Written By: Gabriel Blackburn

In Part 1 and Part 2 to this series I explained how my training in dance has both created movement pathways, and also prevented movement pathways. Overall I have access to fairly complicated movement. However, some of the created pathways led to deterioration of my body’s structural integrity, while some of the prevented pathways restricted me from accessing the more constructive approach to the movement. Somatics became a way for me to reeducate myself how to move with structural integrity. Because of the individualization available in the study of Somatics, as well as the introspective lens it utilizes, I found myself naturally integrating my findings into my freestyle dance. At first, I simply observed the difference that the new found movement pathways made. It allowed greater freedom and control of my entire body, corresponding to the somatic exercises I had brought into my Asana (Yoga Postures) practice. After observing, I consciously targeted specific practices and pathways to lead my freestyles, to isolate categories of movement for experimentation.

The first thing I observed was a greater awareness of my body’s neutral position. By using the somatic exercises, Arch & Flatten into Arch & Curl, I was able to find the most structurally sound place for my pelvis to live, then bringing that understanding to the rest of my spine. These are the most base practices in Somatics, because Somatics ques movement from the trunk of the body. In other words, it ques proximally, rather than distally (in dance training I was most often qued distally). Furthermore, in SomaYoga it is a best practice to only bring your body to move as far as your spinal integrity, or neutral position, remains. By practicing this, I created a much closer relationship with my neutral spine. Because of that close understanding of structural alignment, I was able to move out of that alignment, while being able to return to it. In this way I wouldn’t get stuck in an arched spine or pelvis, but I could utilize the arch to my full capacity to fulfil a movement. This was vice versa with a curled spine. By utilizing the neutral spine as my place that I move from and return to, I was able to maintain control of my body. By rooting my control in my proximal body, I found more control and freedom of my distal body. Such was the inspiration for my first movement exploration: trunk movement & radiating from proximal to distal points.

I’ve found my relationship with my neutral position at peak understanding after a session on a Spinal Strip. It also brings great awareness and muscular reeducation to the multifaceted shoulder. This is a key finding, considering the complexity of motion the shoulder is capable. It’s also the most proximal point of the arm, rooting in the trunk. By activating the facility of the shoulder, the entire arm is rewarded a new vitality. I noticed a significant step up in both the stability and mobility of the arm, as it swiveled one way and the other in the joint of my shoulder. Furthermore, I found my mind’s eye coursing through my spine, connecting to my shoulders, and spilling through my arms. This created a Spinal Strip specific movement exploration: radiation of the arm in relation to the spine, using the shoulder as the focal point between the two. You may be wondering what structure of movement I’ll explore after the shoulders… For that you’ll have to join me for the next Epiphanies of a Trained Dancer Studying SomaYoga.