Recently, at the beginning of a session, one of my clients said she felt "immobilized." She said it felt like her whole middle was in a plaster cast and her arms were just dangling out on the sides. Another client described a similar feeling, as if her middle felt "like a stack of tires."
That mysterious middle consists of the pelvis, spine, rib cage, shoulder blades, and organs. There are also muscles and nerves and a few other important things that keep us alive and every one of those things is wrapped in connective tissue. That "plaster cast" feeling starts to happen when the connective tissue becomes dehydrated and compressed and instead of operating as an orchestration of individual parts, those parts get stuck together like masking tape and move as one solid unit.
This might feel like tightness or tension, or we may lose the ability to feel those individual parts of our body altogether. The ribs and pelvis were designed to rotate separately when we walk and when they get stuck together we begin to shuffle. The shoulder blades were designed to slide along the back when we move our arms up, when they get stuck to the rib cage it becomes hard to lift our arms to put our shirt overhead or to comb the back of our hair.
What helps? Movement, but particularly movement with awareness. As we work together my clients begin to discover muscles that are working way too hard and some that are not working at all. They become more aware of parts of their body that should be moving, parts that shouldn't be moving, and parts that aren't moving but ought to be. As they increase their ability to feel and sense and move they can begin to identify what is causing their tension and what brings relief.
In his book "Somatics," Thomas Hanna, Ph.D writes: It is a wonderful neurological fact that increasing bodily awareness means increasing neurological sensory awareness, and that this sensory awareness of the muscles goes hand in hand with voluntary motor control of the muscles. This is because the sensory-motor system is a "feedback loop": in other words, if you cannot sense it, you cannot move it, and the more you can move it, the more you will sense it.