The Fastest Route to a Pain-free Body: Clinical Hanna Somatics sessions

Janet (not her real name) came to my office this week complaining of hip pain. Walking upstairs was painful and laborious - and she was only in her 30's.  She had, as she put it, "a list a mile long of things I've tried" in her search for long term pain relief.  "I'm told I have piriformis syndrome. If I could just get my right buttock to relax, I think I could finally begin to feel better," she said. In a Clinical Somatics session that focused on the Trauma Reflex, Janet learned - very quickly - to release her tight waist muscles, ribcage and trunk rotators.I taught her to release the entire pattern of contraction that was causing her buttock to spasm: her tight buttock, abdominals and abductor muscles. Working with sensory feedback from my hand, she contracted these muscles as a pattern, then slowly released them into a fuller, more relaxed length. This technique is called assisted pandiculation - it resets the muscle control, function and length at the level of the central nervous system.  Twice more she pandiculated those same muscles, until she reached her own comfortable limit, flopping her leg inward easily.  She also learned the Back Lift to begin to relax her tightly contracted back muscles.

What happened next took me by surprise:

She began to yell, "Oh my God, oh my God! I can't believe it! I can't believe it!"

"Are you alright? Does anything hurt?" I asked. She'd scared me!

"No, no, no, it's just that I finally relaxed my buttock! I've been saying this all along and nobody believed me! This is my eureka moment!"

Janet left the office with an ability to move her hips in a way she hadn't been able to for eight years.

Most muscle pain problems are functional in nature, not structural

Why did this clinical Somatics session help her when years of physical therapy, trigger point therapy, massage, acupuncture and medical treatments hadn't? Because Janet's problem wasn't structural; it was functional. She suffered from Sensory Motor Amnesia, the habituated compensatory response to two traumatic accidents. Her muscles had learned to adapt, resulting in a twisted pelvis, altered gait and tight hip joint.  As Janet learned to release the entire pattern of tightness on her right side (and compensatory tightness on her other side) and improve the function of her muscles, her hip pain abated, and her muscle coordination and balance improved.

Janet wasn't completely out of pain. She has more to learn and practice in order to change her old way of holding her body to a new, more free sense of movement. Her brain's "new normal" will take time to integrate. In addition to a few more clinical sessions I told her to attend every Hanna Somatic Movement class and workshop she possibly could.  Being free and in control of your movement involves life-long learning. I give this same advice to every client I work with. While private clinical sessions are profoundly and rapidly effective, attending only a few sessions is like taking a few piano lessons and expecting to perform like Chopin or Mozart!

People often ask, "why do I need to come to class if I'm doing private sessions and feel much better?" The answer is simple: life is dynamic, as is movement. Every day there is the possibility of change and stress. Classes gives you the opportunity to learn more, differentiate your brain and movement, and become more skillful. Learning to override old habits and takes time! The more you sense and feel as you move, the more you can learn. The more you can learn, the more you can master. The more you master an awareness of yourself, from the inside out, the more adaptable and resilient you will be throughout your life. Eventually efficient movement will become your brain's default mode as you become more self-monitoring, self-correcting, and self-healing. Varying your daily Somatic Movement routine with classes and workshops and fun, functional movement makes your brain smarter and keeps you out of pain.

Click here to find a workshop, class or training near you.

Click here to purchase Martha's Pain Relief videos.

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.

How To Move Vigorously Without Stiffness and Pain - Hanna Somatics For Hiking

In the course of a typical training day in Clinical Somatic Education we have a full 60 minute somatic movement class followed by hIMG_4994ands-on pandiculation work and clinical practice, and more somatic movement exploration geared towards what we will teach our clients. Hanna Somatic Exercises, part of any Clinical Somatics session, are true "restorative exercises" that involve pandiculation rather than stretching. A hands-on, assisted pandiculation (the main clinical method used in Hanna Somatics) confers a deep release of muscles as well as renewed sensory and motor control. It sends strong feedback to the sensory motor cortex in order to "reboot" voluntary control of formerly restricted movement. The end result is that you are able to recruit and activate the muscles you need for a given action, rather than those you don't need.

Pandiculation and Somatic Exercises takes the brakes off your movement so you can move efficiently and freely in any given activity.

A recent training module in Norway lasted 10 full days. On a day off halfway through, we visited one of Norway's most spectacular natural landmarks: the Preikestolen, an extraordinary 604 meter cliff overlooking the Lysefjorden. The guide book said that the 2.4 mile would take two hours.

The path was rocky and steep, with giant rock steps and occasional boulders, as well as stretches of beautiful wooden walkways. We reached the top in 90 minutes, a full half hour faster than expected. After a simple lunch on a solitary outcropping of rock we literally skipped down the mountain, rock to rock, jumping and zig-zagging (and yes, walking when necessary). Our desire to skip, jog and dance down the mountain occurred spontaneously. It was something I recall doing as a teenager climbing in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Rather than my knees and hips aching when I reached the bottom, my knees felt perfectly fine, strong and solid. My hips felt loose and relaxed.

The next day when we resumed class we discussed our hiking IMG_4979experience. None of us has daily access to a mountain like the Preikestolen or this kind of vigorous training on a daily basis, so we were elated, yet not surprised to discover that not a one of us was sore. Our hips, back, knees and feet felt great. Why was it that we could do such a strenuous hike and feel strong and exhilarated rather than sore and stiff the next day?

