South Whidbey Island features top-line health practitioners whose modalities reflect some of the best practices for treating chronic muscle pain.

One of these top-line practitioners is Kimmer Morris of Island Somatics, who sees  a number of folks in her practice who wish to retrain and regain their range of motion.

Hanna Somatic Education®, which Kimmer is trained in, was created by Thomas Hanna in 1976. Influenced by classes he took with Moshé Feldenkrais, who pioneered the Feldenkrais Method, which creates body awareness through movement, Thomas Hanna built on what he learned. What he learned was that the mind could be engaged to direct muscles to expand and contract, resulting in pain relief.

I am one of those folks whose arthritis causes many a sleepless night due to chronic shoulder and hip pain. After talking with Kimmer this week, I was heartened to learn that I can awaken my body from its “Sensory Motor Amnesia—a term Thomas Hanna coined—” and reawaken muscles my brain has forgotten to connect with.

On her webpage, Kimmer explains Sensory Motor Amnesia and how somatic practice can alleviate pain and contribute to well-being:

“Sensory Motor Amnesia is the condition of chronically-tight muscles that have learned to stay contracted due to repeated and reflexive response to stress such as accidents, injuries, surgeries, repetitive tasks, and on-going emotional stress. The resulting patterns of muscular contraction that develop result in such common conditions as chronic back pain, neck, shoulder and hip pain, limited mobility, joint pain, poor posture, shallow breathing, and uneven leg length.

“Hanna Somatic Education® particularly helps relieve pain and disability associated with common health complaints such as: headaches, stiff or painful joints and muscles, fatigue, poor posture, breathing problems, impaired movement, accident trauma and whiplash effects, back pain, repetitive use/stress injuries.”

After more than three decades of teaching with the South Whidbey School District, Kimmer said she was told she would need spinal surgery due to deteriorating spinal disks.

A competitive cyclist at the time who did not listen to her body, Kimmer recalled, “My back and neck were a wreck. Three fingers of my right hand didn’t work. I began to pay attention to what my body was telling me. I worked past what my ego thought my body ought to do. This led me on the path of finding Natalie.”

Natalie Pace is an island practitioner of Hanna Somatic Education®, who worked with Kimmer and said she would mentor her in becoming a practitioner. Natalie had discovered the benefits of Hanna Somatics® after years working as an executive with a major corporation that left her body in chronic pain. She discovered that practicing Hanna Somatics® relieved the pain and left her feeling empowered in the technique. She retired from corporate work and became a practitioner.

I had one session with Natalie last October. I marveled that at 79, she moved easily, could sit on her knees, and was far more flexible than I am. Natalie taught me contract and release exercises that I practice to this day. My arthritis pain is less this year than it was last year.

Retiring from teaching, Kimmer learned from Natalie that her posture was the cause of her problems.

“She said if I didn’t work with my spine, I could expect more problems,” Kimmer noted.  I owe my life to Natalie. I wouldn’t be able to play my violin, go skiing and dance, if not for her. Doing the things I love are a part of my life that helps me cope with the world. I feel better than I did in my 20s and my 30s.”

I asked Kimmer if she was in her 40s now, because she looks radiant and her posture is excellent. She replied that she will turn 60 this June. By the way, she never did have back surgery.

Meanwhile, in addition to her private practice, Kimmer starts teaching classes this week at Soundview Center in Langley. Drop in for $17 or get a punch card for a savings of $2 per class. Classes are held Wednesdays at 4 PM. Fridays at 9:30 AM.

“My classes are concentrating on range of motion and retaining range of motion,” Kimmer added. “I work with joint mobility and releasing muscle tension. I work with people to sense where they are constricted on one side or the other so they can do motions and exercises. You CAN rewire your brain. What’s so lovely is it helps to integrate and disintegrate the holding patterns we don’t even know we have.”

To attend the classes, Kimmer asks that participants bring their own mats and that they wear socks. For more information, click here.

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