Somatic Exercises Make Freedom of Movement Possible

Beach Balloons

Excellent blog from Martha Petersen on how to relieve back pain, sciatica and other functional body issues using these easy-to-follow videos of Somatic movements. Great for both complete beginner or avid practitioner:

Somatic Exercises Make Freedom of Movement Possible.

With Somatics pain-free movement IS possible. You CAN enjoy moving your body, have fun and feel free!

Happy moving 😉

Somatics Course

Somatic Exercise Coach Training, led by Tanya Fitzpatrick, October 2014



Adaptive Yoga for Cerebral Palsy

chair Yoga

Lots happening that I’d like to write about!

Finished teaching an 8 week course of Chair Yoga for Cerebral Palsy this week.

The clients were a pleasure to work with. They learnt a lot about Yoga, Somatics and Pilates Movement in a short space of time and retained new information easily.

It was obvious that they really love Yoga. I was impressed by how well they listen, to the directions, as to their own inner guidance. Each week they came to the practice with an open attitude, diligently exploring new ways of moving, and trying out various Breathing Practices, Mindfulness and Meditations.

The centre where the classes were held has a Sensory room, so on Week 3, we tried Yoga Nidra in there. Being able to dim the lights completely, leant to the atmosphere for this type of Meditation. The clients rested on giant beanbags, making it more comfortable should they drift off during the practice. They also had a wall projector, background music, star-lit night sky, and LED fibres…we were totally spoilt.

Yoga gives a person space, where emotions may have room to bubble up and come to the surface. We discussed bringing the attention back to the breathe and allowing our thoughts and feelings to be as they are, not getting caught up in the inner monologue nor trying to change anything. Simply becoming aware of the thoughts, feelings and physical sensations that may be present in any given moment, allowing them to be there, and then bringing the attention back to the breath. It was also important to have a laugh and not take ourselves too seriously!

For anyone thinking of taking on an Adaptive Yoga class, I found it really worthwhile as a teacher to have this experience. It was humbling and amazing, watching the clients transform and grow, accepting their limits while taking themselves to the edges of their own comfort zones. It made me a better listener, and a more attentive teacher, as I had to learn and watch out for their communication cues. Energy-wise, it was important to remain upbeat, including some fun movement techniques from kids yoga, though the clients were in their late teens, they responded really well to having fun, who doesn’t?!

Visualisation is key to Adaptive Yoga, both inviting students to “imagine” and giving them a direction or target to travel to. “Open your arms out wide” gets an ok response, while “Open your arms out wide, reach and tickle your neighbour!” will get those arms wide open!

For the carers present, I needed to tune in to their ability and communication style as they are part of the class too. Finding a carer who knows the client well enough to verbalise for them, who can help the client to carry out the movement while staying within their pain-free zone, and who knows their left from their right or indeed has any body awareness, is a whole other aspect that you will need to consider when leading an Adaptive Yoga class! Carers are wonderful people who work hard, they spend their day caring for the needs of others, and their jobs are physically taxing. I found they really appreciated the Yoga classes, especially the Breathing and Meditation practices.

Each week you have to find the right pace for everyone, picking up the energy when needed and giving space for energy to settle when that is required too. It’s important to give space at the end of the class, to give everyone time to adjust and regroup before their next activity. The clients may be leaving the centre straight after the class, the carers may be due a lunch break etc, so it’s essential to run to schedule and finish a few minutes early if possible.

If you are thinking about teaching Adaptive Yoga, or training as a Yoga Therapist, Yoga Therapy Ireland is a great place to go for more information or even sign up for one of their courses. Their Yoga in a Chair Seminar by Elma Toland was a wonderful resource in preparing for this course, as was their 500hr teacher training.

Here is a case study on Yoga for Cerebral Palsy that families and carers for those with CP might find useful to follow as a home programme:Adaptive-Yoga-for-Individuals-CP

For more info on the author, Ryan McGraw, and for Cerebral Palsy support see

Another online resource; Somatic Movement for younger children

Live. Love. Move!

Image from

If my Pelvic Floor is so tight, why do I sneeze-pee all the time?!

