‘Can you imagine doing this movement before you actually do it? Can you compare your expectation of the movement with the actual sensation of doing it?’
In Somatic Education we love motor planning or motor imagery! A lot of our clients can have difficulties with some movements – they brace from the thought of moving their shoulder, expecting a shooting pain anytime, having adapted to not so useful strategies to keep them from anticipated pain.
Our brains are very masterful in anticipation – we navigate how we behave based on past experience all the time. When a movement has hurt (maybe repeatedly or even only once with a big impact on our life) in the past, we learn to avoid it, even if there is no structural damage that would prevent us from moving. Our central nervous system has fine tuned our behaviour, and sometimes it is simply too good at doing that and we become more sensitive to things than ‘necessary’.
This is where graded exposure to movement, starting with motor imagery can come in on our way to recover full functionality and joy of movement again.
When we expect a movement to hurt, we can imagine it first in a positive environment. Think lying on a beach in nice warm sand, or floating supported in warm water. The image of where and with what kind of effort you move is important to start regaining control.
Here is a great short article about movement imagery from the NOIgroup, leading researchers in pain science from a biopsychosocial framework perspective (you can call that ‘taking the whole person into consideration, rather than just the localized issue’). It’s how we as Somatic Educators work, not just looking at what we can see from the outside, but taking into consideration how you feel about things, what you can sense and how this can be affected by your stress, environment, social background, cultural beliefs, etc.