"Knowing your internal cartography takes a little learning. then once you become more aware you notice things that are uncomfortable and events that are - 'distress-ful 'before they ever become a problem."
How is Somatics different from other therapies and modalities?
There are many choices when it comes to physical therapy. Osteopathy? Chiropractic? Physiotherapy? Sport massage? For an acute injury these therapies may be the route of choice.
However for long term muscle tightness, persistent niggles, mobility loss, postural changes and chronic pain affecting multiple areas, Somatics offers something different:
It treats the body holistically, targeting the nervous system, and in doing so addresses muscles, fascia and tissues along the entire chain. An initial consultation would last 90 minutes and a follow up movement session or exercise session would typically last 1 hour. Clinical sessions are around 60-90 minutes. This allows plenty of time for the whole body to be addressed.
It is not therapy, as rather than 'having something done' by a third person, the client learns to deeply perceive the improved body comfort that occur with the movements, and is taught to recreate this level of comfort for him/herself. This allows long-term and sustainable relief that is self-directed.
The target is the nervous system and brain, not muscles. The aim is to improve the representation of the body in the brain.
The neuromuscular changes brought about by somatic movement take place at the level of the brain, rather than being a spinal reflex, like a stretch. Most hands on bodywork (where the practitioner moves the person) will typically not seek to involve the neo-cortex. This is not the case with Hanna Somatics. The cortex is key in that muscular changes are fostered by the nervous system, and are thus incorporated into the person’s neurophysiology, having an effect that the person senses at first, and then later learns to reproduce by him/herself.
There is no stretching. Muscles are instead 'pandiculated'. Pandiculation begins with a conscious voluntary contraction, recruiting the affected muscle or muscle groups to shorten even beyond their habituated tonus. Then, by carefully and deliberately lengthening the muscles from that full contraction, the brain is able to reset the resting muscle length and tonus. This is also known as alpha-gamma co-activation. This method gives strong feedback to the brain, allowing it to “refresh” its sensation of those muscles, and to slowly reset length and tonus. The changes in the muscle occur at the level of the nervous system, thereby conferring greater sensation, motor control and coordination.
Read more here.
What is the difference between stretching and pandiculation?
In nature, pandiculation is the response to an internal urge to move. It often begins with a yawn. I was recently writing about yawning and googled stock images. In pretty much every picture, the yawn looked uncomfortable, unwanted and stifled.
My cat, on the other hand, seems to welcome and relish each yawn, allowing it to become a wave of gentle movement that unfurls through her body.
It’s a conscious, internally-sensed whole-body response — from the tip of her nose, to the tips of her ears through to the tip of her tail. Her whiskers vibrate, her jaw opens to full capacity, her tongue extends. It’s embodied, deliberate, unrestrained, proportionate, sybaritic, smooth and natural. It's a muscle reset involving one of the muscles most hightlighted in the brain's body maps - the tongue. She doesn’t hold back, stifle movement and create tension in her body like we humans. It looks satisfying. Neither is there any straining, forcing, end-gaining or trying to willfully achieve greater flexibility. I'm pretty sure that my cat would not pandiculate to the point of pain and discomfort, whereas I've seen humans not only tolerate discomfort/pain during a stretch - but proactively looking for it in the mistaken belief that you can restore healthy flexibility by force. Learning Somatics will connect you with the ability to self-sense and return to your optimal movement range without strain.
Is there anything like it?
Somatics is a mind-body movement modality, (derived from the Feldenkrais Method and drawing influence from the Alexander Technique and having a crossover with Mindfulness in terms of the awareness and internal sensing taught). It is concerned with taking sensory awareness to areas that the brain has lost conscious control over, in order to gain optimal motor control.
You teach other movement modalities - why focus on Somatics?
My specialist area is Hanna Somatics and my passion is empowering people to be their most active selves. I am a Registered Somatic Movement Educator trained in the tradition of Thomas Hanna by Martha Peterson. I am also qualified in mindfulness, Pilates and am a registered Exercise Referral Practitioner. Nothing I know is as effective as Somatics in liberating individuals from restrictive movement patterns and tension-related pain. Somatics has been, quite simply, the best holistic therapeutic movement I have ever experienced. It has been able to get to the parts that Pilates, yoga and gym work etc were not able to reach. Of course these modalities are useful and healthy in other ways - but Somatics sets out to improve the representation of the body in the brain. By learning efficient, healthy somatic movement and creating greater bodily comfort, then you have greater potential to improve and enjoy your yoga/Pilates/running/sports/gym exercises/dancing/walking/hiking/standing/sitting/general movement/whatever activity you do.
What is the difference between 1:1 Clinical Somatic Education and a Somatics class?
A Somatics class is a guided class. It may be taught by a Somatic Movement Coach who has completed between 4 days and 1 year of training and study, OR by a Hanna Somatic Educator or Clinical Somatic Educator, who has undergone 500 hours of professional training and HSE or ISMETA-endorsed training. Clinical Somatic Education (CSE) is entirely personalised to each individual client, and can only be delivered by a certified Clinical Somatic Educator who has undergone the 500 hour training. (Students enrolled on the CSE course may also offer sessions as part of their training). CSE is a hands-on session where the client will undergo the experience of one of our protocols, based on a consultation and movement, gait and postural assessments. You will usually have several sessions over a few weeks to address different area of the body, for example flexor muscles at the front of the body, extensors at the back of the body or lateral musculature. We're not trying to correct your posture, instead we're attempting to give you an experience of your nervous system taking less energy to hold you upright in gravity and teach you how to recreate that experience again and again for yourself.
Tell me more about Clinical Somatic Education
Read more about what to expect from Clinical Somatic Education here
Why is it called 'Education' and not 'Therapy'?
Somatic Education and 'hands on' Clinical Somatic Education are not about not about having something done to you - they involve proprioceptive and movement education so you learn self-efficacy.
What do clients say?
Read one lady's response to having a Clinical Somatic Education Session after coming to Somatics classes here.
Read testimonials from my clients here.
Tell me more about your experience
Read my story here.
Somatic Education and 'hands on' Clinical Somatic Education really work. It is not just therapy where you have something done to you - it is education so you learn how to manage yourself in the long-term. Read testimonials from my clients here. Read my story here.