Somatic Exercises and pandiculation prepares you to move well.

The answer lies in what Somatic Exercises and pandiculation confer: brain control of muscles, efficient movement and optimum coordination. Yes, they also teach you how to relieve chronic muscle pain for the long term, yet that only occurs once you regain voluntary control of your muscles. 

If you want to be able to move vigorously in any given sport or activity - whether hiking, weight lifting, cycling, walking the dog, running, climbing stairs, or carrying your own groceries - you can do it without pain and residual soreness when you do Somatic Exercises. You may have discomfort while moving vigorously (muscles that are being taxed can feel uncomfortable when they're finally being used and stressed), but that's not the same thing as pain. Regaining freedom of movement and staying in control of your body and movement despite the stresses of your daily life is a learned skill that you can learn no matter your age. I can't wait for my next hike!

Click here for information about the Myth of Aging retreat at Hollyhock August 19 - 22, 2015.

Click here for information about the Myth of Aging Somatics and Yoga retreat in Bali in October, 2015. A full week of Somatic Movement, outdoor activities, Yoga and meditation.

Upcoming Somatics Trainings in 2015

Here is our updated roster of Essential Somatics® Somatics training opportunities for 2015. Public workshops, appointments for clinical sessions with Martha and on-going classes are on my website.

Somatic Exercise Coach Trainings - Level One

Somatic Exercises can change how we live our lives, how we believe that our minds and bodies interrelate, how powerful we think we are in controlling our lives, and how responsible we should be in taking care of our total being.

          - Thomas Hanna, Ph.D., author of the book, Somatics

YORK, UK- March 6 - 8, 2015 - Only 1 slot left!Image 8

DOOR COUNTY, WI - March 20 - 22, 2015 - register now!

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - March 27 - 29, 2015 - register now!

CALGARY, ALBERTA - April 16 - 18, 2015 - only 5 slots left

CARTERSVILLE, GA - May 1 - 3, 2015 - register now!

MELBOURNE (Ocean Grove,Vic.), AUSTRALIA - November 6 - 8, 2015 - register now!

ADELAIDE, SW. AUSTRALIA - December 11 - 13, 2015 - register now!

See and hear one of our new SEC coaches describing his experience.

Download a complete PDF prospectus of the training.

Somatic Exercise Coach Training - Level Two

LINDSAY, ONTARIO - April 24 - 26, 2015 - only one slot left (must have completed SEC Level One)

Hanna Somatics Retreats

HOLLYHOCK RETREAT CENTER, Cortes Island, BC - The Myth of Aging - August 19 - 23, 2015 HollyhockBeach-3_5B872-1

Spend 5 days on beautiful Cortes Island, BC and begin to learn why people develop chronic muscle pain, inflexibility and limited movement. If you have “tried everything” for your back, neck, shoulder or hip pain, and have only experienced short term relief, come learn how to achieve long term pain relief and improved muscular function – on your own – whenever and wherever you need it. This retreat is open to the public. No previous knowledge of Hanna Somatics is required.

BALI, INDONESIA - October, 2015 - details TBA - Somatic Yoga/Hanna Somatics - this week will offer the opportunity to take Somatic Yoga classes with Jo Bentley of Soul Safari Yoga and Somatic Movement classes with Martha Peterson, CHSE

COMING UP in 2016 - Somatics Retreat in Europe

Clinical Somatic Education Professional Training Program

Learn the hands-on clinical methods of Thomas Hanna, Ph.D. to help people regain freedom of movement and eliminate sensory motor amnesia and chronic muscle pain and dysfunction.

SEMESTER ONE - November 16 - Dec. 4, 2015 - Ocean Grove, Victoria, Australia - contact Martha directly if you are interested. Acceptance requires participation in the SEC Level One training, as well as an interview and application.

What Hanna Somatics Has To Teach The Fitness Industry

Here is a guest blog post from Chris Carlsen, a fitness trainer in Astoria, NY. This is his story of how he has come to combine Somatic Exercises and fitness training for a winning workout: Several years ago I read an article on “Somatic Exercises.”  To quote Thomas Hanna, "Somatic education is the use of sensory-motor learning to gain greater voluntary control of ones physiological process." To learn “somatically” means that the learning occurs within the individual. It is an internalized process. This mirrored my philosophy based on my training in kettlebells, movement assessments and human performance. I wanted to know more.

I found Laura Gates, a Certified Hanna Somatic Educator, based in New York City.  What I learned was unbelievable: practically every movement we did was related to an exercise or assessment.  “Part 2” of Hanna’s back lift 6Walking Exercises is the same "pushing of the knee away" that we do when we roll in the initiation of the Turkish Get-up. The “Flower” relates to the squat pattern (feeling the femurs move in the hip socket). The Back Lift retrains the connection of one hip and the opposite shoulder (T-Spine rotation).

Each educator may have different ways to explain movement, yet there is no denying that we are all helping to restore the same movement patterns. The power of Somatic Exercises comes from exploration of movement on the floor, as we did when we were babies. We are reeducating sensory motor movement without the stress of gravity or body-weight. This creates awareness and reverse Sensory Motor Amnesia. And, as with fitness, breathing guided every somatic movement.

