For those who need a reminder, Somatic Stretch® : The Jarvis Technique is a slow, personal, learning process that changes your body from what is not working as well as you’d like, is uncomfortable, or in some way needs improving into a better functioning, easier-to-use, more pleasurable, satisfying and healthier vehicle in which to live out your days. Given some regular practice, these are the positive effects you can expect to experience from Somatic Stretch® exercises.
As with any form of bodywork, however, Somatic Stretch® is a many-faceted process that can have negative aspects to it as well, and if you don’t know to expect them they can put you off from carrying on. That would be unfortunate because the positive results would then be lost to you.
One of the negative things you can be sure of when beginning Somatic Stretch® is that, regardless of how much you want your body to change and to work better, your body does not want to change.
Despite how unhappy it is with the state it’s in—the ache-y joints, stiff muscles, drooping shoulders, collapsed chest, non-existent abs, flabby butt, and every other condition that causes it pain or unhappiness—your body will put up a fight when you start trying to change it. It will stubbornly balk at your good intentions when it’s made to feel different from how it’s used to being and will want to crawl back to the familiarity and presumed safety of what it knows.
I’ve always likened our bodies’ resistance to change to the dragons in fairy tales that try to stop the prince from finding his princess, and that’s because there are dragons in bodywork too, which you need to be prepared for.
Some of the dragons are within us, the main one being said resistance to change. If you’re just coming into this work, you need to know that this dragon is a really big one and it can rear its flame-throwing head as soon as your journey to a better body and well-being begins. But forewarned is forearmed: Don’t fall victim to it. There’s a way to beat it back, which you’ll find later on in the story.
Besides this biggie, there are other dragons that sneak around when we’re not looking for, or expecting them: pain when we thought we were “relaxing;” unrealistic expectations, like reaching for a goal that our body isn’t ready for, or capable of; lack of patience; giving in to discouragement; unawareness; apathy—not caring enough about making our body better— and lack of responsibility for our God-given temples.
These dragons do their best to frighten us away, but when we know they’re just Halloween-like spookies hiding behind pretend masks, we can see that all they’re doing is distracting us from our intended purpose.
Truth be told, the only dragon we need fear, or stay clear of, is a pain that hurts beyond the point of tolerance. It could be because of an injury or an unyielding body type, each of which requires its own weapon of defense.
With an injury, we need to give in to the wisdom of our bodies asking for time to heal before we carry on. And with a body that over time has become too rigid and therefore at risk of injury, we need to either scale down our expectations of how much we can change or face the beastly facts and accept our bodies as they are, gracefully and gratefully; even the most unyielding dragons of this kind can be mollified through acceptance and gratitude for what they can do.
Aside from these inner dragons, there are external dragons too, like pressure of time and unsuitable conditions or surroundings in which to do the bodywork necessary for our well-being. They’re like sly foxes that try to tempt us away from the path of breadcrumbs our work has begun to drop throughout our body, leading us on to more exploration. These dragons we can outwit by calling upon our own resourcefulness, reminding ourselves that ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’ to reach our pot of gold of a well-working, comfortable, happily usable body.
The question remains, how does the prince overcome the dragons that try to keep him from his princess? The fairy tale lesson is that it’s through courage; the prince must be brave and muster up all of his courage to slay the dragons.
Somatic Stretch® requires courage, too, and in bodywork language it’s called “perseverance.” As with courage, perseverance comes from our desire for achieving something good and is a necessary part of getting through to our sought-after reward. But fairy tales are fairy tales because they have a magic wand that takes away danger and gives the stories their fairy tale endings of “good.”
The message of this writing is that Somatic Stretch® has a magic wand too. It’s called the “stretch reflex.” The magic of this wand is that, like the prince on his horse with a double-edged sword at his side, the stretch reflex has two sides always ready to be used. The one side protects us should we come too close to danger in our search for bodily wellness. And with the other side, we can quiet our inner dragons and dispel their interfering taunts so that, when we find ourselves in a mysterious, unknown land which we will inevitably come upon, it takes away the fear, lighting our way and bringing us ultimately through to our own personal victories.
With perseverance and the little steps of progress that mark our journey—the bread crumbs that leave a trail from where we started to where we’re headed—we will find our dragons fading away into the darkness from whence they came and the possibility of a new being emerging like the princess awakening.
With a new awareness, we discover a body we were only vaguely aware of before, we can claim a power we never knew we had and we can feel our way through the labyrinth of aroused, inner sensations that will guide us through our search and to the beginning of this story: to a body that is better functioning, easier-to-use, more pleasurable, satisfying and a healthier vehicle in which to live out our days.