Frequently Asked Questions

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

With the exception of physiatrists 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. The good news is that more and more doctors are learning about Somatic Education in an effort to provide their patients with the most effective and sensible approach to long-term pain relief. They are finding that it is a safe and effective method to solving common problems related to muscle pain, posture, inflexibility, and recurring injury.

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How is Hanna Somatics different from other pain relief methods?

The most significant differences between Hanna Somatic Education (HSE) and any other pain relief method currently available are:

  • HSE 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 taught how to release and relax your own muscles from the inside out.
  • HSE 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. HSE teaches you to retrain your brain - the command center of your muscles - to release and relax your muscles so you can regain proper muscle function again.
  • HSE teaches you to eliminate SENSORY MOTOR AMNESIA, the condition that develops over time when we learn to hold ourselves tightly in response to pain, injury, surgery, or stress. This occurs on a brain level - in the central nervous system. Our brain literally "forgets" how to relax the muscles.
  • HSE addresses chronic muscle pain by targeting the THREE STRESS REFLEXES of muscular holding. These full body reflex patterns are common to all human beings; once the full body pattern is released, muscle function improves and pain goes away.
  • HSE uses the technique of PANDICULATION to teach you to reset muscle length and control at the level of the brain and nervous system. This technique gets the brain back in control of the muscular system and is the safest, most effective means to releasing chronically tight muscles.
  • HSE 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 reeducation of the brain, muscle, and movement. With muscle pain there is 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 HSE 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.

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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 Hanna Somatics 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. Your active participation is the key - no different than learning to play a sport or an instrument. If you don't practice, you're not going to hone the skills (in this case, renewed awareness, control and physical independence) you're looking for.

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How is Somatics different from Yoga?

One of the most outstanding differences is that there is a big emphasis on stretching in contemporary American yoga. Stretching invokes the “stretch reflex,” a spinal cord reflex, which re-contracts the muscles in order to protect them from harm. This reflex often makes muscles tighter than they were before. The stretch reflex protects the muscle from injury.  Instead of stretching, Hanna Somatics teaches clients to pandiculate: clients learn to contract the muscles first, then lengthen them - only as far as is comfortable - and then completely relax them, all in full body movement patterns. This is a profoundly effective way to safely reset the resting contraction level of the muscles. Yoga can be done in this way too, but it requires increased sensory awareness of one’s posture and integrated movement, rather than using the body and gravity to stretch the muscles.

Hanna Somatic Education is also designed to teach you to reverse the very specific condition of Sensory Motor Amnesia (which presents within three specific full body reflex patterns) in order to eliminate chronic muscle pain and improve the brain's control of muscles and movement. Emphasis is placed on regaining conscious, balanced control of the muscular system rather than on holding poses and stretching muscles. The somatic exercises themselves recreate, then de-create these reflex patterns in order to develop self-regulation in response to stress.

Many practitioners of Yoga suffer from Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA), which restricts them from enjoying the full benefits of their practice. When you learn to reverse your SMA, your Yoga practice will improve and you will notice an improvement in your ability to move equally on both sides when doing your asanas. Many Yoga teachers are now learning to teach Somatic Exericses in the Essential Somatics® Somatic Exercise Coach Training.

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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.

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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 per day.

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How often does one need Hanna Somatics Sessions?

It is beneficial to initially commit to three sessions of Somatics. This will give you a chance to address all three specific reflex patterns of the body: the Red Light Reflex (front of the body), Green Light Reflex (back muscles), and Trauma Reflex (side muscles of twisting). Most clients generally need between three and five sessions. Continuing classes and workshops are highly recommended in order to continue your progress, and reinforce awareness and good movement habits. The goal of Hanna Somatics is to teach you to regain your own sense of physical independence so that you cease to become dependent upon myriad practitioners to "fix" you.  It is, ultimately, education, the goal of which is to teach you to be responsible, aware and in control of how you move your body and respond to the stresses of everyday life. The more you know, the better you'll feel and the more control you will have over your own body. This is the key to long-term pain relief.

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

Actually, sensory motor training, which is what Hanna 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 Americans 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 Hanna Somatics for their long-term pain relief.

Hanna 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.

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Which muscular pain conditions does Hanna Somatics help to relieve?

Hanna Somatics helps to relieve many common pain conditions such as chronic back pain, neck and shoulder pain, and sciatica as well as other hip joint and knee pain. Read more about the muscular pain conditions Hanna Somatics helps to alleviate.

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