Just had to share this brilliant blog post from Katy Bowman… Yes am still waiting for her to marry me…roll on the referendum!

Funny how muscle that is too tight is actually weak, and not strong!

My personal experience of Pelvic Girdle Pain informs both my teaching and home practice. If you have PGP and are looking for a referral, please ask me in class and I’ll happily recommend!

For three years, I had a trapped pudendal nerve, and hypertonus Pelvic muscle,  released by a wonderful physio at Milltown Physio Clinic. As the article mentions, the crying that followed was…!! 20 months after this initial release, I finally “found” the right side of my Pelvic Floor in the middle of a simple Pilates lower tummy activation exercise, Single Leg slide, coupled with more crying! This whole area had literally been invisible to me since the first birth almost 5 years ago. It was as if my brain simply did not recognise that various body parts existed.

If you have PGP pain, yes of course it’s important to seek out specialists who can help, however, the reality is that the real work happens at home. You need to take the time for yourself to get on the mat and actively, consciously, release the tension out of your muscles. Every day. Did you stretch your calf muscles today? How about your hamstrings?! How much sleep did you get last night? Answer Zero for all three?!

Because muscle tension (and pain) is caused from a build up of habits over a period of time, not just the injury, I follow a diet of Somatics, meditation, mindfulness, biomechanics, pilates and Physical Therapy. The best Physical Therapist I’ve found is Injury Solutions​ in Rathfarnham.

I love that in the article Katy mentions that feeling pain in your body is a signal to allow that area to soften and release. Yoga is a wonderful method for letting go of that which you no longer need, physically and mentally. Let go lovingly, and your muscles will respond.

In my personal experience, following a regular practice in Yoga Somatics is the BEST way to self-release overly tight muscles. Somatics makes your Pelvis happy, while Pilates (choose a class designed especially for your needs) will strengthen your core stabilising muscles. You need both Somatics and Pilates to first release, then keep your Pelvic Floor strong and healthy for the long-term. They work as a team.

Once you look at your alignment and see how the muscles in the body work in harmony, because it is a functional issue, you will see how important biomechanics exercises are for maintaining strength and stability in the Pelvis. This is where Katy Bowman’s Whole Body Alignment exercises really come in handy, and check out Align Somatics’ DVDs for hips and legs, they’re wonderful.

I feel very lucky to have trained in both Somatics and Pilates, with Tanya Fitzpatrick from Align Somatics​ and in Pilates with Susan Church​ from PTTI, and can offer real value to clients with Pelvic Floor issues with my background in these disciplines. I’ve also designed a programme for Pelvic Floor Health that really works.

In Mum & Baby Yoga, we take pieces from each method (Pilates, Yoga, Somatics, Biomechanics, Physical Therapy) and use these building blocks to create a solid core foundation from which you can fly. (Or get pregnant again, you decide!)

Happy Pelvis, Happy Person. It’s a whole body alignment issue.

Ahhh…tissue! Pardon me…

Keep up the good work, and see you on the mat 😉

Baby got back…Part 2


Looking for exercises to strengthen your glutes? Ever heard of Yoga & Pilates?!

Here are the best poses:

Bridge1. Bridge Pose

Try it holding a cushion or foam brick between your knees, draw your inner thighs towards each other. Keep you pelvis tilting backwards, engage your lower tummy, and fire up your glutes.

To come down, exhale, roll your pelvis backwards and lower the spine down one vertebra at a time. Then, hug your knees into your chest and rock from side to side, releasing out your lower back.


2. Superman Couldn’t help the image, sorry, I literally have a four year old on my back as I type this and it’s keeping him entertained!

side_bridge_abd3. Side Lying Abduction

Plank Power

4. Plank Power!

Check out this Side Plank Yoga sequence by Kathryn Budig

5. Somatics Gluteal Release

Lie on your front, rest your forehead on your hands. Feel that your legs are straight, inner knees touch. Bend your right knee, sole of the foot faces straight up to the ceiling. Inhale and lift your foot straight upwards, keep your tummy completely relaxed. FEEL how your Glutes tighten to make this movement happen, only go as far as is comfortable.

