So what is “Somatics” anyway?!
“Somatics” is the field of movement education that teaches you how to move well. It’s any kind of movement that addresses the connection between the body and the mind and improves the ability to be aware of how you feel in your body. That being said, there are many different methods in the field of “Somatics.” At Essential Somatics, we teach Clinical Somatic Education which is a safe, gentle, and common sense approach to eliminating chronic muscle pain for the long term. Clinical Somatics was developed by Thomas Hanna to target Sensory Motor Amnesia using the technique of pandiculation. Through simple, gentle movements, you learn how to relax the muscles that contribute to your pain and gain strategies for managing it in the future.
I'm new to this. Where do I start?
A Clinical Somatics session with a Certified Clinical Somatic Educator is the best place to begin. We recommend 3–6 hands-on Clinical Somatics sessions reinforced by a daily Essential Somatics® Movement practice. Visit our practitioner directory to find a Clinical Somatic Educator near you.If in-person Clinical Somatics sessions are not possible, then the next best option is private online sessions with a Certified Clinical Somatic Educator. Martha Peterson offers online 1:1 sessions. Click here to schedule a session.
*Best for those with complex patterns of SMA, those needing a more personalized Somatic Movement experience.*
If you want to dive right in, we recommend attending the Essential Somatics® Fundamentals Course. This introductory weekend workshop will help to deepen your understanding of Clinical Somatics and enhance your personal education and exploration. For an online group learning experience, check out our online classes or the Intro to Somatic Movement online series.
*Best for those with less complex patterns of SMA, those who want to learn more about CSE in general.*
If you’re unsure whether Clinical Somatics is right for you, you may schedule a video consultation to have your questions answered.
*Best for those who would like questions answered before committing to classes or sessions, or who would like advice about their pattern of SMA.*
Which muscular pain conditions does Clinical Somatics help to relieve?
Clinical Somatics helps to relieve many common pain conditions such as chronic back, neck, and shoulder pain, and sciatica as well as other hip joint and knee pain. Read more about the muscular pain conditions Clinical Somatics helps to alleviate.
How can Clinical Somatic Education (CSE) help me?
Clinical Somatic Education is a method that helps you sense, feel, and control yourself in as comfortable a way as possible. To that end, you can use Essential Somatics® Movements and the principles of CSE in a variety of ways that can help you create more optimum movement habits (sitting, standing, reaching, walking):
- To release, relax, and reset muscles that won’t relax for the long term no matter what methods you’ve tried.
- To prepare yourself and your muscles for movement.
- To restore muscle function, balance, and comfort after recuperating from an accident or surgery.
- To reconnect to yourself on a physical level as an adjunct to talk therapy or trauma therapy.
- As a complementary modality to physical therapy, massage therapy, meditation, or other methods of healthcare.
- To maintain functional movement so you can do what you love to do for as long as you live.
I am trying to release tension in a specific area of my body. What should I do?
Most muscle pain conditions are the result of a full body pattern of Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA); therefore it is crucial to begin with movements that address the muscles of the front, back and sides of the body before focusing on a specific area. If you are not experiencing success through independent learning, we recommend scheduling a 1:1 in-person or online session.
I don’t have muscle pain. Can Clinical Somatics still help me?
If you are not currently experiencing muscle pain or tension, Clinical Somatics can help to keep it that way! What we teach at Essential Somatics® helps you to re-educate your nervous system to create more mobility, less tension, and ultimately less compression in the joints. More motion results in more nourishment to all of the tissues, nerves, joints, ligaments, tendons, etc.
Clinical Somatic Education and Essential Somatics® Movement predominantly helps with muscle pain, symptoms associated with muscle pain, and muscle tension that appears in the stress reflex patterns that can contribute to movement restrictions, general physical discomfort, and structural issues. If your Sensory Motor Amnesia is addressed before it creates any of the pain, restriction, or structural issues mentioned above, you’ll be taking a proactive step in your ability to remain pain-free.
Can I do Essential Somatics® (ES) Movements while doing another movement-based practice or workout routine?
