Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
If your pain is caused by chronic muscular tension, yes. And a large percentage of chronic pain complaints are the result of chronic muscle tension. Once you learn how to do Somatic Movements correctly, regular practice of the movements will go a long way towards resolving any muscular pain you may be experiencing, and ensuring it doesn’t return in the future. And if you do happen to hurt yourself, you will know what to do.
However Somatics is not magic, there is a learning curve. If you have a long standing complaint you will certainly need multiple lessons. Learning takes time and repetition. If you are diligent with your practice, and committed to learning, positive results are inevitable.
How many sessions you will need depends on several factors:
- The severity of the issues.
- How you respond to the work.
- And most importantly, your willingness to learn and to participate in the process with your home practice.
If you have a chronic muscular pain that you would like to address I recommend committing to at least 3 private sessions. Progress can then be reviewed at this point although most clients report substantial improvements from the first session.
For optimal results, sessions are scheduled weekly. You will be expected to practice the movements daily in between your weekly private sessions. This dailiy practice is essential to ensuring you get the most from Somatics. The movements are only effective if you actually practice them.
When your series of private sessions is completed you can continue to practice the Somatic movements so you can remain pain free and comfortable going forward. You could also consider attending a workshop once or twice a year, or signing up to a regular class. There is always more to learn.
Somatic Movements should ideally be practiced daily, morning and night. At the very least you should strive to practice once daily. Remember you are learning new ways to sense and move your muscles, as such, consistent and regular practice is required.
The more you practice the faster you can expect to progress. Conversely the less you practice the less progress you will make.
How many repetitions should you do? There are no set numbers of repetitions, you do as many repetitions as you feel you need. If you focus on quality over quantity you will not go wrong.
There are many benefits to learning and practicing Somatics, such as;
- Less muscle pain
- Less tension
- Improved sensory awareness
- Improved motor (muscle) control
- Increased relaxation
- Stress Relief
- Reduce anxiety
- Improved posture
- Freer breathing
- Deeper more restful sleep
- Better movement quality
- Improved balance & coordination
- Improved mobility & flexibility
- Physical independence
- Improved sporting performance
When the physical body is relaxed and comfortable the mind will inevitably feel calmer too. Clients often comment on the calming effects that the practice has on the mind. This becomes obvious the more you practice Somatics. You begin to understand that the mind and the body are experientially one. You can think of Somatics as a form of moving meditation.
Somatics is very effective in improving or resolving many common complaints, such as;
Low back pain, Mid back pain, Upper back pain, Neck pain, Jaw Pain, Shoulder pain, Hip Pain, SI Joint pain, Piriformis syndrome, Sciatica, Tennis Elbow, Golfer’s Elbow, Tension Headaches, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Achilles Tendonitis, Groin Strains, Psoas Pain, Repetitive Strain Injuries, Bursitis and more…
For resolution of these types of conditions plan on 3-6 Private Sessions and developing a regular Somatic movement practice.
“Somatics” is an umbrella term for a particular class of embodied movement practices such as Hanna Somatics, Feldenkrais, Alexander Technique etc.
Hanna Somatics is a particular system of Somatic Education developed by Dr. Thomas Hanna PhD. Hanna couldn’t legally trademark the term ‘Somatics’ so he had to add his name to it to differentiate it from Feldenkrais Method, Alexander Technique, and other Somatic practices.
Essential Somatics is a school of Somatic Education run by Martha Peterson. Martha is herself a Certified Hanna Somatic Practitioner. and teaches in the tradition of Thomas Hanna. Graduates of Martha’s Essential Somatics Trainings are called Clinical Somatic Educators. Hanna’s work is the only method of Somatic Education that uses Pandiculation, and recognises Sensory Motor Amnesia and The Three Reflexes.
The main differences are as follows.
- Somatics is not a Therapy (hence the name Learn Somatics). Somatics focuses on client education rather than a treatment based model. Therapy/bodywork is done TO you, where as Somatics is done BY you, with guidance, and hands on feedback from your practitioner. YOU are an active participant in the process, learning Somatic movements that you can use at home (or anywhere) to continue to improve indefinitely. The goal is to learn enough so that you will be able to resolve any muscle pain/movements issues that you may experience, yourself.
