Successful Aging Through Movement

Have you made healthy aging a priority?  We’re never too young or too old to begin.  That being the case, I thought you might enjoy going off the beaten path to consider a novel developmental perspective of successful aging discussed within the field of somatic psychology, a sub-discipline of psychology.

Researchers within this field recognize and explore the role of first-person experience in the development of a social, emotional, mental, and internalized sense of self.  Thomas Hanna, a pioneer in the field, advocated the inclusion of a somatic perspective in the human sciences in order to understand and circumvent the aging process.  He studied the link between habituated, contracted bodily movement patterns associated with decrepitude and formulated a method for restoring structure and function, Somatics.  In his book, Somatics: Reawakening the Mind’s Control of Movement, Flexibility, and Health, he proposed the following,

The reason that physiology and medicine have failed to perceive the myths behind aging is that they have failed to recognize the fundamental fact that all human beings are self-aware, self-sensing, and self-moving . . . By adding the somatic viewpoint to our human sciences, we not only become capable of overcoming many health problems mistakenly attributed to aging, but we are capable of overcoming many of the major health problems that plague all of mankind.

While most of us understand the concept of self-awareness and self-sensing, what is meant by the term self-moving and how does it relate to health?

Self-moving is the term Hanna used to describe the ability humans have to work consciously with  reflexive, unconscious, and involuntary muscular bodily movement patterns in order to restore structure and function.  He demonstrated how muscular patterns form in response to chronic experiences, like stress, which interfere with the ability to completely relax contracted muscles.  In time, this can lead to chronic stiffness, soreness, aches, and pain.  Internally sustained states of tension can lead to hypertension and cardiac disease.

Hanna also recognized the role of early social experience in the childhood development of habituated movement patterns which can impact a child’s health long-term.  This important topic has been widely studied in somatic psychology and will be discussed in future posts.

The good news is, no matter what the cause, chronic contracted muscular patterns can be released and reversed, leaving you feeling more alive and vital.  You don’t have to look and feel old in your senior years! To achieve lasting results will require time and effort, but aren’t you worth it?  Many people have had good results dealing with stress and undoing chronic muscular patterns by engaging in movement practices such as Feldenkreis, the Alexander Technique, Tai Chi, yoga, Somatics, and Qi Gong.  It’s never too early to start, so what are you waiting for?  Get moving!

Have you ever considered that optimal movement patterns could be the basis for long-term health? Have you engaged in a movement practice that had positive effects on your health?  

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