Hanna Somatics has brought my personal training full circle; it is the line that connects all the dots. Enhancing my understanding of the mind, brain, body feedback loop and the central nervous system has improved every aspect of my training. My students' consciousness of their movement and posture has become more consistent and the Somatic Exercises have become great references for lifting cues. As for me personally, my lifts feel slower in my head but still strong and powerful in execution. Somatics will be something I incorporate for the rest of my life.

When Laura told me about the Essential Somatics® Somatic Exercise Coaching Training I could not pass up the opportunity to learn more and educate my trainers. The training was awesome. Martha Peterson and Laura are not only great teachers, but also passionate about helping others. My fellow trainers could feel the change in how their bodies felt immediately and could not deny its effectiveness.

How does Somatics fit into fitness?

Ground Exercise, Body Weight and Breathing

Weight is a stressor. Sometimes we need to take the stress of body-weight and gravity out of the equation to get the Training-img2nervous system to simmer down and absorb motor learning (movement patterns).  This is accomplished by somatic and corrective exercises on the ground. These types of ground exercises build a foundation for future loading; as we master them we can make these patterns stronger by progressing them to half kneeling and then standing. In this way we can determine if the pattern breaks.  Once we repeatedly stick form then we must add stress. It is like building a cushion.

Do athletes need to start here? More than anyone! To paraphrase Gray Cook, " We adopt poor movement as result of pain. Part of survival system allows movement around problems we cannot move through. When the pain is gone sometimes the poor movement pattern remains.”

As we go through life, stresses and injuries force us to reroute the "movement maps" we developed as babies.

Athletes are great compensators. They will find a way to get the movement done.  They are also very explosive; at times so much so that they cannot accurately feel their body’s sensations and be aware of their movement. Slowing things down to make changes and build back their speed with better control is what is required! Athletes also become asymmetrical because of repeated patterns. These asymmetries result from the three stress reflexes that Thomas Hanna writes about: the Red Light, Green Light and Trauma Reflexes. Getting rid of these reflexes and regaining symmetry is what reduces injury risk.

I have a weekly class I call "Recovery." In this 90 minute class we do Somatic Exercises, followed by dynamic mobility work and locomotion drills ( walking, skipping, carioca, shuffling).  The group's control and efficiency of mobility work has greatly increased after Somatic Exercises. Locomotion to me is “Somatics on your feet.” Locomotion drills set a foundation to progress students to more uncontrolled environments such as agility and speed drills. This allows students to pick up on their movements, and for me to pick up movement hiccups.  You can surely bet if there is movement inefficiency with no load, there will also be inefficiency with weights.

Brilliant generals are said to possess “coup d’oeil”, which in French means power of the glance. It is the ability to make sense of the battlefield.  Hanna Somatics enhances the power of my glance.

Chris Carlsen is the owner of Iron Lion Performance and Director of Fitness at the Matrix Fitness Club in Astoria, New York. He participated in the Somatic Exercise Coach Training in 2014.

Somatic Education is Evidence-Based Treatment for Back Pain

Scientists at the Sahlgrenska Institute in Gothenburg, Sweden have research to support the use of Somatic Education - movement reeducation that relaxes tight, painful muscles - as an evidence-based modality for treatment of back pain. Somatic Education has been around since the early 20th century and has helped people learn to improve their posture, relax tight muscles and move in more efficiently and easily.  The method the Salgrenska Intitute studied was the Feldenkrais Method, the same method that Thomas Hanna, Ph.D., creator of Hanna Somatic Education, practiced for decades before developing his own method called Hanna Somatic Education. Swedish physiotherapist Christina Schön-Ohlsson states,

"Inefficient movement patterns gradually become habituated even though the original injury or strain is no longer present."

How right she is!  Clients frequently tell me, "I just don't feel the way I once did." They feel as if something "happened to them" to cause them to lose their flexibility, movement and self-control. The good news is that they can learn to regain their independence; all it takes is a process of education and a little patience.

In Hanna Somatics clients learn to become aware of the muscles that have habitually and tightened (as Schon-Ohlsson said) in response to the original injury - and then to release them at the brain level.

All human beings respond to stress with specific, visible patterns of muscular contraction.

Thomas Hanna was the first Somatic Educator to codify three specific stress reflexes - reflexes that all humans respond to in response to stress. By addressing these reflex patterns (of the back, the front of the body and the sides of the body), people can learn - very quickly - to reverse their muscle pain and restore awareness and control of their movement.

Chronic low back pain develops as a learned response to stress. It can be unlearned.

Muscles are controlled by the brain and central nervous system. The brain gets sensory feedback from the muscles, then commands them to move.  It is a simple feedback loop of sensing and moving. When stress occurs repeatedly, we can learn to habituate, adjust and adapt to our stress, as  mentioned by the Swedish scientists. This causes our muscles to stay tight and frozen; our brain literally forgets how to sense and move our muscles. This is called Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA). The reason that medical science has no solution to habituated muscular tension is because SMA is not a medical condition. It is a sensory motor condition that can only be reversed through movement.