A daily practice of ES Movements prepares you to move well, and often better, in other areas of your life. However, if you are just starting the process of resolving chronic muscle pain or discomfort, it is best to focus solely on your ES Movements until you feel more comfortable and in control of your body and movement. Focusing on one modality at a time also gives your brain time to integrate the changes you make so that when you get back to your yoga/Pilates/sports you experience more balance, control, and awareness.
Can I do these movements while seated or standing?
Yes! The beauty of Essential Somatics® Movement is that you can create your own routine to adapt certain movements to your environment. For example, movements such as the Flower are typically done lying down on the floor, but can also be done while seated. The Human X is done on the floor and is very similar to Reach to the Top Shelf which is done while standing. You can explore these movements on your own, and if you feel you need additional guidance you can schedule a video consultation, private session, or attend one of our online classes for seated and standing movements.
Can Clinical Somatics help tension and muscle pain caused by emotional trauma/stress?
Absolutely. Clinical Somatics is highly effective at addressing this issue. Emotional and psychological stress sits throughout your entire body and the sensory motor system. Emotional stress can cause us to lose our sense of self. One of the benefits of Clinical Somatics is a deeper understanding of one’s emotional state and happiness. A combination of Clinical Somatics and counseling can be highly effective at addressing emotional stress and the physical manifestations of it.
Can Clinical Somatics help with post-op?
If you have been cleared for movement by your doctor (e.g. your doctor has given you approval to return to normal movement or recommended sessions with a PT), then Clinical Somatics would be appropriate. We teach you how to restore full brain-to-muscle control and sensation (sensory motor control) through gentle, easy movements. We recommend that those that would like to use Clinical Somatics to help with post-op to schedule private in-person sessions or online sessions with a Certified Clinical Somatic Educator. In-person sessions provide the opportunity for hands-on assistance which is helpful for sensing your movement and your SMA more easily. If you are unsure if Clinical Somatic Education is right for you, please schedule a video consultation.
Which Essential Somatics® (ES) Movements should I do? How often? How long?
There are many helpful ES Movements, but there is no “one routine fits all” approach because everyone has different needs and different patterns of SMA. If you would like to receive a brief assessment and a personalized recommendation for a daily ES Movement practice, please schedule a video consultation.
Below is the recommended approach to structuring a daily ES Movement practice:
- Start with a Soma Scan to bring awareness to how you feel in your body before you start your practice.
- Movements that address the front, back, and sides of the body. (E.g. Arch & Flatten, Arch & Curl, Back Lift, Side Bend)
- Movements that address rotation (Washrag, Steeple Twist, Invert/Evert).
- Movements that address specific areas. Note: This step may not be necessary if movements done previously during your movement practice address any “problem areas.”
- End with a Soma Scan to bring awareness to how you feel in your body now that you’ve completed your practice..
We recommend doing your ES Movement practice twice each day: once in the morning and once in the evening. Ideally, a daily ES Movement practice is about 15 minutes long. If you find that you need to do a longer practice, that’s OK too, but don’t overdo it! Movements should be done slowly and intentionally and remember to only do as much as is comfortable. If any movements are causing pain or aggravating existing pain, stop your practice and seek advice from a Certified Clinical Somatic Educator.
What is the best time to do my Essential Somatics® (ES) Movement practice?
ES Movement can provide a variety of benefits depending on how and when you use them. When done as a morning routine, they help to “wake up” and mobilize your muscles, bring you into a present-moment experience of your body, and prepare you to move for the day. When done in the evening, they are an excellent way to “shake off” the stress of the day and reset your muscles to a more relaxed state before bedtime.
An ES Movement practice before and after a workout will teach your brain and muscles to use only the muscles you need, resulting in efficiency of movement, more energy, and fewer injuries. First, prepare your muscles for movement before a workout; “de-activate” them afterwards to reduce any built-up tension. You can personalize your ES Movement routine depending on your activity or sport.
These Essential Somatics® (ES) Movements are causing pain, making my pain worse, or aren’t helping. What should I do?
ES Movements should not cause pain! If certain movements are causing pain, you likely have Sensory Motor Amnesia in that pattern and are having difficulty utilizing the proper muscles for that specific ES Movement. If you find yourself in this situation, we recommend scheduling an online or in-person private session with a Certified Clinical Somatic Educator (CCSE).
