More Power In Your Lifting With the Flower


Brian Justin is one of our 2nd year clinical-practitioners-in-training and is passionate about spreading the word on the benefits of physical activity for health, performance, and injury prevention. Brian is also a professor of kinesiology in Vancouver, BC, a boxing coach, and a strength and conditioning coach. His recent blog post discusses how the Flower can improve your workout routine.

"The Flower is an excellent somatic exercise to help restore ideal length to our pectorals. It utilizes pandiculation...This technique involves contracting a muscle so that it is tighter than its currently tight resting posture. Thereafter, it is lengthened at the speed of a yawn resulting in more length and reduced resting tension. Lastly, a period of relaxation occurs and this allows our brain to process the new information to gain control of the muscle... This happens all without stretching!"

Read more about what Brian has to say about gaining more power in your workout here...

If you are an athlete, fitness instructor, or whether you are merely searching for an effective method through which to improve your ability and performance, be sure to also check out our new Somatics for Athletics workshop, taught by Karyn Clark, CCSE and Martha Peterson, CHSE! In this two-day course, you will learn how Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA) is keeping you from reaching your maximum potential, how to bounce back from muscle injuries, how to apply Somatic Movements to your daily routine, and so much more.

Takeaways from The Myth of Aging - Hollyhock 2017

"Youth has strength, but it does not have skill, which, in the long run, is the most potent strength.   Youth has speed, but it does not have efficiency, which, in the long run, is the only effective way of attaining goals.   Youth is quick, but not deliberate, and deliberation is the only way to make correct decisions...Youth has energy and intelligence, but it does not have the judgment necessary to make the best use of that energy and intelligence.   Youth is a state of be put behind us as we grow taller and deeper and fuller. Unless we understand that life and aging are a process of growth and progress, we will never know the first principles of living."  – From the book,  Somatics , by Thomas Hanna

"Youth has strength, but it does not have skill, which, in the long run, is the most potent strength. Youth has speed, but it does not have efficiency, which, in the long run, is the only effective way of attaining goals. Youth is quick, but not deliberate, and deliberation is the only way to make correct decisions...Youth has energy and intelligence, but it does not have the judgment necessary to make the best use of that energy and intelligence. Youth is a state of be put behind us as we grow taller and deeper and fuller. Unless we understand that life and aging are a process of growth and progress, we will never know the first principles of living."
– From the book, Somatics, by Thomas Hanna


This was my third year teaching The Myth of Aging course at Hollyhock Lifelong Learning Center on Cortes Island, BC. This course was a four-day immersion into Hanna Somatics: the principles, concepts, and somatic movements developed by Thomas Hanna that can guide people to eliminate chronic pain, tension and stress as they learn to reconnect to a safe, intelligent and empowering sense of themselves.

This year was like none I'd ever taught: 17 students, all from different backgrounds, abilities, and ages. These students came from education, nursing, business, yoga, coaching, massage, and physiotherapy backgrounds - and seven of them were over 70! Your age does not determine whether you "fall apart" as you get older; what determines it is how you adapt to the stresses of your life. More and more teenagers are displaying a stooped posture of rounded shoulders and depressed chests. This is no longer the posture of senility – it's the posture of stress. How you engage with what happens in your life, and whether you adapt to it and allow it to define you is what makes the difference in whether you will "fall apart" and slow down, or continue improving, growing, and learning. 

Of the 17 people in this course, there was a group of women all between 75 and 87 years old. They were hikers, musicians, adventurers, and all around butt-kickers: awesome, inspiring ladies who weren't going to slow down as they aged. But they had serious pain; for some, they knew it came from a life of emotional struggle. These women forced and pushed and muscled their way through their movement because it's how they'd learned to adapt to the struggles of their lives. It had worked – up to a point.

Like everyone else in the group, an "aha! moment" was when they learned that our thoughts, emotions, beliefs, mindsets, and physical habits all show up in our bodies either as tension, or as space and freedom. We have the ability to improve our physical experience from the inside out.

These older ladies were the inspiration of the group. They learned that slowing down was the first step in improving their awareness and physical skill. Less is more, and slow can translate into quick, ballistic movement. Their pain began to wane, their bodies straightened up, their hips began to move, their faces changed, and their stories began to come out. It was clear that letting go of tension – through movement – was creating a new possibility of the future for them. They were beginning to hone the skills necessary to stay in the game for many years to come.

Here are a few takeaways from our group. I am always moved by what students learn when they turn their attention inward, use their brain, develop patience and compassion for themselves, and return to the joyful, curious movement they once had as children.

