Orientation session and then go from there..... Our instructors are always available for advice and clients are encouraged to sample each of the movement regimens that we offer. In general, if you can move freely and comfortably, go ahead and take the more athletically focused classes. If you find you have a restriction or just want to develop better body awareness, try adding Hanna Somatic Movement or Pre-Pilates to the mix. Our classes are designed to be complementary rather than sequential so you can take them in any order at anytime. 

We're Famous! SOMA Movement Studio featured in The Valley Press

Thank you so much to Alison Jalbert, Assistant Editor for writing and The Valley Press and Turley Publications for printing an article about SOMA Movement Studio's opening!  The full page article, which is on page 23 of the May 26th edition of The Valley Press, highlights our amazing team of instructors, our services, and most importantly, our mission and philosophy. Click here for the online version of the article. 

If you have any extra copy of the May 26th edition of The Valley Press with our article in it, feel free to drop it off at our Studio in exchange for a free group class of your choice. We would love a couple extra copies of the article for our Grandmas ;-)

Congratulations to the First Facebook Contest Winner!

We announced a contest when we launched our Facebook page. For each 50 people who "like" our Facebook SOMA Movement Studio page, we would randomly chose one person to receive a pack of five Reformer classes. We are happy to announce that after only a few short weeks we have already surpased 50 "likes" which is awesome. Thank you so much for your support!

We used a random number generator for a number between one and fifty and this week's winner was lucky number #34! Our first winner is Linda Mascaro. We can wait to meet you in person in the studio!

We are going to randomly chose another lucky winner for a five class reformer pack for the next fifty people who "like" our facebook page. Stay tuned....it might be you!

SOMA Movement Studio Gift Certificate Giveaway at Heels & Wheels 5K Road Race and Walk

Proceeds from Wheels and Heels 5K Road Race in Memory of Jamie Kirchner, will be used to create and maintain handicapped accessibility to the river for fishing and other recreation. The race will be run on National Trails Day to bring awareness to the Naugatuck River and Harwinton's portion of the proposed greenway.
The race course has been certified by USA Track & Field.
Certification Number: CT14036JHP

Jamie

Jamie Kirchner was a true competitor. It didn't matter if it was a game of checkers with his
grandmother, arm wrestling with his sister, or competing in the state Special Olympics, he took the Special Olympics pledge to heart. "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

Born with Down Syndrome in 1968, James Clifford Kirchner never let his health problems keep him down. When he was short on stamina, he was long on determination. And his desire to win didn't keep him from cheering on his team mates.

His effervescent spirit encouraging his team mates earned him a TV commercial for Special Olympics, and the "Spirit of Life" award given by the McDonald's Corporation.

Jamie enjoyed traveling, camping, playing cards and checkers, and going to WWF wrestling matches with his brother. While we all miss Jamie since he passed away in 2000 at the age of 31, his spirit of competitiveness, joy, and happiness will always be with us, inspiring us to always strive to do our best--and then some!

Free Fitness Media Library now at SOMA Movement Studio

We now have over a hundred titles in our Free Fitness Media Library at SOMA Movement Studio. We have everything from Tae Bo, Tai chi, Yoga, Kickboxing, Aerobics, Strength Training, instructors like Jillian Michaels and Ellen Barrett...and of course, Pilates in our fitness library DVD collection.

How does it work? Easy...Just take a DVD or two home and try them out. When you are done, bring them back and try out something else. The library operates on the honor system, we don't keep track.

If you donate your old, dusty fitness DVDs that you are bored with to the library, get a free class at our studio as a token of our appreciation.

Nerdilates (AKA Pilates for Nerds): Reciprocal Inhibition and the Illusive Psoas Release

We are going to geek-it-out for this post and talk a bit about how movement happens and conversly, what happens to our bodies when we don't move normally.

Let's talk about something simple first; elbow flexion and extension. The ulno-humeral joint (humerus is the upper arm bone, the ulna is one of the two forearm bones, the one on the side of your pinky) of the elbow is a simple, hinge joint. Your biceps contracts, the elbow flexes (think bicep curl). Your triceps contracts, your elbow extends.

What we don't normally think about is something called reciprocal inhibition. In order for your elbow to flex when your biceps contracts so you can do a biceps curl, your triceps ALSO has to SIMULTANEOUSLY relax and lengthen to allow the motion to happen. When you then go to extend the elbow and your triceps contracts and shortens to pull your arm straight, the biceps has to SIMULTANEOUSLY relax and lengthen to allow the elbow to straighten/extend. The signal from your brain to the relaxing muscle is referred to as reciprocal (opposite) inhibition. In otherwords, the antagonist muscle is inhibited to allow the agonist muscle (the muscle causing the movement) to contract.

