Kim Novotny, BPEd., Certified Pilates Instructor and Clinical Somatic Educator offers private sessions, workshops, and group classes from her home studio in Edmonton, Alberta. She is excited to offer the Sentinel a 5-part video series that will include methods to release habituated tension and promote more freedom within movement.
By Lina Konovalov
Lina: Hi Kim! How did your journey towards being a Somatic educator unfold?
Kim: I’ve always found great joy in moving. I did a phys-ed degree and from there I went on to develop movement programming for preschoolers. By age fourty I was an avid runner, and my body started to break down. One day I woke up and realized that this is not good. I found a newspaper article on pilates and knew right away what I was going to be teaching next. I really enjoyed diving into myself on a deeper, slower level. I opened a pilates studio, and kept getting more and more clients. Still, people were reaching out for help. I kept being drawn to different modalities [looking for] more answers to the mysteries. That led me to somatics 5 years ago, and that’s when I knew I had really found the key to helping myself and others with their movement.
Lina: Like you, I started my movement practice at a young age. Movement is necessary to my well-being. However, others are more disconnected from their bodies – perhaps they didn’t have that movement experience at an early age. How would you encourage beginners to start connecting with their physical selves?
Lina: It reminds me of this thing you do at the end of some yoga practices, where you tighten and then let everything go. It’s always felt really good, but I didn’t know why. So, we talked about people who are more connected to their bodies. However for some it can go overboard – they go to the gym every day, don’t rest properly, and obsess about their appearance. How can we ensure that we are engaging in a movement-based lifestyle in a healthy way?
Kim: We were raised to think that unless we’re really sweating, we’re not doing the best possible thing. That’s actually not true at all. We also need the mindful, slowing it down piece. I look at this as balancing, so that people can still go hard, but they implement a routine that complements their work out so that they’ve rebalanced the tensions in their body. Usually the issue of the imbalance has come years before, and the body hasn’t told you about it yet. Once you’ve got that distortion, like when the upper shoulders are super tight in front of the chest, other muscles have to pick up the slack. The benefit of this practice is allowing those muscles to come back into harmony, so that when they are at rest, they really are at rest.
Lina: I like this approach because it’s a movement practice, but it starts with mindfulness. It’s a lot more accessible to people. Speaking of accessibility, can you tell me about your personal daily movement practice?
Kim: I recommend movement practice to be done on a daily basis, simply because life puts stress onto ourselves. If the muscles are tight and holding tension, that is pretty exhausting. I also recommend that people meditate at the end of their day [to relieve that] daily stress. If you sit at a computer, you will habituate tighter into a natural reflex called the red light, where the whole front of the body tightens into the abdominals. If you sit like that for even 6 hours a day, you want something at the end of your day to release it. I like to coach people to develop a habit that brings themselves into more harmony in all ways. Not just the muscles.
Lina: I’m a student, so I spend hours hunched over my laptop. It’s funny and sad how the world we live in is so ill-equipped to suit our bodies. What are your thoughts on that?
Kim: Our society is structured to be more sedentary – it’s a natural process of industrialization. There’s three main reflexes we cover in somatics to release from. The red light one, the tightening of the front, that is the fear reflex. We’ve been doing it ever since we’ve been in our mothers wombs in a fetal position. Those reflexes are only a problem when you become habituated to them. This whole education process is about discovering, ‘where am I habituated in this given moment?” Then, we teach you the particular movements to pendiculate out of those to bring better balance – which, again, needs to be practiced on a daily basis, because it’s taken years to habituate into those patterns.
Lina: Do you find that many people spend years hunched over their desks not even realizing they are in great pain?
Kim: Definitely. Sadly, when people make it to me they are pretty broken down. Ideally it would be great if we got this into our education systems. Kids go into those shapes that I teach pretty naturally, but as they come into school they sit at a desk and are looking forward for hours. Those natural sensings are becoming less and less available to them. Then, we get the adults that have never had a movement practice and all of a sudden wonder why they are in so much pain. This gives you a tool. It’s amazing how the brain can create those new neural pathways. All of a sudden people are releasing the tension that has been held in their muscles for so long. It has emotions stored, and when you start to release it, it’s like this calm that comes about.
Lina: You mentioned emotions – when there is trauma in the body, emotions can get stored there. It can be a really long road to being able to fully feel again. In your practice, how do you approach these complex issues?
Kim: It is important that any educator is practicing what they preach. So within my own practice, I learn through my self-assessments. I know as I’m releasing some tensions, I can get a little bit teary. If you’ve been hanging onto something, whether it’s positive or negative, there’s a level of that that gets stored. When you start releasing at a muscle tension level, it is possible that stored emotion will come up. I make sure I address this with my clients right from the get go. If they need to talk to me directly, I make sure I’m an open line for them to reach out to.
Lina: I’ve definitely gotten into some yoga positions that’ve made me cry, and it wasn’t because I was tearing my hamstring. When that is released, miracles happen. I’m wondering, what are some of the results you’ve witnessed personally from people engaging in this healing modality?
Kim: People start this practice because this is the last resort. After one session, when they start feeling comfortable within themselves, it’s this feeling of hopefulness. Also, that recognition that we really aren’t truly free in all aspects of ourselves until we can embrace some type of practice that takes us inward. I feel that this type of work is the answer for the whole world coming together. I get excited about helping people find their way, feeling less pain, more joy, and a deeper connection within themselves and to everyone else around them.
Lina: I love how you said ‘some type of practice that takes us inward.’ There are so many ways! You have your movement practice, your husband has his art. People find their own unique personal route to that quiet place. Something really awesome about the Sentinel is that we are bringing in educators from across the board. You’re one of them and we are so lucky to have you. My last question for you is, what do you hope that participants will get out of your upcoming Sentinel video series?
Kim: They’ll start to understand the importance of choosing to go slow. We can learn so much about ourselves. This introduction is just a taste of what that can be like. I hope from that they are inspired and want to learn more, whether it’s somatics or a type of yoga. They can reach out and book a private with me, and we can problem solve together. Zoom is great – you can help anybody from anywhere. I’m really grateful for that.
Lina: I’m grateful too. Without COVID, we wouldn’t be sitting here chatting today, you wouldn’t have your video series and the ability to benefit people with the healing you have to offer. Thanks Kim.
Kim Novotny’s somatic movement video series will be available in the Sentinel store in 2021. Watch a brief introduction below.