Other factors to consider if you feel as though ES Movements aren’t helping:
- Number of Clinical Somatics sessions you’ve had. We recommend between 3-6 hands-on sessions with a CCSE and regular ES Movement classes for best results. Patience, persistence and follow-through are critically important.
- How long you have worked with ES Movements. You’re most likely not going to experience results immediately! Clinical Somatics is education and you are learning a new skill; releasing tight muscles and restoring efficient, easeful movement is a process that takes time.
- How you do your ES Movements. These movements should be done slowly, intentionally, and luxuriously (like a yawn); rushed or forced movements that are done without stopping and sensing will not yield the same results.
- How frequently you do your ES Movement practice. Approach your ES Movement practice as you would your dental hygiene routine: Brushing and flossing daily will help to prevent tooth decay, cavities, and other issues. If you brush once a week, that’s not going to help much! The same is true for your ES Movement routine: Do your practice daily to ensure that you are taking active steps toward addressing any SMA that you accumulate throughout your day.
- Whether you live your life with awareness. Awareness of your movement habits and of your emotional responses to stress are the biggest factors. Awareness of these things will help you to better notice when and where your SMA shows up in your body.
How long should it take before I see results?
Most people experience results within the first week of learning ES Movements and practicing daily, but it all depends on:
- How long you’ve had SMA (injury, etc.) Some people see results almost immediately, but those with more long-standing SMA or a history of injury or trauma may take longer.
- How (and how often) you do your daily ES Movement practice. An ES Movement practice that is done every day in a slow, intentional manner will yield the best results. Rushed or forced movements that are done infrequently will yield few (if any!) results.
- How long you’ve been doing your ES Movement practice or how many sessions you’ve had with your local CCSE. The effects of ES Movement may not be noticed immediately, so it is critical to be patient, apply the learning wherever you can in your life, and seek additional advice if you feel that you need it. Many people need additional, hands-on guidance as well to help sense muscles that have been stuck for years.
- Whether you apply what you learn to how you live your life (response to stress, physical habits, emotional life, etc.). Remember that your daily habits can create SMA. The benefit of ES Movements and clinical sessions is that you can learn a more efficient way of moving and being, making you more resilient to the stresses of your life.
I’ve been doing Essential Somatics® Movements on my own, but I'm not sure if I'm doing them right. What should I do?
The very definition of Sensory Motor Amnesia means that you can’t feel what you can’t feel and you can’t move what you can’t feel. As you learn on your own you may not be aware that you are doing the movements with your pattern of Sensory Motor Amnesia. You may think you are doing a movement in the most optimum way, yet you’re not successfully releasing your tension. Or, perhaps, you’re not activating the right muscles for a movement because your SMA is preventing you from sensing them properly. A skillful teacher can help you become aware of how to notice your own patterns so you can begin to release them more accurately and easily.
Can I really become pain-free?
Yes, you can! It all depends on your commitment to yourself. Clinical Somatic Education isn’t magic. In most cases your particular pattern of muscular pain and compensation 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.
Are you affiliated with ISMETA or any Somatic Movement organizations?
Our CSE program is ISMETA approved and all our faculty are ISMETA certified.
What’s the difference between Clinical Somatics, Hanna Somatics, Alexander Technique, and Feldenkrais?
Hanna Somatic Education (also known as Clinical Somatic Education), the Feldenkrais Method and the Alexander Technique are all somatic practices—methods that focus on developing awareness of ourselves, with a view to opening up and/or improving our ability to move and sense.
HSE and CSE are the same method, with one main difference: only graduates from the Novato Institute may refer to their work as HSE; all other practitioners use CSE. This practice was developed by Thomas Hanna from the Feldenkrais Method. Feldenkrais was influenced by, yet is distinct from, the Alexander Technique.
The specific differences between CSE and other somatic practices are that CSE explains how we respond to stress (the “stress” reflexes), how chronic muscle pain develops (resulting in Sensory Motor Amnesia) and most importantly, uses a technique highly effective in releasing muscle tension and restoring control, movement and sensation (Pandiculation). It is these three elements that define CSE.