If you'd like to experience sensory motor learning, explore the movements shown on my website.  Move slowly and gently, with eyes closed (to tune out visual distractions). Make them pleasant and be mindful not to work too hard; these are not exercises as you know them from the gym. When you're done, relax completely and notice the difference in sensation in your body.

Thankfully there is a slow acceptance of "sensory motor learning," also known as "neuromuscular movement re-education" in the medical community. In my Somatic Exercise Coach Training I have taught osteopaths, chiropractors, and physiotherapists how to teach basic Somatic Exercises in order to help their patients become more self-aware and self-correcting in their movement.

I look forward to the day when Somatic Education is the first line of defense against back, neck, shoulder, hip, and joint pain. If you are in pain and have not gotten the relief you know you can get, come take a class, or workshop, schedule a private session, or contact me. I am happy to help get you on the path to a pain-free life!

Train for More Than the Gym - with Somatics!

Earlier this year I was interviewed on En*theos by one of the innovators of the functional fitness movement, Frank Forencich. In his most recent book, Beautiful Practice, he writes:

We are stuck in the middle of a mismatch. Our ancient bodies, wired by evolution for survival in a wild, natural habitat, are struggling to live in radically different  modern world. Challenges are everywhere: overwork, sedentary living, toxic foods, social chaos and habitat destruction surround us. This is what I call “The Primate’s Predicament.”

And now we’re suffering. Our bodies are suffering with lifestyle diseases, our minds are stressed, our spirits are confused. And our primitive, habitual responses just aren’t working.What we need is a practice, not just to alleviate our suffering, but to live the beautiful adventure we call life.

Movement is probably the most important element in the adventure of Life. Human beings learn through movement; it is in our nature as self-learners of the highest order. We have adapted over time because of the ability of our cortex to do one thing: LEARN. The question is, what is important to learn and adapt to and what is potentially harmful? How many people realize that learning how to relax and recover is a critically important aspect of good health? Stress resilience is a skill.

Humans adapt or die

I consider Hanna Somatic Exercises a critical part of one's daily practice. Our birthright as human beings is to move easily and effortlessly, yet it takes practice and skill. Learning to prepare yourself to move with intention and voluntary control can spell the difference between "successful" aging and the traditional idea of aging: inevitable decrepitude, pain, a cane and a slow demise.

What we are missing is the understanding that every part of the human body is interconnected. We are not "a knee," "a hip," "my tight psoas," or "that painful IT band." We are a system that moves in patterns, as an integrated whole. If one part of the system is out of balance, it causes an imbalance throughout the entire system. This system we call our "body" is efficient in the best of times, and completely out of control in the worst of times when, as we adapt to stress, we forget what it feels like to move and sense as we did when we were children. Somatic Exercises recreate the basic movements of bending, reaching, twisting, side bending and extending - the non-negotiable basics of all movement that came so easily to all of us long ago. They remind our brain who is in control!

Tomorrow in Astoria, NY I will lead a Somatic Exercise Coach Training for a group of fitness trainers at the Matrix Fitness Center. It will be the first such training of personal fitness trainers whose goal it is to learn more about how Somatic awareness, the first step to any movement practice, can positively shift the course of one's training regime, whether the goal is to lift weights, play tennis, do yoga, dance, train for a marathon, or simply walk without pain.

A somatic perspective is long overdue in the fitness arena. Many people don't feel as if they've gotten anything out of their workout if they aren't hurting; somehow, they say, they "just don't feel anything." The belief in "no pain, no gain" is the quick road to misery and a short-lived athletic career. There is a more intelligent way to approach movement - one that the trainers tomorrow will begin to experience: Less is more and slow is fast when it comes to learning how to move well.

Two New Somatic Exercise Coach Trainings for 2014

2014 has been a busy year for Essential Somatics®. I have traveled to Australia, England, Norway, Canada, and cities throughout the United States to teach the Somatic Exercise Coach (SEC) Trainings (Level One and Level Two) and the clinical professional training. I have had the pleasure of teaching with Laura Gates, CHSE, Carrie Day, CCSE and Theresa Evans, CCSE as well. Together we have taught over 60 Yoga, Pilates, and movement teachers as well as several physiotherapists, psychotherapists and chiropractors how to use the concepts and exercises of Hanna Somatic Education to help students and patients learn to relieve their own muscle pain, improve movement, and take back control of their lives.

Last two Somatic Exercise Coach trainings for 2014

In November 2014, I will teach the last two SEC trainings of the year. This is a last chance to participate in a very popular and exciting 3-day training and walk away with tools to help your clients help themselves move the way they were meant to move.
Astoria, New York 
November 7 - 9, 2014
only 3 places left!
Click here for details and registration
San Jose, California - first time in Northern California!
November 21 - 23, 2014
Click here for details and registration


This training is open to movement  professionals, body-workers, athletic/fitness trainers, Yoga, NIA and Pilates teachers and medical professionals and others outside the movement profession who want to learn to use Somatic Exercises to help others. You will leave with a new perspective on how functional muscle pain develops in the body and how Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA), the condition of chronically contracted, painful muscles, can be reversed. SMA is the root cause of many muscle pain conditions, such as sciatica, plantarfascitis, back pain, neck and shoulder pain, TMJ, IT band pain and hip pain.
Learn how to help your clients and students begin to eliminate chronic muscle pain - on their own - so they can prepare to move better at any age or in any activity.
Click here for a full description of the training.