  • "Learning to let go in your body allows more of who you are to come through."
  • "This course was a game changer; now I know I can eliminate my own pain and continue to do what I love."
  • "This work has given me my life back. I am hopeful."
  • "I feel empowered!"
  • "I realize I'm not as 'galumphy' as my wife says I am. I can actually walk smoothly."
  • "I've taken a lot of courses, yet this one will come with me for the rest of my life. I'll use this information and apply it to everything I do."
  • "A lot of older people say 'When you get to a certain age, it's all downhill.' I realize that I have an opportunity to turn it around right now."
  • "We always want to go for complicated stuff. I realized that the basic movements we learned are the building blocks for all movement."

As I left this workshop, I was so incredibly grateful for the learning that I received through the older participants and the group as a whole. When people come together in the pursuit of their willingness to shed old habits and views, and learn – even at an advanced age – it is deeply inspiring.

Hanna Somatics Retreat - Hollyhock


Hollyhock Retreat Center on Cortes Island, BC was founded in 1982 as a center for skill-building and life-long learning. They seek to inspire, nourish and support people whose work serves and educates others in bettering the world.

I love the people who come to workshops at Hollyhock – open, curious, positive – the kind of people who make me more optimistic about our society and the world.

- Andrew Weil, MD

The Myth of Aging at Hollyhock | August 24 - 28, 2016

You can register here or call Hollyhock at 1-800-933-6339 x232 to reserve your spot.

We will explore what Thomas Hanna, Ph.D called "“The Myth of Aging.” This is the Image 14commonly held belief that limited movement, disability and decrepitude is the inevitable result of aging. In reality, it is the way in which we unconsciously adapt to the physical, psychological and emotional stresses of our lives – the accidents, injuries, surgeries, traumas, adaptive behaviors – that determines whether we will become “creaky and old” or maintain our physical freedom, self-awareness, and independence. Participants will experience why it is time to turn the page on that perspective.

Through lectures, movement sessions and interactive participation students will learn:

  • The root cause of most chronic muscle pain – Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA) and how to reverse it IMG_2442
  • How your movement habits and reflexive responses to stress contribute to conditions such as low back pain, neck, shoulder, hip and joint pain, sciatica, and chronic headaches
  • How all humans respond reflexively to stress within three full body reflex patterns
  • How to lengthen muscles and re-set muscle function without painful stretching
  • A simple daily routine of somatic movements that, when practiced regularly, will relieve chronic pain and maintain freedom of movement for the long-term. The result is more fluid, efficient movement, improved breathing, drastic reduction of functional muscle pain, and improved somatic awareness.

Learning [at Hollyhock] is authentic and powerful. The ripple effect far exceeds the physical boundaries of this special place.

Somatics Workshops in Europe - May 2012

This past year has been one of growth for Essential Somatics® and the work of Hanna Somatic Education. I have written a book - Move Without Pain - and produced 4 instructional pain-relief DVDs that teach people how to apply the methods and movements of Hanna Somatics for long term muscle pain relief, and freer, more efficient movement.

Somatics workshops in Europe - May 2012

The good news is that May 2012 sees me in the United Kingdom and Europe for 3 weeks teaching Hanna Somatics.

Here's what will be available:

  • Movement workshops
  • Private clinical sessions
  • Somatics fundamentals intensives

What you can expect from a Hanna Somatics workshop or session with Martha Peterson:

  • Core fundamentals of HSE: philosophy, techniques, science and movements of Hanna  Somatics
  • How this work is different from any other method of pain-relief you've experienced
  • How to apply these methods and tools to your life (fitness routine, rehabilitation, biomechanics)
  • Experience profound and rapid alleviation of pain and freer movement from hands-on clinical sessions.
  • Learn life-long tools to keep your life pain-free.

Everyone can benefit from Somatics:

  • Those with recurring muscular pain and inflexibility who have "tried everything" to relieve it
  • Fitness trainers, Pilates or yoga teachers wanting to learn to apply Somatics principles to their teaching
  • Medical professionals looking for new and safe methods of helping their patients with functional muscle pain
  • Massage therapists, dance teachers, physiotherapists, and other health professionals
  • Athletes, dancers, hikers, runners
  • Those with "poor posture"
  • Office workers, teachers who stand all day, those with a stressful or physically demanding job
  • Those who want to continue to feel good and move easily for as long as they can - no matter their age!

I have enjoyed corresponding with people from all over the world, through email, Skype, and blog posts comments. Now is the time to get together in person to learn more about refining the Somatic Exercises, experiencing deeper, more individualized clinical work, and applying these techniques and methods to your life. The human brain has an extraordinary ability to teach each one of us to  to "fix" ourselves. This information is accessible through Hanna Somatic Education; it is what sets it apart from any other method available.

Come learn more about Somatics!

Essential Somatics Workshop Is a Big Success in India

I just finished up two days of Essential Somatics "Pain Relief Through Movement" workshops here in Chennai, India. In addition to the two workshops offered, I've been working with private clients in order to help them to reverse the muscle pain that they hadn't been able to get rid of up until now: back pain, sciatica, neck, shoulder, hip and knee pain. The classes were packed, and all were amazed at the differences not only in their movement, but also in the decrease in their pain level.