Now add a second stage: Push down with your hands and lift your upper body up at the same time as you lift your leg up. Inhale as you lift, exhale as you lower back down. Feel how you contract your upper back muscles as you lift up. Feel how you completely relax and release each time you come back down.

Straighten the right leg back on the floor, take a moment to breathe and release.

Inhale and repeat the movement this time with the right leg straight, again firing the flutes to raise the leg up, extending through the hip.

Rest and release.

Open the legs as wide as is comfortable. Switch on the Glutes again, raise the right leg up. Stabilise the pelvis by engaging the lower tummy, feel the tummy drawing up away from the floor. Return the right leg to the floor. Take a few breaths to fully release.

Repeat on the Left leg.

6. Why do we need our Hip Abductors anyway?

This article explains why it’s important to strengthen your hip abductors and how weak glutes can affect your gait and balance:


7. Nitty Gritty: Best exercises to strengthen the

Glute Medius:                                           Glute Maximus:

  • Side Plank                                           Single Leg Deadlift
  • Unilateral Bridge                               Single Leg Squat
  • Lateral Step Up                                 Front Plank with Hip Extension
  • Superman                                           Superman
  • Side lying Hip Abduction

– See more at:

Remember, your hips love to dance, so shake it, sway it, feel it, MOVE it!

Enjoy 😉

Yoga for your Wrists – Part 1


Reblogging here, Top 3 from Part 1, so you have all the stretches in one place.

1. Tadasana Wrists 

Set Up:

Stand in Tadasana, Mountain Pose. Soften your shoulders down your back, releasing any tension in your neck. Keep the back of your neck long. Draw your armpits down towards your hips, engaging your lower tummy, spine in neutral alignment. Raise your arms forwards to shoulder height. Arms straight, extend your wrists, so that palms face forwards, fingers point up to the ceiling. Push out into the base of your thumbs. Spread your fingers wide apart and draw your baby fingers back towards you.


5-exercises-at-work-wrist stretches

1. With your left hand, draw your right hand’s thumb back, and release. Repeat on the index finger and all the other fingers, one at a time. Then, draw all the fingers back together, except the thumb. Play with the stretch and see what feels good for you. Repeat on the opposite hand.

wrist stretches tadasana

2. Turn your palms outwards, 90 degrees clockwise. Press into the base of your thumbs. Turn your palms outwards another 90 degrees so that your fingers point to the floor.

3. Challenge: Stand with your feet together. Bend your knees, into a skiing position and contract your lower tummy. From here, keeping your arms straight (elbows facing forward), lower them until your fingertips touch your thighs, palms face the floor.

4. Repeat in Hero Pose:

Wrist stretch fingers on thighs

2. Wrists on the wall

Let’s use the wall for feedback. Repeat Stretch #1 standing at arms distance in front of a wall.

Set Up:

Press the heel of your palms into the wall, fingers pointing up to the ceiling, keeping your elbows straight as you perform the movements.

wrist stretch on wall


1. Turn your palms outwards, 90 degrees clockwise. Press into the base of your thumbs.

2. Turn your palms another 90 degrees so that your fingers point to the floor.

3. Turn your palms inwards so that the fingers face each other.

4. Walk the palms in and down towards the floor. Only go as far as is comfortable. You want to feel a challenge but no pain.

3. Wrists on the mat

Set Up:

Come onto all fours in Table Top on your mat. Knees parallel, hip-distance apart, tops of the feet are on the mat, heels in line with your knees. Place your palms on the floor, shoulder-width apart, middle finger in line with your shoulders.

Check that your hands are a little ahead of your shoulders, the farther forward your hands are, the less pressure that will be on the wrists, so move your hands forward and back until you find the distance that is right for you.

Spread out into the fingers, middle fingers point to the top of your mat. Spread the weight evenly into all fingers, and from the inner to the outer edges of your wrists.

If you have had an injury such as RSI or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, only practice this move after swelling has reduced, making sure that there is no inflammation present and that you are happy to bear weight on the wrists. If you feel any pain, come off the mat and stay with the standing stretches.


a. Wrist Extension: 

Turn your hands inwards 90 degrees, fingers face each other.Turn your hands inwards another 90 degrees towards you (try one at a time at first), fingers face your knees.

