Frequently asked Questions
Never heard of Somatics before?!
No worries, I hear this a lot! I'd only heard about Somatics (Hanna Somatics) in 2012 myself and I wondered then why I had never heard of it before then?! I now feel I have found the missing link I had been searching for to rid my self of my back pain completely and help me to move better. I am so excited about teaching Somatics here at home I truly believe it is for everyone! I hope the information below is helpful, I can honestly say though you need to come to experience a class to truly feel the amazing effect it can have on your mind and body. It is possible to start feeling the effects of this wonderful work in your first session, come experience Somatics for yourself!
"The most important thing for you to remember is that Somatic Exercises change your muscular system by changing your central nervous system. If you do not remember this important fact, their effectiveness will be diminished for you." - Thomas Hanna
What is Somatic Education?
Thomas Hanna coined the term Somatics in the mid-'70s his work referred to the discipline of movement education. Somatics is neuro-muscular learning that improves our ability to move, we gain greater voluntary control of our muscles by retraining the brain to let go of unnecessary tension in the muscles (Sensory Motor Amnesia). When exploring these simple movements we focus internally on the sensations experienced to feel the changes taking place. You are the expert, no-one knows better than you what it feels like to live in your body. Rather than having someone move your body parts for you -you will actively move them yourself to get the best results. When you go to the root cause of chronically contracted muscles (the brain) you are able to get relief and freedom of movement for the long term. Learning Somatics gives you the 'tools' to take care of your own aches and pains.
Tight muscles develop what? What is Sensory-Motor Amnesia (SMA)?
Our daily habits, the way we sit, stand and move contribute to muscular tension in our bodies. Our muscles can become so tight over time that no matter what we seem to do they simply won't relax. When this happens we have developed something called Sensory-Motor Amnesia. We literally learn to how to stay tight and forget how to let muscles go! It becomes hard to sense ourselves anymore, muscles are 'on' all the time! It can become exhausting and painful at times.
We are the final product of all our movement habits, all the sports and activities we have played, all the accidents, injuries and surgeries we have been through.
When we learn a new movement pattern it happens in a part of the brain called the motor cortex and once we habituate that pattern it gets stored in another area called the sub cortex. That's great news, we don't have to learn to walk again or learn how to put the fork to our mouth every time we want to! But this also goes for all our poor movement patterns too, the brain doesn't know the difference between what is a 'good' or 'bad' movement pattern, it just knows if you've done something often enough it's 'got that' for you. The brain wants to be efficient for us. Over time, tension will layer up in the body and when we finally notice we tend to blame getting older for the cause. However, this can happen at ANY AGE!
To undo these chronically held muscles and take back control we need to engage the motor cortex again - our 'learning zone' to 'wake up' those muscles stuck on 'cruise control'. By moving in certain ways you can take back control of the muscles and re-set their length and function, enabling freedom of movement once again.
How can I release this muscle tension? What is Pandiculation?
Pandiculation is what you see cats and dogs do after periods of rest. They are NOT stretching! They contract, lengthen and relax their muscles on the front and backs of their bodies. They are 'waking up' their nervous systems ready for 'action'. Our human version of this is the full-body yawn we do in the morning, you may think you are stretching your muscles as you move your arms and legs when you yawn but next time you do it notice that you are actually fully contracting your muscles and then slowly lengthening and completely relaxing them, feels great right?! In Somatics we use this pandiculation technique to move through 3 main reflex patterns, we retrain the brain to fully relax and lengthen our muscles again. When you focus completely on what you are doing you are able to free the mind of daily stresses giving you a great 'time out' and a sense of relaxation.
Reflexes? What Reflexes?
There are 3 main reflexes our bodies take on in response to stress...
In Somatics we call them Red Light, Green Light and Trauma Reflex.
Red Light Reflex - The tightening of the muscles on the front of the body is not only the startle response to fear, anxiety and emotional upset it is today becoming more and more known as a muscular adaptation to excessive computer and mobile phone use, this slumped forward posture can lead to chronic neck, shoulder and back pain due to the rounding forward of the shoulders, the head jutting forward and compression in the chest area. It can also hinder a full breath. Shallow breathing can deprive the body of the essential oxygen it needs to function properly.
Green Light Reflex - The muscles on the back of the body contract to move us forward. When walking, running for something, standing up straight (think military posture) or sitting up 'straight' we can overly contract our back muscles and if these stresses become habituated they can help cause back, neck and shoulder pain, disc issues and sciatica pain. When suffering from these pains we can find ourselves easily suffering from depression, anxiety and sleep problems. A cycle of pain can develop.
Trauma Reflex - Is the reflex of pain avoidance, muscles on the sides of the body contract in response to accidents or injuries to further avoid pain. Also, daily stresses like holding a child on one hip or jobs where you use one side of the body more than the other can hike up and tighten muscles more on that side of the body. Sports like tennis, golf or rowing, playing an instrument like a guitar, anything where you may be rotated to one side more than the other. All of these habituated movements and postures can go on to contribute to pain and lack of movement through the body.
We all have a combination of all three of these reflexes happening all the time. There's nothing wrong the reflexes themselves, it's when we get stuck in these reflex patterns and are unable to move freely in all directions we start experiencing problems. Luckily, we can make long term changes with Somatics and release these chronically contracted muscles helping so many to become pain-free and move easily once again.
Want to know how others have changed their lives with this method?