Clinical Somatic Education
The clinical protocols for somatic education were devised by Thomas Hanna and grew out of his workshops and movement series. The sessions are one-to-one, hands on, learning experiences. You explore the three stress reflexes as identified by Thomas Hanna, (the red light, green light and trauma reflexes) in terms of how they apply to your own body, or soma. You do the same or similar movements as those in the movement classes but with hands-on feedback which we call assisted pandiculation . This means that when you pandiculate (or contract up and slowly release certain muscles) you contract into a resistance, which is my hand. We "meet and match" each other's pressure and then you slowly release the contraction, maintaining the contact with my hand. This way you can feel how to make the release smooth and even and this is what gives you greater control of your muscles.
The clinical sessions are a good way to start somatics or a good way of deepening your somatic awareness. What you are looking for is your own pattern of SMA (sensory motor amnesia) the things you unconsciously and repeatedly do that are causing pain or restriction in your body. Usually the restriction is in the centre of the body but the pain isn't necessarily there. SMA is difficult to find because it is hidden away from your conscious awareness. WIth pandiculation you exaggerate the contraction you are unconsciously doing so that your nervous system can feel it. Once you can feel it you can move it. Gradually you learn to release from the centre of your body, to connect up as a whole being, and become a fully functioning soma or somatic system.
What to expect from a clinical session.
Each clinical session lasts about an hour to an hour and a half. The sessions are fully clothed and are done lying on a mat on the floor. Most clinical somatic educators use a wide massage bed but I like to work on the floor as I originally trained in shiatsu massage. I use a futon on top of a blanket. If you are concerned about getting down and back up again it's only once in the whole session and I can help you find ways of getting up and down more easily, using chairs and props to begin with. Over time you may find you can get up and down from the floor more confidently. If you are not ready to get onto the floor we can begin with seated sessions.
How many sessions to have?
How many sessions depends on each individual. The first session is usually breathing - there is a protocol on breathing devised by Martha Peterson (who I am currently training with), which works well as an introductory session. Breathing is a full body movement so if you can breathe freely you can move freely and vice versa.
After the first session you can go on to do the three clinical somatic education protocols as devised by Thomas Hanna in relation to your own soma. It works best if you start with a few weekly sessions - ideally come once a week for 4-6 weeks - then have an occasional session every now and again. Practising little and often in between sessions makes a big difference.
The clinical sessions work really well with the movement classes so if possible come to both. The movement classes are run in courses but it is possible to drop in on them once you have some basic knowledge.
Once your body is familiar with this new way of moving you should find that you need only to remind your muscles every now and again. It's not like an exercise routine - it's more a way of learning how to move differently. It changes the way your brain tells your muscles to move, which is via your nervous system.
Expect to gradually improve over time. Your body softens, you become more connected to your centre. You move more like a system. Thomas Hanna used to say "It's what the cat does".