So, what happens when reciprocal inhibition does not work normally. We will use another pair of agonist/antagonist muscles as an example. Say for some reason, your pecs (pectoralis major/minor) and chest muscles got really tight from working on the computer. The muscles that oppose the pecs should be receiving a signal to relax as a result of the constant signal the pecs are receiving to stay tight. So, your rhomboids, muscles of the back that function to bring the shoulder blades together towards the spine, get a signal to relax. What happens next? The pecs continue to tighten, pulling your shoulders further forward, sending more reciprocal inhibitory signals to the rhomboids to relax, which in turn allow the shoulder blades to slide outwards and forwards, eventually leading to rounded, tight shoulders. More on posture in a future post.

The psoas major is an interesting muscle that attaches to the vertebrae of the lumbar spine, travels through the pelvis to attach to the upper femur. Its position in the body contributes to stabilization of the lumbar spine.

The psoas major is an interesting muscle that attaches to the vertebrae of the lumbar spine, travels through the pelvis to attach to the upper femur. Its position in the body contributes to stabilization of the lumbar spine.

Now for the subject of this blog post. The psoas major is a relatively long muscle that connects the lumbar (lower) spine to the femur (thigh bone). The function of the psoas is traditionally thought to flex the hip, though this action has been called into question by modern anatomists and kinesiologists (people who study how muscles move) and now it is thought to have more of a stabilizing effect on the lower back/lumbar spine. In some people (actually lots of people), the psoas muscle is shortened and tight.

The psoas muscles is really hard to isolate and work on eiher through exercise or bodywork. It lies super deep relative to other muscles so any type of psoas massaage is usually uncomfortable and painful because the therapist has to get WAY deep in your groin and belly to access the fibers of the psoas. Even if you can get to the psoas muscle with massage, the psoas is ofen very tender to the touch so psoas massage is uncomfortable to put it mildly. Many muscles function in concert with the psoas so it is near impossible to isolate the psoas through exercise.

However, the psoas can be accessed and relaxed indirectly through reciprocal inhibition. Try this. Lie down on your back with your feet a little more than shoulder width apart and a low pillow or mat supporting your head. Have a clock or a stopwatch near by that you can see without moving or sitting up. Now that you are comfortable, squeeze/contract your tush as hard as you can and hold it for a minute. That gluteus maximus needs to be contracted to the MAX. This is easier said than done. If you are really squeezing hard, your butt should really be burning by 15 seconds. After 30 seconds, re-engage your glutes, squeeze harder. You should really be hating the fact you found this article by 45 seconds. When you reach a minute (if you can), you can relax.

The psoas major and gluteus maximus work together as an agonist/antagonist pair of muscle to balance the pelvis relative to the lower (lumbar) spine. When the psoas is tight and shortened, the gluteus maximus is often weak and lengthened. By strengthening and using the glutes, we can send an inhibitory signal to the psoas to begin to re-establish balance.

The psoas major and gluteus maximus work together as an agonist/antagonist pair of muscle to balance the pelvis relative to the lower (lumbar) spine. When the psoas is tight and shortened, the gluteus maximus is often weak and lengthened. By strengthening and using the glutes, we can send an inhibitory signal to the psoas to begin to re-establish balance.

Get up now and walk. If you really did a good job squeezing your glutes, your psoas should have gotten a strong inhibitory signal from your brain, and you should have a wonderful, open feeling through the front of your hips as you walk. This is the reciprocal inhibition psoas release.

This open feeling will go away unless you then follow up this posas release with some kind of gentle, coordination movements to take advantage of your newly discovered, lengthened psoas and learn how to control it so it does not get tight again. Whatever you do, do not try and "strengthen" the psoas once you've released it. You're poor psoas has been tight and contracted for who knows how long, it finally gets a change to relax and rest so they last thing it needs immediately after being released is vigorous exercise.

At SOMA Movement Studio, we use Hanna Somatic Movement to gain control of the lengthened/relaxed psoas (more on that in future posts) followed by equipment/spring-assisted Pilates to condition and use the psoas without it going back into its shortened, tight state (notice I did not say strengthen). Otherwise, use the reciprocal inhibition psoas release whenever you want that open feeling in the front of your hips.

The first time I tried the reciprocal inhibition psoas release, I made it to 40 seconds of glute contraction and had delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) the next day. After a week or two, I was easily able to go a minute or two of glute contraction. I do this exercise while brushing my teeth with my electric toothbrush, which pauses every 15 seconds, which I use as a cue to contract my glutes harder. This is a wonderful and gentle way to release/relax the psoas and other hip flexors without having to undergo uncomfortable and invasive massage/bodywork.