Pretend to sit back onto your heels and press into the base of your thumbs, keeping your elbows straight. Feel that stretch?!

Then, move your upper body forward so your shoulders are in front of your wrists. Feel the inner edge of your wrist on the mat.

Come back to Table Top and turn your palms forward so fingers face the top of your mat again.

Turn your palms outwards 90 degrees, fingers face the sides of your mat. Turn your palms outwards another 90 degrees, fingers face your knees.

Wrist Stretch fingers to kneesSit back towards your heels and feel the stretch down the front of your arms as you extend your wrists. Move forward until your shoulder go beyond your wrists. Come back to Table Top.

Only go as far as is comfortable. You want to feel a stretch but no pain.

b. Wrist Flexion:

Wrist Stretch Table Top

Turn your palms facing up, so the backs of your hands are on the mat. Try it one at a time first, then both together. Fingers face forward towards the top of your mat.

From here, turn your palms inwards, 90 degrees anti-clockwise; fingers face each other. Turn them inwards another 90 degrees anti-clockwise, fingers face your knees. Feel the weight equally across from your baby finger to your thumb. Turn them another 90 degrees anti-clockwise, fingers face the edges of your mat.

Challenge: Move your upper body forward and back, feel the weight and stretch along your wrists as you press evenly into your baby fingers and your thumbs.

In Yoga & Pilates:

Every time your hands are on the mat, make sure your thumbs and index fingers are superglued to the floor, feel the base of the thumb and index finger on the mat. Press the pad of the tim down so you feel how the inner edge of your wrist is connected with the mat.

Pads of your palms press into the mat, hollow the middle of your palms up away from the floor. Spread your fingers out wide, away from each other. Middle fingers point to the top of the mat.

Look at your arms. You want the elbow creases to face  each other, rather than to the top of the mat. Then, draw your arms back up to your shoulders, plug the top of your arms into the Shoulder socket and slide your shoulder blades down to your back pockets.

Next time you’re in Table Top, Downward Dog, any arm balance…look at your thumbs and your index fingers, and ask, are they superglued to the floor?

Daily life: 

Notice how you use your wrists.

In the office: When using your computer, notice are your hands extended straight from your lower arms or do you bend at the wrists? Are you sitting tall, aware of your core when typing, or are you slumped in your seat, shoulders hunched, with your head 2 inches forward of your spine? For 5 days a week?!Yoga for your Spine

Try drawing your ears back so they are in line over your shoulders and relax your arms down by your sides. Then bend your elbows, hands forward, so that as you type, your palm base & wrists rest on the “WRIST REST”! (…ahhh, so that’s what that foam pad in front of my keyboard is for…) As you type, keep your elbows tucked in by your waist, broaden across your upper back, shoulder blades softening down to your back pockets. Allow your fingers to do the typing, keeping the wrists straight.

It’s amazing how something as simple as switching on your lower tummy muscles affects how you use your shoulders, and arms, all the way down into your wrists. Notice when driving, are you slumped in the seat, sitting back on your tailbone, or hunched over, clenching the wheel with your wrists super-flexed and knuckles white? Relax those shoulders and drive from your tummy button, not your wrists. Check out the straight wrists on this puppy. (Aww.)


If you cycle to work, notice how you cycle. Release this tense fingers gripping onto the handlebars! Actively lengthen the front of your body, engage your lower tummy and release your shoulders. Feel how your neck lengthens when you draw your arms back to your shoulder sockets and slide your shoulder blades down to your back pockets. Try to keep your wrists straight, in line with your lower arms, so your fingers hold the handle bars with ease, and you cycle from your centre, using your core muscles. Notice when you feel tension in the wrists. (White van driver cutting a left into your lane anyone?!) With the speed and alertness that commuter cycling requires, it’s no wonder we arrive at work with hunched shoulders and white knuckles! Take each red traffic light as a moment to allow your shoulders to soften, release your grip on the handlebars, and straighten your wrists. And in no time at all you’ll look like this guy:bike_to_work

He does look happy.

