Sunday, April 19, 2015

Somatic Education

My plan for this post was to begin with a definition of the term Somatic Education. It's not an easy term to define! Thomas Hanna, PhD (1928-1990) combined movement education with neurophysology to create Hannah Somatic Education. He created the method while practicing the techniques of Moshe Feldenkrais.

Long story short and probably inadequate, Somatic Education recognizes that, in chronic pain syndromes, the brain may be essentially locking the muscles in painful contraction. Retrain the brain/muscle connection and you can release the pain. (If you're a practitioner and would like to correct my definition please feel free to do so in the comments area.) The movements are slow and mindful, though not necessarily easy. Yet they are not difficult in a muscle straining, pushup, pull up way but rather more of a pat your head while rubbing your tummy way.

New versions of this technique have popped up and they honestly, were too pricey for me to consider purchasing in order to review. Hannah's works are notable for being a really technical read and the pictures of the exercises are dark and difficult to see. This is especially true of the kindle version of one of his often recommended books, which I immediately returned. I went looking for something more accessible.


I found it in the book, Move Without Pain by Martha Peterson,  a certified Hannah Somatic Educator. With this book Peterson makes Somatic Education accessible to the lay person. She introduces three reflexes, postural patterns if you will, and explains the pain syndromes that can arise from them. Her explanation of my thrust ribs pattern was eerily but totally on the money. Peterson then methodically and clearly demonstrates Somatic Education Movements that can be used to reduce or eliminate the pain created by these reflexes. Finally, she provides sample routines running between 5 and 60 minutes. There is also a list of resource websites and book at the back of the book. The book is a very affordable, complete package for those who can work from a book.

I do recognize that working from a book isn't best for all of us. For that reason I also went looking for an affordable DVD, which I'll review tomorrow.

I believe that Somatic Education could be a great adjunct for those in chronic pain but also anyone studying an exercise method (T-Tapp, Barre, Ballet), form of movement (Ballet or other dance), or sports activity (competitive or not) where there is an emphasis on coordination. This could be especially true for the person who has always felt like uncoordinated.

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