Please contact Martha directly with any questions.

Somatics for Pain-Free Airline Travel

Last week I returned from a two week Somatics teaching tour in Australia. Thank you, Jo Bentley, my Australia organizer, for bringing me back to teach the Essential Somatics® Somatic Exercise Coach Training (SEC)  and being a fantastic host. Thank you as well to Mick Betteridge and Philippa Howard in Melbourne for hosting a training there. As many of you know, I travel internationally teaching Hanna Somatics. Plane travel is part and parcel of my job. In order to lessen the negative effects of sitting stationary for hours in a cramped airplane seat I came up with a few somatic movements during my flight to Australia. I arrived in Australia feeling relaxed and considerably less stiff than on previous flights.

For all you travelers out there - check this video out and let me know how it goes!

Somatic Exercise Coach Training in Maplewood, NJ - September 5-7, 2014

I will be teaching a Somatic Exercise Coach (SEC) Training Level One in Maplewood, NJ September 5 - 7 (Friday - Sunday). This is the only SEC training I will be teaching in New Jersey for the rest of the year.Image Register now! Space is limited to only 8 students.

I have taught this training in the United States, Canada, England, Germany and Australia and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I am thrilled that now over 75 new Essential Somatics® Somatic Exercise Coaches are using the assessment techniques, movements and principles of Hanna Somatics to help others regain full movement so that they are able to pursue their favorite activities again.

Pilates, Yoga, Yoga therapists, Nia and Feldenkrais teachers as well as physiotherapists, psychologists, osteopaths and primary care physicians have taken this training for a very specific reason: They want to help their students and patients get rid of muscle pain on which traditional stretching and medical protocols have had little effect.

Hanna Somatics teaches "missing link" information that can eliminate chronic muscle pain for the long term.

Many of my students sought out this particular training because, while they love what they teach, they knew there was a "missing link" about muscles and movement. Hanna Somatics answers many things that traditional methods and approaches cannot. For more information click here.

Hanna Somatics helps improve movement and quality of life.

Training participants report many benefits from learning Somatic Exercises including improved sleep, ease of breathing, freedom from dependency on pain medication, and feeling younger - they are able to move without pain an stiffness. When your students/patients experience the benefits of your Somatic Exercise Coach Training, you are improving their quality of life as well as your own.

See you in September!

For the full line of Pain-Free Somatic Exercise DVDs and Martha's book, click here.

To host Martha to teach in your area, contact her directly.


Continuing Education Credits for Massage Therapists Now Available from Essential Somatics

I'm proud to announce that I am now an Approved Provider of continuing education credits for the National Certification Board for Approved Provider Logo final pathsTherapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB). The following courses are now approved for continuing education credits: Somatic Exercise Coach Training - Level One - 24 CE credits

The Fundamentals of Hanna Somatic Education - 8 CE credits

These courses will teach you the basic principles, science, and assessment techniques underpinning what many in the medical profession are calling the "missing link in medical care." Because Hanna Somatics addresses muscle tension and pain at the level of the central nervous system, pain relief is more long lasting.

How many of you are frustrated with working on a client whose shoulders (or neck, hip, back) won't relax no matter what you do? How many of you aren't sure how to help someone with major postural imbalances? How many of you are exhausted by working too hard to relax your client's muscles - to the point of compromising your own posture and well-being? These courses will teach you information you can use for yourself and your clients, in order to learn to reverse your own muscle pain - on your own.

The mystery of most chronic muscle pain isn't mysterious.

The fundamentals and basic Somatic Exercises of Hanna Somatic (Clinical Somatic) Education will demystify much of the mystery of chronic muscle pain and help you begin to help your clients more effectively. You will learn:

  • How to recognize the three stress reflexes (as described by Thomas Hanna in the book, Somatics) to better understand and assess your client's muscular imbalances.
  • The root cause of chronic muscle pain - Sensory Motor Amnesia - and how it presents itself as low back pain, sciatica, TMJ, plantar fasciitis, piriformis syndrome, neck, shoulder and hip pain.
  • How reeducating muscles through movement, is the best way to reverse muscle tension and pain, and improve muscle function - for the long term.
  • How pandiculation, rather than stretching (whether static or active isolated), is the most rapid and effective way to reset muscle length, function and tonus.
  • How to teach your clients gentle, easy, profoundly effective somatic exercises that will release muscles faster and more effectively than passive stretching techniques.
  • Self care exercises that will help you reverse your own muscle pain so you can continue to move well and work for as long as you wish.

I have been practicing somatic movement for several months with good results, but having had a one-to-one session with Martha's careful and precise guidance, I feel I gained an extra dimension to my overall movement quality. After just a 1-hour session my posture changed, my shoulders were more level, and my gait was lighter and more fluid.

I give Somatic Exercises to most of my patients and I would encourage anyone interested in health to explore the potential of Hanna Somatics, either in a private session, a group workshop or through the DVDs available.

- Dr. Andrea Franzi, Oseopath, York, UK


Martha Peterson is the author of the book, Move Without Pain and developer of the "Pain-Free" series of instructional Somatic Exercise DVDs. Martha graduated from the National Holistic Institute in Oakland, CA. in 1988. In 2006 she graduated from the Somatic Systems Institute in Northampton, MA and was certified by the Novato Institute in Novato, CA as a Certified Hanna Somatic Educator. Click here for her full bio.