Try to attend a movement class, whether it’s Pilates, Yoga, or Somatics, at least once a week. One that focuses on safe alignment, tone and releasing tension, will help your wrists.

I didn’t even mention playing piano. Cat

Try the wrist stretches. Let me know how you get on. Remember, practice makes purrrfect. Sorry. (You can subscribe to Nora the Paino Cat on Youtube!)

Love your body, it can do amazing things.

Enjoy 😉

How Do You Reverse Hip Pain?

somaticsfeatured-770x403Why is releasing muscle the solution to healing hip, shoulder or pelvic girdle pain? Surely when you’re trying to keep yourself from falling over, or it all from falling out, it makes more sense to pull everything in, suck it up, rather than let it all hang out and go south?!

Here’s why. Lifting weights onto an already imbalanced frame, will only compound your pain. Running or walking on an imbalanced gait will only cause more pain to your misaligned posture. Before you book another exercise class, remember that it’s only once the muscle is fully relaxed and reset to it’s optimum length, can we then work to repair and build strength in the body.

Have a weak pelvic floor or chronic pelvic girdle pain? Stop doing Kegels and learn how to release your Pelvic Floor.

Chronic Hip pain? How tightly-held are all the muscles around your hip joint, in your waist, torso, and low back?

Somatics or surgery? Find out if the root cause of your pain is actually a functional issue, rather than a structural one, and give yourself the gift of a regular Somatics practice for at least 3 months before you decide.


All muscles have tone, or tonus. Tone is a natural ability to stretch and contract in response to stimuli. Muscles work to contract or shorten. When a muscle is at rest, it is relaxed, returned to it’s optimal length; it’s tone is zero. So, if we have complete control of a muscle, we can contract, and then completely relax it, achieving a muscle tonicity of zero.

Sensory Motor Amnesia, is loss of voluntary control of the muscle. The brain does not recognise, or  ‘see’ that the muscles are held in a prolonged contracted state. Chronic muscular tension can mean a resting muscle tone of 10, 20 or even 40 percent. (Remember, we want a resting muscle tone of zero!)

Muscles in this state of high tone, often feel weak because they cannot move freely to fulfil the function for which they are designed. Actually the muscle is quite strong, but is tired and overworked from contracting all the time. Muscles with high tone are aways sore and painful to touch.

The good news is that, if your body learned to hold your muscles in a prolonged contracted state, it can also learn to release them and allow them to return to their optimum length, back to a resting tone of zero. Muscular reactions to stress can be overcome. It is possible to enjoy muscular tone that is low in contraction and energy expenditure, and very high in comfort and control.

Essential Somatics

With carefully guided movement, Somatics teaches your brain how to recognise tightly-held muscle, and more importantly, how to release it. The movements are pain-free and always within your own range of comfort.

By consciously contracting into the tightly-held muscle, the brain’s voluntary ability to contract overrides the involuntarily held contraction, switching off this chronic response and giving you back control over your muscles.

This is why Somatics works.

For more info on how Somatics can reverse Hip Pain, read this article by Martha Peterson from Essential Somatics.

See a video ‘how to’ with Tanya Fitzpatrick from Align Somatics here.

If you have any questions or wish to attend a class, please send me an email:

Sources & Credits Thomas Hanna, ‘Somatics – Reawakening the mind’s control of Movement, Flexibility, and Health’ ISBN 0-7382-0957-0 ISBN-13 978-0-7382-0957-9.

Pain Relief Through Movement

Here is an old blog post, recycled and updated with free videos. It has stood the test of time.

Strengthening hip muscles doesn’t always relieve hip joint pain.

In this post about hip pain and labral tears I questioned the commonly held belief that strengthening the muscles of the hip will somehow relieve general hip joint pain when you’ve had an injury (like a labral tear).  Here’s a recap:

  1. Labral tears are generally the result of athletic injury or wear and tear over the years due to accidents. Labral tears cause instability in the hip.
  2. Instability in a joint causes muscles to contract to try and create stability.
  3. This kind of reflexive contraction to save yourself from further pain or injury or to compensate because because of an injury changes the way in which you would normally move.
  4. The muscles involved in this “Trauma Reflex” pattern must be…

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