Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

If this method is so effective why hasn’t my doctor heard of it?

With the exception of physiotherapists and many sports medicine specialists, most doctors are not trained to work with muscle dysfunction, posture and movement. Most doctors are trained to work with pathologies, prevent diseases, help keep us healthy and perform surgery. More and more doctors, however, are learning about Somatic Education in an effort to provide their patients with the most effective, sensible approach to long term pain relief. They are finding that it is an effective and safe method to solving common problems related to posture, inflexibility and recurring injury.

How is Somatics different from other pain relief methods?

The biggest differences between Somatic Education and any other pain relief method currently available are these:

  • SE practitioners understand that you are the only one who can sense, feel and move your body. Therefore, when it comes to muscle dysfunction no one can fix you but yourself. They know they cannot fix you from the outside; rather, that you need to be taught how to release and relax your own muscles from the inside out.
  • SE goes to the root of your muscle pain: your brain and the way in which it senses and controls muscles. The brain controls the muscles. SE teaches you to re-train your brain – the command center – to release and relax your muscles so you can regain proper function again.
  • SE is ACTIVE: because your brain controls your muscles, you must do the work to change what your muscles are doing. Muscles only learn through movement. Passive methods only confer short term benefits.

More differences include:

  • RAPID PROGRESS: most conditions resolve in between four and six sessions.
  • EDUCATION: Chronically tight muscles have learned to stay tight due to reflexive responses to stress sent through the brain. Changing what a muscle does can only be achieved through re-education of the brain, muscle and movement. With muscle pain there if often nothing to “fix;” the brain’s sensory awareness and control simply needs to be improved.
  • LIFE LONG SKILLS: the exercises, principles and methods of SE are tools you can use for the rest of your life in order to release tight muscles should they return due to stress. You can do these exercises anytime, anywhere in order to stay flexible and active as long as you want.

I’m skeptical. I’m looking for quantitative results.

Good! With all the promises of pain relief out there it’s good to be skeptical and ask questions. In Somatics Education we look for quantitative results, too. This is why we assess your walking pattern, take”before” and “after” photos and ask you to notice the differences between how you feel before and after your sessions.  You will ultimately be the one to determine whether or not Somatics is working for you, because it is your brain that makes the changes in your muscles and movement. The only requirement, however, is that you do the “homework” you’re given: the daily movement patterns. If you don’t do them, you are less likely to see quantitative changes occur for the long term.

Isn’t Somatics as good as stretching?

Simply stated, no.  Stretching in the traditional sense is geared toward passively lengthening a muscle as far as you think it should go. If you try to passively lengthen a muscle that is held tightly at the involuntary level of your brain (the subcortex), you will invoke the stretch reflex. This spinal cord reflex contracts the muscle back against the stretch; it is a protective reflex that prevents muscle trauma.

What we teach you to do is called PANDICULATION. Pandiculation is an active lengthening – similar to a yawn. It is what all animals do each time they rise from rest: they lengthen the muscles from an initial contraction, then slowly release them as far as they will go comfortably. This action occurs in the nervous system and re-sets the muscle length as well as the brain’s sensation and control of the muscle.

Pandiculation confers superior benefits in comparison to any form of stretching presently taught. 

Can I really become pain-free?

Yes, you can. It all depends on your commitment to yourself. Hanna Somatics isn’t magic. In most cases your particular pattern of muscular pain and compensation (or inflexibility) didn’t develop overnight; it took years of adapting to stress or compensating due to an accident or injury. Reversing “bad habits” and retraining internal control and awareness of muscles takes time and practice. Just like maintaining other areas of your health, like brushing your teeth, showering or eating a good breakfast, it can be done if you’re willing to commit to it for as little as 15 minutes.

This makes a lot of sense. Why haven’t I heard of Somatics before?

Actually, sensory motor training, which is what  Somatics is, has been used for decades in both Europe and the United States. It is only now that more people are beginning to seek a more natural, safe, and common sense approach to muscle pain. As a society we are used to pharmaceuticals and short term solutions for muscle pain relief. Most people want to be fixed. The problem is that when it comes to muscle pain, only you can fix yourself!  But with medical costs soaring people are seeking ways to keep themselves healthy and pain-free and more and more people are discovering Somatics for their long term pain relief.

Somatic Education (also known as Clinical Somatic Education), with its emphasis on rapid retraining of the brain to muscle connection, has been used for over 20 years to help people reverse chronic pain. However, in 1990, a third of the way into his first professional certification training, Thomas Hanna died in a car accident. He left 38 students – in the world – trained in his methods. He had a two year waiting list of clients scheduled to see him. About half of the students in his training program decided to continue his work, and from there the professional training program at the Novato Institute for Somatic Research has continued. There are now over 125 certified practitioners world wide.