Here's a group photo from Leapwellness Studio in Chennai:

Essential Somatics workshop attendees in Chennai, INdia

Several participants were overjoyed to learn that the problems they were told they had were functional problems reversible through Somatic Education. They learned that many functional muscular problems develop due to our movement habits, and to repeated response to stress reflexes, like accidents, injuries, surgeries and repetitive stress.

One woman was told that she had one leg longer than the other and she'd have to learn to live with it. This, she was told, was why she had sciatic pain. She couldn't walk for more than 25 minutes before her pain set in. She not only attended the workshops, but came to see me for a private, clinical session. At the end of the first workshop (Releasing Legs and Hip Joints), and her session, her legs were the same length and she was walking with a smooth swing in her hips. No pain, equal leg length.What had she learned? That raising children and holding them on her hip had caused her to become tighter on one side of her waist than the other. She'd set herself up for the pattern that creates sciatica: tight back muscles and one side of the waist muscles tighter than the other.

Another participant arrived with terrible neck pain; his physiotherapist had "worked out the knots," but the pain was still there. After the Pain-Free Neck and Shoulders Workshop, he left the studio pain-free, with Somatic Exercises and techniques that gave him the tools to stay pain-free, and to "fix" himself should the pain return.

Yet another participant – one of India's top professional golfers – had lost her balance after recovering from a severe virus. She learned that even serious illness can cause our muscles to contract and compensate, which can lead to muscle pain and loss of coordination and balance. The end result for her, after two workshops and one private session was a renewed sense of balance and an easy, more efficient gait.

Interested in an Essential Somatics workshop in your area? Get in touch!

Workshops are easy to set up and your clients with muscle pain will thank you for the new information they can learn that will help them continue doing what they love to do!

Lengthening Hamstrings for Knee Pain Relief

"I've been going to physical therapy for a month and my knee still won't straighten."

This is what "Sam" said when he came to my Releasing Legs and Hip Joints Workshop this past weekend. He'd had back pain and chronic left knee pain for years, and his doctors told him that a full knee replacement was his only option. He's had several knee surgeries from playing squash and completed months of physical therapy - his therapists pushing down on his knee passively in a futile attempt to straighten his painful knee.  But the knee remained slightly bent, and he continued to limp slightly on an unstable knee.

During the workshop Sam discovered that although his LEFT knee hurt and couldn't straighten, he could easily move his left hip and back. It was his RIGHT hip and waist muscles that were "frozen" and could barely move. This undoubtedly had something to do with his knee pain. Tightness on one side of the body is indicative of the Trauma Reflex, causes an imbalance in the large muscle groups in the center of the body, creating an imbalance in the pelvis and changing one's gait. This adversely affects the hips, knees and feet.

Straightening a bent knee requires relaxed hamstrings. 

Sam's back felt great after the workshop, but his knee still wouldn't bend. I told him that when the hamstrings bend the knee (flexion), the quadriceps (thigh muscles) should relax and lengthen to allow the movement to occur (extension). When the quadriceps contract to straighten the leg and knee, the hamstrings must relax and lengthen to aid in the movement. This is how muscles work together in a synergistic manner.

If the hamstrings are habitually contracted, and won't relax, the knee can't move through its full range to straighten completely. Those tight muscles, which attach into the joint, create pressure and restriction in the joint, thus causing pain. The solution?

PANDICULATE the hamstrings to their full length for easier movement of the knee joint.

Pandiculation: A deliberate contraction of a muscle tighter than the muscle's present contraction rate "wakes up" the nervous system, gives maximum sensory feedback to the brain, and allows the brain to give new motor output, thus re-setting the muscle's length.

I had Sam lie face down on my table, and do the following:

  1. He bent his left knee to 90 degrees, and I put my hand at his heel. I asked him to pull his heel back to his buttocks, and into my hand. Interestingly, he couldn't seem to contract the hamstrings! This was a sign of Sensory Motor Amnesia, which means that his muscles weren't fully under his brain's control. They were "asleep," "amnesic," not moving.  I gently tapped the muscles, and asked him to do it again. This time he was able to feel the muscles, and contract them more deliberately, thus overriding the contraction that his hamstrings were already stuck in.
  2. Sam then slowly lengthened, then completely relaxed his hamstrings. We repeated this series of movements several times. Then I had him contract his quadriceps muscles firmly, pushing down into my table so he could feel how the hamstrings relaxed when his thigh tightened. He was beginning to get the hamstrings and quadriceps to begin coordinating properly again.

This entire process took 10 minutes.