She teaches workshops, clinical trainings and private clinical sessions in both the USA and internationally. Contact her directly if you would like to bring her to your area for a training or workshop.

The Most Important Somatic Exercise for Back Pain Is....

... the Back Lift

It is also the Somatic Exercise that many people do incorrectly.

Instead of sensing, feeling, and contracting their back muscles, then slowly releasing them, they recruit other muscles to do the movement. Many people have trouble with this exercise, because they have Sensory Motor Amnesia in their backs, necks, and shoulders. Because this exercise is one of the most powerful somatic exercises you could ever learn to eliminate back, neck, and shoulder pain, it's important to do it correctly.

Technically speaking, Somatic Exercises are merely sensory motor movement patterns that recreate the stress reflexes that occur involuntarily in every human being. They are also explorations of simple movement: the legs moving in or out, the shoulders rolling, the head lifting.

They are perfectly natural for the human body, and by moving in a slow, gentle way we are able to become aware of where we can and cannot control our muscles and our movement. That being said, there is an optimum way to do Somatic Exercises in order to get the most benefit and to retrain the brain to be able to release spastic muscles, and improve sensory awareness and muscle function.

In my book, Move Without Pain, I write that the back lift "addresses all the IMG_3540muscles in  the back of the body that contract in response to activity and ongoing stress." This is the Green Light Reflex (also called the Landau Response). Whenever you are called into action - the phone rings, you're in a hurry to go somewhere, you need to do something - all the muscles on the back of the body contract. It's a joyful, useful reflex.

In the back lift you recreate the green light reflex, so you can decreate it (and recognize it) when it happens so that you don't get stuck in it. This action of contracting, then slowly lengthening into relaxation, is called pandiculation. It resets muscle function, length and tonus in one easy movement. This is what you've seen your cat or dog do when they get up from rest.

Many of us no longer take the time to relax our muscles after activity, so these muscles learn to stay contracted - even when we're asleep. Doing the back lift brings your brain back into sensory and motor control of the muscles. Once you can begin to feel the muscles and how they tighten, then you can release them.

Below is a video with a tip for how to get the most out of the back lift. In my 3-day Somatic Exercise Coach training I teach movement, medical and fitness/athletic professionals how to skillfully teach the Somatic Exercises to their clients so they can move better and do more of whatever activity the practitioner is teaching them. I coach them to be able to see how Sensory Motor Amnesia presents itself within each of the Somatic Exercises. The video below shows one of the ways people unnecessary muscles in order to do this exercise.

[wpvideo vhgA0KKs]

Click here for more information about how to train to skillfully teach Somatic Exercises using the fundamentals of Hanna Somatic Education.

To buy any of the Essential Somatics® instructional DVDs, click here.

Improve Athletic Performance with Somatic Exercise Coaching

Somatics is an excellent adjunct to any training regimen because it supports and enhances a trainer’s work by fundamentally improving an athlete’s own internal awareness and control of his body. The outcome can be an athlete with a range of motion and coordination level he never had or knew he could have. Today one of the students from the January 2013 Essential Somatic Exercise Coach training in Leeds, UK sent me his impressions about the training (that he them posted on a weightlifting forum). He writes:

Here's a personal view on how this course has been working for me over the past couple of months:

  •  I've earned almost all the tuition fees back in a matter of hours.
  •  My physical trainings clients LOVE the results. It's an easy cross sell, too.
  •  The coaching style is very different and sometimes I feel like I'm making a hash of it compared to imagesMartha's instruction. But when the client stands up and moves around I can see that I've helped them to make a noticeable difference.
  •  I've been able to gift my work to a young weightlifter who was all but ready to quit due to chronic pain that wasn't showing up on any scans (including an MRI).
  •  My personal practice got a big boost.
  •  The other day I was able to use some of the principles to correct an "unpacked" shoulder in the Turkish Get Up very quickly.
  •  I don't think I'll ever get used to seeing the clients' reaction of delight when they stand up to assess themselves after the first session. Helping people feels great.

Never train something you can't feel.

In athletics, “movement memory” (sometimes called "muscle memory") is considered the foundation of consistent high performance. This refers to learned physical movements - everything from walking, rolling, crawling, running - to elite athletic performance. The essence of movement memory is the brain's ability to sense what a movement feels like and to then coordinate muscles to execute that movement at will and with enough precision to meet the demand of the moment.

When muscles become habitually contracted due to an accident, injuries, overtraining, improper training, or repetitive tasks, the brain no longer senses them, nor controls them voluntarily. Movement becomes less efficient and less coordinated. This condition is called Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA). When you train muscles you can't feel or control, you get hurt, your form is "off" and your playing days could be limited. Don't despair - this condition is rapidly reversible if you know what to do, what to look for, and how to do it.

Somatics Exercises are corrective exercises that prepare you to move better.

Hanna Somatic Exercises teach your brain to reset muscle length, restore optimum muscle function, and eliminate Sensory Motor Amnesia. They are complementary to any Image 19movement discipline - from Yoga, Pilates, NIA and dance, to kettle bells, football, powerlifting, running and cycling.

