Sensory Motor Amnesia: Our Bodies Are Wiser Than We Give Them Credit For

In Greek mythology there is a riddle attributed to Sophocles who composed the riddle of the Sphinx:

‘What is it that has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed? Oedipus replied, ‘The human body.’

From crawling to walking on two feet to eventually needing a cane, our bodies are a beautiful riddle to be enjoyed, explored and to sometimes solve as we journey through life. For some of us this means exploring the very upper limits of human performance, while for others it means simply a desire to understand and embrace the interconnectedness of body, mind and spirit.

In a wonderful book called ‘Somatics: Reawakening the mind’s control of movement, flexibility and health’ by Thomas Hanna, we learn it’s a myth that as we grow older we become stiffer and achier and eventually become incapacitated.

Age should not mean systemic degeneration, a loss of memory and limitations to mobility.

How is it that we have come to this idea and, for many, this expectation of how we age?

We intrinsically understand that everything we experience, we know in our bodies. As Hans Selye explained, we can see that psychological stress affects our mental wellbeing. Moishe Feldenkrais taught us that ‘somatics’ or integrating our body with our mind, can help us to counteract and even reverse the symptoms expressed by our aging bodies. But this somatic re-education must be deliberate and consistent, with direction and intention.

Aging successfully means addressing our body's habituated condition of forgetfulness called sensory-motor amnesia (SMA). This unique amnesia happens as our body loses the ability to feel particular muscle groups and remember how to control them.

Interestingly, this SMA has nothing to do with our age!

Changes in our posture and our gradual dissociation from ‘feeling’ our bodies can be affected beginning in early childhood. Kids that encounter war, neglect, physical and/or emotional abuse, traumatic accidents, serious surgery, or loss of a significant relationship can realize their trauma through physical changes such as a sunken chest, elevated shoulders, an extended neck, scoliotic curvatures of the torso and or chronic pain that follows them ‘undiagnosed’ for the rest of their life.

While somatic dissociation can occur at any point in our life, it usually begins to manifest in our 30s and 40s. It is an adaptive response of our nervous system.

Because this somatic dissociation is learned, it can be unlearned. Incredible, yes?

So what we had previously understood to be senescence, or an aging body and mind, would actually be SMA - completely retrainable! The path to reversing SMA would not be considered ‘treatment’ but ‘education’. We speak with our clients about wanting to understand and embrace their bodies from within, rather than by relying on medical professionals and fancy tests to tell them what their bodies have been trying to communicate to them for years - and sometimes for their entire lives.

The information we need to make slow and subtle changes is already in front of us. We just need to become open to listening.

Want to better understand the connections between our body’s tissues (called fascia) and the links to our nervous system, nutrition, breathing and movement? Interested in exploring the concepts of SMA and somatic movement re-education?

Join me, Angela Pereira and Registered Massage Therapist and yoga teacher Simone Nitzan as we present ‘Fascinating Facts About Fascia’. It’s an ‘on demand’ online course with two Zoom based one hour ‘Movement Lab’ sessions to play with the course content. We’d love to meet you and show you just how incredible your body can be - if we simply listen.

Click here for more information about First Line Education's "Fascinating Facts About Fascia".


Stay connected to the team here at First Line!

Follow us on Instagram to receive upcoming course information, updates from our team, and more!



Join our mail list to keep up to date on blog posts from our team members, get notices about our new and upcoming courses, grab new practice resources, and lots more!