The human body is not an instrument to be used, but a realm of one’s being to be experienced, explored, enriched, and thereby, educated.Thomas Hanna, Founder of Clinical Somatic Education

Clinical Somatic Education (CSE)

a.k.a: Somatics, Somatic Movement Education, Hanna Somatics, Hanna Somatic Education

These different terms come from different schools, but are all based on the work and findings of Thomas Hanna.

Hanna coined the term “somatics” in 1976 to refer to the discipline of movement re-education, which fosters internal awareness of one’s body. To experience something somatically is to be aware of your own bodily sensations and movement from within. Somatic perception is your first-person experience of what it’s like to be in your body. By this definition, other modalities such as Qi Gong, Yoga, Dance etc are considered forms of somatic education, however, it is Thomas Hanna’s discovery of Sensory Motor Amnesia, and his understanding of the reflex patterns our bodies create in response to stress, that distinguish Hanna Somatic Education from other modalities.

Through 20 years of clinical practice Hanna discovered that when muscles become habitually and involuntarily contracted due to real-life stresses such as accidents, injuries, surgeries, illnesses, repetitive movements, and even emotional and psychological stress, not only do those muscles lose their ability to relax, but the brain actually loses sensation of the muscles and forgets how to release them. We lose our ability to voluntarily sense ourselves internally and thus control our muscles and movement. The result is tight, “frozen”, sore muscles, joint stiffness, a loss of smooth controlled movement, chronic pain, shallow breathing, anxiety, low energy and lack of mental focus.

Paraphrased from “Move Without Pain”, Martha Peterson

Somatics is different than other methods of pain relief because it…

  • • Is EDUCATION: chronically tight muscles have learned to stay tight due to reflexive responses to stress sent from the brain. Teaching muscles to relax requires education to improve brain control of both sensation and movement. It offers LIFE LONG SKILLS to use for the rest of your life so that you can reverse muscle pain should it come back due to stress or injury.
  • • Teaches you to reverse Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA), through a technique called “PANDICULATION”.  When massage, chiropractic, heat, cold, stretching, physiotherapy, or anything else won’t relax your muscles long term, you likely have SMA. Pandiculation is a method to “wake-up” the sensory-motor cortex. Its a 3 part movement that involves (1) gentle contraction of your muscles (2) a yawn-like slow, controlled release of those muscles (3) complete relaxation before movement starts again.
  • • Teaches STRESS RESILIENCE and SELF-AWARENESS. The more aware you are of how you respond to daily stresses the better able you are to self-correct and improve. More self-awareness means more ability to adapt and improve. You can’t change anything you aren’t aware of.
  • • Is ACTIVE. The only way to permanently change a muscle’s tone is to engage one’s brain through movement because it’s the brain and nervous system that control muscles. You hold the key to changing how you feel and what your muscles are doing. Passive methods only offer short term benefits.

  • GETS TO THE ROOT of your muscle pain: your brain and the way in which it senses and controls muscles. You learn to re-train your brain – the command center of your muscles in order to release and relax them for improved muscle function, control and long term pain relief.
  • • Teaches you to RELEASE FULL BODY PATTERNS of muscular tightness that compromises your ability to move efficiently and easily. The problem is never just one muscle! These patterns present themselves as back pain, neck/shoulder pain, TMJ, sciatica, scoliosis, leg length discrepancy and other common muscle pain conditions.

Clinical Protocols (1-1)

on a wide, low table
  • customized personal attention + detailed intake
  • Before and After Assessments (posture, walking + pulsing)
  • step by step protocols and lessons are based on your presenting reflex patterns and symptoms (stress reflex patterns are released and addressed 1 at a time)
  • Your educator provides hands on feedback with verbal coaching
  • use clinical techniques built upon movements: Palpation, Meanswhereby, Kinetic Mirroring, Assisted pandiculation, quick release, lock in, integration
  • most effective and rapid method to begin restoring muscle function, improve mobility + freedom of movement, and release your pattern of habituated muscle contraction
  • learn movements for home practice
  • Initial session is 90 min- 105 min. Follow up sessions range between 75 min – 90 min depending on protocol
  • ideal to have at least 4-6 sessions to address all full body patterns but more severe conditions may require additional sessions
  • goal is to teach you how to restore freedom of movement and teach you tools to take care of yourself

Movement Lessons (1-1 or group classes)

Floor practice on your yoga mat or blanket
  • 2 or more people for group classes, 1 teacher
  • self-sensing assessments and soma scans
  • instruction of a variety of somatic movements. explore different sequences based on theme of class
  • more self exploratory, playing with different variations
  • Mostly use self-touch and self-pandiculation for brain feedback
  • deepens learning and helps you maintain changes and improvements from clinical protocols 
  • Goal is to reinforce self-care movements, which are the linchpin to long-term pain relief and efficient movement; a daily practice gives you the ability to manage chronic stress, relieve aches and pains, improve balance, and monitor and improve your movement and posture

Gentle Somatic Yoga (GSY)

Created by James Knight, it’s a style that blends together elements of:           
Hanna Somatic Education, Yoga and Meditation

  • GSY incorporates the technique of “pandiculation”, and the science behind Hanna Somatics to re-program your brain-to-muscle connection at the level of your nervous system; the real change happens during the slow, controlled release rather than the “action or doing” part of the movement.

  • Encourages a slow, gentle and mindful approach to release pain patterns, increase mobility, and create peace in your body where you are guided work within your comfortable range of motion and easeful effort in place of other yoga styles that focus on deep stretching, strengthening or fast transitions.
  • Similar to the foundations of Clinical Somatic Education, the focus is on self-awareness while in process, not just the technique itself.
  • Integrative style that allows for creativity and flexibility in sequence, and combines aspects of yoga and meditation including breathing & pranayama, body scans, visualizations, and principles of energy.

    The benefits of yoga are already well documented and GSY is especially helpful with: unlocking your body’s programmed response to stress, promoting relaxation & peace, improving functional movement for enhanced performance (even into old age), increasing flexibility and range of motion in muscles and joints, enhancing balance and co-ordination and most importantly, helping you create a deeper connection with your body, enabling you to become aware of your habits and tendencies so you can start to take back control of how you move and live.