Somatic Exercises put you back in control of your body and of the ability to extend, flex, side bend, rotate, and twist without limitation, and prepare you to move freely so you can do more of what you want to do. They are what you should be doing before you train every day.

The longer you train, the harder you compete and the higher you strive...the more you need Martha Peterson. Somatics is, without question, the simplest, fastest way to "forget" injuries and overcome training errors. Injured as a Highland Games athlete, I did a lot of thing to fix my hip, and, to be honest, a lot worked. But nothing transformed me more than Martha's simple techniques. Martha is the "go to girl" for male athletes looking for the pain-free edge.

- Dan John, author of Never Let Go

The next Somatic Exercise Coaching Training is coming up - February 7-9, 2014. Click here for more information and to register early.

Transform Your Movement Teaching With Somatic Exercises

The first ever Essential Somatic® Exercise Coach training took place November 9 - 11, 2012 at Wellspring Health Collective in Maplewood, NJ. We had an engaging group of movement professionals with backgrounds from Pilates to functional fitness to yoga. All of the participants were already incorporating a somatic perspective in their approach to movement and were familiar with the idea of movement exploration and moving "from the inside out." John Belkewich, a personal trainer from New Jersey, and one of the SEC students, has a tagline for his business that says it all:

Transform Your Movement, Transform Your Life.

The desire to move, explore, grow and learn is one of the most basic characteristics of human nature. It is this hard-wired desire to engage with our environment that spurs us on as babies to learn to walk, reach, crawl and eventually stand and move forward in the world. We perfected out movement through trial and error and adaptation. Specific brain reflexes - the Landau Response involving the extensor muscles of the body, and the Startle Reflex involving the flexor muscles, were invoked when the need to move forward or the need to protect oneself was demanded.

If all went well, we developed smooth and efficient movement habits. If something happened to restrict our movement, we adapted our movement in order to continue to move forward in life. It is the just the kind of movement exploration that is missing in today's world of fitness and workouts. Somatic movement and Somatic Exercises can teach us to become aware of our reflexive responses to stress, our excess muscle tension, how it causes pain in our bodies - and how to reverse it. And as Thomas Hanna once wrote,

Somatic Exercises can change how we live our lives, how we believe that our minds and bodies interrelate, how powerful we think we are in controlling our lives, and how responsible we should be in taking care of our total being.

This past weekend's Essential Somatics® Exercise Coach training gave students sensible, scientific principles and tools that can be incorporated into any training method to help people with postural imbalances, muscle pain and functional problems. They began to understand how many functional problems (sciatica, back pain, foot pain, knee pain) that are often considered medical problems are the result of Sensory Motor Amnesia and loss of somatic awareness.

A movement teacher or fitness trainer who can accurately recognize involuntary stress reflex patterns of muscle tightness that inhibit efficient movement is several steps ahead of the competition when it come to giving their clients useful information that can help them move better.

When a trainer understands that slumped shoulders, a painful back, or a pelvic imbalance while squatting is the result of Sensory Motor Amnesia and overly tight muscles outside the brain's control, s/he will have gained a different perspective - a somatic perspective. This opens up the possibility of helping clients improve movement through intelligent, sensory motor learning rather than by overtraining and force.

This past weekend students learned:

  • Trainer, heal thyself. They explored their own somatic movement process and slowed themselves down. If you don't do the practice for yourself, and understand your where your own Sensory Motor Amnesia lies, you can never begin to teach others or appreciate the problems others have.
  • How to recognize the three Somatic Stress Reflexes (Red Light, Green Light, Trauma Reflex) as described by Thomas Hanna in his book, Somatics.
  • The basics of pandiculation: how to use it "hands-on" to awaken sensory awareness in a client, and how to pandiculate their own movement in order to reset muscle length, restore muscle function, and relieve muscle pain.
  • How to teach the 10 basic Somatic Exercises, step-by-step, and why each exercise is important.
  • How Sensory Motor Amnesia presents itself in people as they attempt to move through the exercises and how this can contribute to certain muscle pain problems.

Hanna Somatics prepares you to move better so you can enjoy whatever movement discipline you're currently engaged in. Whether you are a kettle bell trainer, soccer coach, Zumba, or Yoga instructor, learning to incorporate the principles of Hanna Somatics and somatic exercises can help you help your students to get more out of your classes and sessions. For more information and dates about upcoming trainings visit our website.

Essential Somatics® Professional Training in Clinical Somatic Education

Essential Somatics® announces its first semester of a two-year professional training program in Somatic Education, in the tradition of Thomas Hanna.

Semester 1, Module 1: February 16 - 23, 2013

Somatic Education, in the tradition of Thomas Hanna, is a safe, highly effective, and scientifically-based method of neuromuscular reeducation that goes to the root cause of most chronic muscle pain: the brain and the way in which it senses and control muscles and movement. It is hands-on movement education that teaches you to help your clients eliminate their own chronic muscle pain for the long term - faster and more efficiently than passive modalities.

This method, developed 30 years ago by Thomas Hanna, Ph.D., teaches people to regain their physical independence, eliminate muscle pain, improve mobility and body awareness, and restore optimum voluntary muscle function.