A further difference is that within CSE there are defined Essential Somatics® Movements so that you can easily build a personal practice. Both the Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais Method are a form of Somatic Education that addresses muscle tension in general, yet they lack the specificity and understanding of reflexes found in CSE and are somewhat nebulous in their application of how someone can create change independently without the help of a practitioner.
Which lessons are right for me?
Without assessing your condition during an in-person clinical or online session, it is difficult to say. We always recommend starting with Pain Relief Through Movement, as it addresses the full body and our ability to flex, extend, side bend, and rotate the center of the body. Once you learn to release the muscles of the back, front and sides of the body, as well as regain the ability to gently twist the torso, then it is OK to move on to a more specialized resource for additional learning and support. Use the chart below to determine which resource may be best for you:
Neck and Shoulders
- relaxing the muscles that connect the back, neck, and shoulders
- improving posture
- relieving pain from sitting, computer use, or driving
Pain Conditions: Neck and shoulder pain, slumped posture, “stiff” neck and rigid shoulders, disc problems, TMD/TMJ, carpal tunnel syndrome, shallow breathing, tension headaches, frozen shoulder
Leg & Hip Joints
- improving walking, running, dancing, and other activities
- improving mobility, coordination and muscle control in leg and hip joints
Pain conditions: Leg, hip, knee, and ankle pain, sciatica, platar fasciitis, piriformis syndrome, sacroiliac pain, leg length discrepancy, tight/painful hip joints, uneven gait due to injury or surgery
- improving form, muscle balance and efficiency
- preventing recurring injuries and recovering from recent ones
- overcoming training injuries that compromise performance
Pain conditions: Tight hamstrings and quadriceps, tight psoas, calves or gluteal muscles
- Relaxing the musciles that connect the back, neck and shoulders
- improving posture and enhance your ability to self-correct your posture during the day
- increasing energy, effectiveness and mental focus
Pain conditions: Neck, shoulder, back, and hip pain, slumped posture, “stiff” neck, TMD, carpal tunnel, shallow breathing, tension headaches, or fatigue.
Are your video lessons available in other languages?
No, currently all our video lesson products are only available in English.
What is your return/refund policy?
We do not offer refunds for online video lessons.
I’m having trouble accessing my video lessons. What do I do?
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
Online Classes & 1:1 Sessions
How do I book my appointment?
Scroll to the “Book Your Session” section of this page. Click on the type of session that you would like to schedule. Note: If you have not had a private online or in-person session with Martha Peterson in the last 3 years, you will need to schedule a 90-minute INITIAL Session. Once you’ve selected the type of session, select your local time zone from the dropdown menu and click “Set timezone.” Use the calendar to find an available slot. Available dates turn blue when you hover over them. You may scroll to a different month by using the dropdown menu or the arrow keys. (Please note that sessions may only be booked up to 8 weeks in advance.) Click the date that you want, click the time from available listed times, then click the “Continue” button that appears. Follow the prompts until you’ve submitted payment and you’re all set!
How do I reschedule or cancel my appointment?
Appointments must be rescheduled or canceled at least 24 hours in advance.
To reschedule your appointment:
Scroll to the top of the page and click “login” in the top right corner (above the navigation menu). Enter your details and click “Log in.” On the page that appears, select the appointment you want to change and use the calendar to select another time. Follow the steps and confirm your change. You can also reschedule your appointment through your confirmation or reminder email. Open the email, click the “View/Edit my booking” button, then click the “Reschedule” button. Use the calendar to select another time. Follow the steps and confirm your change.
To cancel your appointment:
Please email email@example.com to cancel your appointment.
How do you conduct your online classes and sessions?
Our online services are held via Zoom. You will receive login information when you register for a class or schedule your session.
Does my camera need to be on in order to attend class?
We highly recommend that you have a working camera for attending an online class so that the teacher can provide feedback.
Do participants receive a recording?
Audio recordings are only available to participants of the Intro to Somatic Movement online series and to clients who receive private online sessions. Video recordings are not available.
Which online class is right for someone new to Essential Somatics® Movement?
Any of our online classes are appropriate for newcomers unless otherwise noted.
Should I do classes or sessions?
