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:


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.