Many of you have asked me when I will start teaching. One of my clients echoed a sentiment that is all too common; it highlights the importance of training more people in Somatic Education. She said,

"I have certifications in a lot of methods. I have a lot of knowledge, but I still can't seem to help my clients get to the root of their muscular pain. I feel that Somatics is the missing link."

Somatic Education, in the tradition of Thomas Hanna, gets to the root of most chronic muscle pain. It Image 8is the missing link in scientific information about the loss of voluntary muscle function (that is not pathology or disease related).

This training is open to those in bodywork or movement professions, fitness trainers, and healthcare or medical profession. If your current method of bodywork or client/patient care isn't educating your clients to be able to experience long-term pain relief and an ability to independently keep themselves feeling good and moving better, this training is for you!

Visit the Essential Somatics website for more information.

Download the full training prospectus.

Learn about Somatic Education in the tradition of Thomas Hanna.

This class is open to a maximum of 9 students. For any questions, or to request an application please contact Martha.

If you want to learn more about Somatic Education, but are not ready to commit to a two-year clinical training, you can learn to become an Essential Somatics Exercise Coach.

Essential Somatics Goes International

It's been a whirlwind of activity since I arrived in Europe at the beginning of May. On the professional side of things I have had the good fortune to meet a wide range of enthusiastic people whose search for improved movement, pain relief, and long-term good health has led them to Essential Somatics, Hanna Somatics and me. I began the month with workshops - one for a continuing education segment for British Wheel of Yoga teacher trainers, and another for enlisted servicemen in the UK. No matter who I speak with or where they come from, they all understand the basic message of Somatics: improved body awareness, muscle control, and pain relief can only come from within. Your responses to stress create your muscle pain and restricted movement, and you can learn to reverse that situation on your own through Hanna Somatic Education.

The Fundamentals of Hanna Somatic Education for Health Professionals in Frankfurt, Germany.

I just returned from Frankfurt, Germany where I taught a basic course called "The Fundamentals of Hanna Somatic Education." The enthusiastic group of health professionals included an osteopath/naturopath, a chiropractor, several Pilates teachers, physiotherapists, and fitness trainers. One participant flew in from Vienna, Austria, and another from Slovenia. The seminar was organized by osteopath Detlef Poehlmann and hosted in Uta Gotschlich's beautiful studio, Premium Pilates.

Participants left the seminar with substantive knowledge of how to apply basic concepts of Hanna Somatics to the way in which they interact with their clients, and how to assess their clients' posture and movement. They even learned a daily routine of Somatic Exercises to help them take care of their own bodies!

Many of these health professionals had either read my book, Move Without Pain, found Essential Somatic while searching for unanswered questions regarding their own muscle pain, or begun to incorporate Somatic Exercises into their fitness routines on the advice of respected strength coach, Dan John.

We addressed, in detail, the following concepts:

  • Sensory Motor Amnesia and how it is at the root of most chronic muscular pain. If you understand how this condition occurs, many so-called "mysterious" conditions (back pain, sciatica, TMJ, piriformis syndrome, leg length discrepancy) seem a lot less complicated than medical profession may have us believe.
  • The Three Somatic Stress Reflexes, which are common to all humans, no matter where they may live or what their circumstances. It was fun to watch the participants close their eyes and recreate these reflexes physically in response to imagined stress. They began to learn how to recognize and assess these reflexes in their fellow participants as well as experience them through the Somatic Movement explorations interspersed throughout the day.  They were naturals and it was exciting to see them spot the patterns of muscle tightness in their colleagues.
  • Pandiculation, a brain reflex action, is  one of the important clinical techniques used by Hanna Somatic Educators to teach people to retrain their brain to release muscle tension and reset muscle tonus/length. The exploration of this technique was an eye-opener for many of the participants. They learned about the science behind it, and experienced it in an interactive partner exercise.
  • They also experienced several hours of Hanna Somatic Exercises. The academics of Somatics are fascinating, but the gold is discovered through movement, and in the experience of how rapidly one can change one's own ability to sense and move muscles that were once painful and unable to move and coordinate well. These gentle, safe exercises are the key to maintaining mobility and overall health.

Hanna Somatics is "education with therapeutic outcomes."

One of the most critical distinctions I wanted participants to walk away with was the difference between how most medical professionals practice and how Hanna Somatic (Clinical Somatic) Educators practice. This difference can't be underestimated, and once one begins to interact with a client with this different perspective, amazing things can happen:

Most medical professionals interact with you as a body. They make charts, take blood, take measurements trying to solve you like math problem or a car that won't start. Somatic Educators are concerned with Somas. A Soma is a body as experienced from within: what it feels like to be YOU. Our job is to guide and educate you to awaken your own internal proprioception and awareness in order to affect change - from the inside out. This is the only way to reverse one's habitual muscular tightening, poor posture and response to stress.

I came away informed and educated by what the participants had to offer me through their participation. From a somatic perspective on Pilates, to functional outdoor movement training to neuromuscular chiropractic methods - we all brought something unique to offer each other.

As we said our goodbyes we were already discussing dates for a future Somatic Education professional training in Germany. Germany, get ready to feel a whole lot better - help is on the way!

To bring Martha to your area for a workshop, or full day seminar, contact her directly.