This series of brief and easy Somatic movements, also known as the Cat Stretch, can be done every day, in only 5 to 15 minutes, to remind your brain how to keep your body flexible and free from discomfort. If you are only going to do this once, the ideal time to do so is when you wake up in the morning. You can also do it after work, before bed, when sitting at the computer for too long, in the middle of the day, or any time you feel like it to stay fluid, fit, and comfortable.
For your convenience, you can also use our Daily Somatic Essentials CD.
1. Arch & Flatten: Lying on your back with knees bent, arch and flatten your lower back, inhaling while going up and exhaling while going down. Repeat five to ten times (or less) as slowly and consciously as possibly.
Lesson One: 1.B.
2. Arch & Curl: Lying on your back with [knees bent and] both hands interlaced behind your head, lift your head while exhaling and flattening your back. Lower your head while inhaling and arching your back. Repeat five to ten times or less as slowly and consciously as possibly.
Lesson One: 5.A.
3. Back Lift: Lying on your stomach with your left cheek on the back of your right hand, lift your head, hand, and right elbow while simultaneously lifting your left leg. Do this two times (if you can do so comfortably), then do the same for the other side of your body. Inhale slowly while lifting; exhale slowly while coming down. Do this as slowly and consciously as possibly.
Lesson One: 2.E and 3.E.
4. Side Curl: Lying on your left side, rest your head on your left arm, bend your knees so that your legs are 90 degrees to your torso, and bend 90 degrees at the knees. Reach your right arm over the top of your head, placing your hand near your left ear. As you inhale, slowly lift your right foot towards the ceiling, keeping your knees together. At the same time, use your right arm to help lift your head. Think about rolling the pelvis under the armpit (though this won’t actually happen!), focusing attention on the muscles of the waist and ribcage. As you exhale, slowly lower the foot and head down. Repeat three to five times (or less, doing no more than are comfortable and easy to do), turn over and repeat on opposite side.
Lesson Three: 1.C and 2.C.
5. Diagonal Arch & Curl: Lying on your back with knees bent and your left knee held by your left hand, lift your head and right elbow to your left knee while exhaling and flattening your back. As your head comes down, inhale, arching your back up. Repeat three times (or less). Do the same for the other side of your body three times (or less). Do this as slowly and consciously as possibly.
Lesson Two: 3.A and 4.A.
6. Washcloth: Lying on your back [with knees bent], roll your arms in opposite directions on the floor, alternately dropping your knees each time to the side of the arm rolling down the floor. Turn your head in the direction opposite your knees to make a full spinal twist. Move slowly and lazily, so as to enjoy the easy lengthening. Repeat three to twenty times or less, as slowly and consciously as possibly.
Lesson Four: 8.A.
7. Inversion/Eversion; Bow-legs/Knock-knees; Skiing: Lying on your back, twist your right foot, leg, and hip in and out about two to five times, being sure to lift and arch each side of your back alternately without lifting your shoulders. Do the same with your left side. Move both legs simultaneously in alternating bow-legged/knock-kneed positions about five times, then together in skiing motions about five times (or less, doing no more than are comfortable and easy to do). Do this as slowly and consciously as possibly.
Lesson Five: 3.A, 6.A, 7.A, and 7.B.
8. Seated Twists: Sitting with your right hand on your left shoulder and with both knees bent and facing left, rotate your trunk to the left three times (or less). Holding your trunk motionless at full left turn, turn your head to the right and back three times (or less). Turn both your head and your trunk in alternate directions three times (or less) for the full spinal twist. Still holding your trunk to the left, lift your face to the ceiling while dropping your eyes to the floor and vice versa three times (or less). Do the same for the other side of your body. Do this as slowly and consciously as possibly.
Lesson Six: 1.A and 1.B for both sides; 3.A for both sides; and 4.A and 4.B for both sides.
The Lesson Numbers at the end of each Daily Somatic Essentials step refer to the Lessons featured at the end of the book Somatics by Thomas Hanna and in the Somatic Exercise series The Myth of Aging, available from The Somatics Shop. This Cat Stretch summary can also be found on page 99 of the book Somatics.
Before doing the Daily Somatic Essentials or any other Somatic Exericses, it is important to read How to Give Yourself the Maximum Benefit of Somatic Exercises.
If you have any questions about using the Daily Somatic Essentials, contact us for more information and a trained professional can help you personally.