If you are new to Clinical Somatics, we recommend starting with at least one private session. This is so you can be introduced to the method and become familiar with how we do Essential Somatics® Movements. Once you’ve established a regular practice, classes are a great way to find fresh inspiration. It’s also important to be guided through the movements from time to time, as this allows your brain to find new information about how you’re moving. You may then wish to return periodically to individual sessions to address a particular issue or if you feel you’re not making the progress that you’d hoped for.
In Person Events
(Retreats and Fundamentals)
I’ve already learned the movements from your products. Is there any benefit to attending the Fundamentals Course?
The very reason we do Essential Somatics® Movements is because we have Sensory Motor Amnesia—we have forgotten how to efficiently sense and control our muscles. By definition, we cannot move what we cannot sense. The Fundamentals Course is a live 2-day experience where you’ll receive gentle hands-on teacher guidance that will greatly improve your sensory awareness. You’ll see live demonstrations of the movements and you can get your questions answered in real time, so you go home with more clarity on how to do your practice. You’ll learn all about the principles and concepts that underpin this work:the science, philosophy and techniques that make this method so successful. This is an immersive experience away from the distractions of everyday life, where you will experience the power of connecting and sharing a space with others who feel the same as you.
This course is the foundational learning that we recommend to anyone wanting to learn more about this work, and it is a requirement for those who train to be certified educators and movement teachers. If you are already enjoying what you are learning from Move Without Pain or our other products, then you will love the Fundamentals Course.
I’ve taken introductory classes/training courses with other Somatic Educators that are not in your practitioner directory. Does this fulfill the Fundamentals prerequisite?
No. Somatic Educators that have not completed training with Essential Somatics use different language, movement variations, teaching cues, and take a different approach to addressing how Sensory Motor Amnesia shows up. In order to be fully prepared for an advanced Essential Somatics program, all prospective students are required to attend the Fundamentals taught by Essential Somatics.
What is your cancellation policy for Essential Somatics events?
Please review our cancellation policy here.
Training Courses Questions
Do you offer discounts/scholarships?
We regularly offer early bird discounts on our events and courses. These are only valid for a defined period of time after the event or course is launched. We also regularly run promotions offering discounts on our whole range of products. To be notified of these promotions, sign up to our newsletter.
We do not currently offer scholarships, although we hope to be able to do this in the future.
I have certifications and many years of experience in another field of bodywork and/or movement. Can you waive the Fundamentals prerequisite for the ESMTT?
No. Due to the progressive nature of the work, the Essential Somatics® Fundamentals Course must be completed in order to be eligible for the ESMTT. Because Clinical Somatic Education is a completely different paradigm that requires as much—or more—experiential learning as it does intellectual learning, even those with prior movement teaching experience must follow this progression.
I want to apply, but your ESMTT courses are sold out or are currently underway. What can I do?
If an ESMTT program is sold out, you may still submit your application. If accepted, you will be placed on a waiting list and notified via email if a space becomes available. If a space does not become available you will have priority registration for the next ESMTT program.
If all ESMTT programs are currently underway, please add yourself to the waiting list so that you are notified when new training dates are announced.
What is the difference between the ESMTT and the CSET?
Essential Essential Somatics® Movement Teacher Training (ESMTT) program: A yearlong training course for those interested in certifying to become an Essential Essential Somatics® Movement Teacher in order to teach groups or in a one-to-one setting. Prerequisite training: Fundamentals Course.
Clinical Somatic Education Training (CSET): A 3-year certification program for those interested in certifying to become a Clinical Somatic Educator. Graduates will be certified to assess individual clients, teach Essential Somatics® Movements, use hands-on techniques to facilitate the client’s ability to restore sensory motor control, and more. CCSEs are able to conduct Essential Somatics® Movement classes as well as work clinically with clients. Prerequisite training: ESMTT.
Do I need to take the entire ESMTT program to be eligible for the CSE program?
Yes. Prospective CSET students are required to successfully complete the ESMTT before they are considered eligible for the CSET.
Do you provide continuing education (CE) credits?
No, continuing education credits are not currently available.
If you couldn’t find the answers to your questions on this FAQ page, please contact us using the form below.