- The recognition of Sensory Motor Amnesia as a cause of many chronic muscular pain conditions. Muscles that are chronically contracted are tense, tight, tender and painful. These contracted muscles can’t be sensed clearly by the brain/central nervous system, and so in turn, can’t be used optimally. They also cause pain, discomfort and restricted movement. The goal of Clinical Somatics is to teach clients how to take themselves from a state of Sensory Motor Amnesia to a state of Sensory Motor Awareness. This can only be done through self directed and self initiated movement. This is achieved through the learning of, and regular practice of, Somatic Movements.
- The recognition of Three Stress Reflexes, common to all humans. How they are triggered, the problems they can cause, and how to resolve them…
The primary difference between Somatics and other movement practices is the goal. The goal of Somatics is to improve Sensory Motor Awareness, release chronic muscle tension and improve our ability to sense and move our muscles. We work very specifically with the brain and nervous system in this regard. Whilst Yoga and Pilates are fine practices their goals are different. A regular Somatics practice makes an excellent adjunct to Yoga or Pilates.
Stretching, and particularly static stretching does not resolve Sensory Motor Amnesia. When we stretch we are at the mercy of the Stretch Reflex. The Stretch Reflex is a protective automatic response mechanism built into the spinal cord. It is designed to protect our muscles from injury. Because it is a spinal cord reflex, there is no new learning for the brain during a stretch. No learning, no lasting change.
Pandiculation engages the brain, is faster, more effective and feels better.
If your muscles are very tightly contracted then initially there maybe a little discomfort when you do the movements, but this will subside very quickly as you gently contract and then relax the muscles in question. But aside from the scenario described Somatic Movements do not cause pain and are pleasurable to practice. Somatic movements are designed to re-establish the normal movement patterns of the human body, as long as you move slowly and gently you will have no problems.
If you are experiencing pain and/or discomfort during or after your practice there are a few potential problems.
You are using too much effort. Somatics must be done gently. This can be a challenging concept in our ‘more is better’, ‘harder, faster’ culture. Slow down, see how gently you can do the movements. The less effort you use the more you will be able to feel, and the better your results will be.
You are doing the movement incorrectly. This is usually the most obvious answer. Because you are learning new movements, it may take you a while to perform them correctly. This is normal. Often what we think we are doing, and what we are actually doing are very different. But if you move slowly, with care and attention to what you can feel, you will soon find your way.
- You have just released some muscles that have been contracted for a very long time. When we first release muscles that have been contracted for a very long time, it is common to experience some residual soreness. This will dissipate naturally as the muscles lengthen, normal blood flow returns and freedom of movement is restored. Within a day or two, with continued practice of the movements, you can expect to feel much better.
If you have a chronic muscular pain complaint that you would like to address I recommend committing to at least 3 private sessions.
If you are just looking to improve movement or relieve general stiffness then a class/workshop, online or in person, is a great option.
The ideal choice though is to come for private sessions AND take a regular class.
Remember you are learning, so the more opportunities you get to learn under supervision the faster you will progress!
It is not recommended to mix modalities for the duration of your private sessions. This allows you to make an honest assessment of Somatics in isolation from other methods. If you engage in two or three modalities at once it is difficult to ascertain which is conferring the most benefit and what the effects of each are. Commit to the process, practice the movements, and evaluate it when you have learned the material.
No, strenuous activity right after a session is not recommended. Allow 24 hours so your brain can consolidate the new learning. A brisk walk however is very helpful after a session as it helps to integrate the changes that occur during a session. It is very common to feel tired and relaxed after a private session or class, so clear your schedule after your session, and maybe even have a nap if possible.
Yes, Somatics is suitable for all ages, the movements are safe, gentle, easy to learn and performed slowly, making them achievable for anyone. As long as you can get up and down off the floor you can do Somatics. If you can’t get up and down off the floor, the movements can be done in bed to start with although this does make them somewhat less effective. There are also seated version of the most fundamental movements.
All you need to practice Somatics is a quiet room with adequate floor space, a comfortable mat or rug to lay on and an open, inquisitive mind!