He stood up and was able to straighten his knee. He was ecstatic. I reminded him that now that he'd "woken up" his leg muscles, and begun the process of reversing his knee pain, now it the  time to begin a daily practice of Somatic Exercises to continue his progress. If Sam continues doing the brief, easy Somatic movements he's learned, he should see most, if not all, functionality returning to his knee - without pain, in about two weeks - the average time it takes for the brain to fully integrate new habits into the muscles and joints.

Take a look at the video below. The first movement is what I did with Sam.


Off to India!

As many of you know, I was very fortunate to be able to travel with my mother to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2008.  I will be hitting the road again!   This time I'll be trekking in Northern India (Sikkim) with both my mother and my older sister. My mother, who has trekked extensively for over 25 years, has always yearned to go to Sikkim. She is not only a role model for me as a courageous and energetic woman, but as a Somatic Educator I can't help but point to her as the best example that I know of "use it or lose it." The lesson is to just keep moving no matter what age you are.

I will be in India from November 16 - December 10. I will be back in the office on December 13. Don't forget the Walking with Ease With Healthy Knees workshop on December 18 from 1:00-3:00pm.

Please be sure to attend the Saturday drop-in Explorations class. These classes are profoundly effective at teaching you to release stubborn muscular pain. The more you practice the gentle movement explorations of Somatics, the more improvement you make in your awareness and the more you can apply it to whatever activity you enjoy.  An hour of Somatic Movement can teach you to make great changes in your body as you relieve pain.

Carrie Day will be teaching class on November 20, and December 4. There is no class on December 27.  Carrie will be available for private Somatics sessions at Shakti Yoga. As I hike slowly through the foothills of the Himalayas I will enjoy the movement that comes from long days of hiking, no driving, no computers or email, and substantially less stress than we have in the NY/NJ area! It will be fascinating to experience my nervous system calming down and to note the changes in my own body. I'm not sure how I'll enjoy subzero temperatures at night, but I will surely have stories to tell.

I look forward to observing the movement patterns of the different people I will encounter. Due to the lack of certain modern conveniences, many people in the developing world continue to move in ways most westerners don't. Despite the benefits of most modern technology (something we often take for granted), it is this very technology that causes us to literally forget how to do many of the most basic movement patterns, from reaching to bending over to pulling and pushing.

I look forward to picking up the blog again when I come back! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, go out and play, keep doing your Somatic Exercises, and explore the world around you.

Keep moving forward!

Pain-Free Sitting at Work

Tonight I'm teaching a class called, "Pain Free At Work." The beauty of Hanna Somatics is that it's full of easy to understand and easy to apply principles and techniques that can be done anytime, anywhere - even while sitting at your desk or work station. In tonight's class, we're going to do simple, seated Somatic Movements to remind muscles that they don't have to stay tight and "frozen" while you're at your desk. Many people underestimate how the way they SIT can contribute to back pain, sciatica, hip joint pain, neck and shoulder pain, and poor posture.

Tonight, students will learn how to sit up "straight," bend to the side, move their hips, and relax their muscles when they have to sit for long periods of time. These movements are great for those who drive a lot, commute, or work on computers.

In a Somatics class several weeks ago, students learned a sitting  exercise that taught them to  experience the difference between sitting with a tight back and sitting with a relaxed back. If you slouch, sitting with a straighter spine will feel odd, only because whatever you do habitually becomes "the norm" for your muscles. When you learn to change your posture and sitting from the inside out,  it will take time for that new posture to feel "normal." All that is need is patience practice, much like improving your golf swing or learning a new dance step. This is called "sensory motor learning."

After this particular class I heard two of the students remarking "how amazing it is to learn to sit properly!"

These two women were business executives who sat all day long at their desks. I heard them talking about their chairs - which ones were advertised as "the best for your back," and which ones were, in fact, really comfortable. One woman laughed and said, "well, my chair is cheap, and comfortable, even though it's not supposed to be!" Interesting.

Many people think that the solution to a problem, (finding a "good" chair or a common sense approach to chronic pain that works) needs to be expensive and complicated, but this is not necessarily true. Pain can disappear after only a couple of clinical Somatics sessions, and a good chair doesn't have to cost $1000. The photo on the right shows the chair the "Anne" recommends. It's the Nominell Swivel Chair from IKEA. It costs $139.00.

One of the businesswomen contacted me a few weeks after the class and told me that what she noticed about her IKEA chair was that it allowed her to sense her body weight, balance, and posture. It provided good feedback so that when she slouched, or over-arched her back, she was better able to self-correct.

Sitting on chairs, with our legs at right angles to our hips, isn't a great thing to do for hours at a stretch, but you can learn how to sit without pain.

Somatic movement explorations (and a good chair!) can go a long way toward helping you be pain free at the office - or in your car - whenever you want! So come to class and learn how to work pain-free: Nov. 11, at Shakti Yoga and Living Arts in Maplewood, NJ - 7:45 - 9:00pm.