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, and discover how they show up in 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 helps you control your muscles and use them more efficiently.
The clinical sessions are a good place to start with somatics, or a good way of deepening your somatic awareness. What you are looking for is your own pattern of SMA (sensory motor amnesia). You are on a journey to discover the layers of unconsciously held contraction that are causing distortion or discomfort in your body. It is a gradual process: "somas exist in time" as Thomas Hanna said. Luckily the contractions come in patterns that connect through the centre of the body. We call the space between your ribcage and your pelvis the "somatic centre". As your internal intelligence improves you discover how your hands and feet are connected through your centre, how your head and neck are connected to your pelvis through your spine, how one shoulder is connected to the opposite hip. It is this connectivity and this understanding of your body as a system that makes your movement more efficient. This is how you become a fully functioning soma.
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 low wide somatics table.
The session usually begins lying on your back with a movement called "pulsing", which is a kind of pumping the bottom of the foot to see how much movement flows through the body. At the end of the session we pulse again to notice any differences. The sessions broadly follow one of the three main protocols devised by Thomas Hanna for each of the stress reflexes, (protocol One is for the green light reflex, protocol two is for the trauma reflex and protocol three is for the red light reflex). But other movements and pandiculations can be added to the mix to suit your own particular issues or to focus on particular areas of the body, such as the neck, the shoulders, the ankles, knees or hips. So each session is tailored to suit you and you are an active participant in the process.
How many sessions to have?
How many sessions depends on each individual. Minimum 4 sessions is recommended to learn the basic movements. The first session is quite often an introduction to the basic somatic principles and movements with a focus on breathing - there is a "breathing protocol" devised by my teacher Martha Peterson . Then follow the three clinical somatic education protocols as devised by Thomas Hanna in relation to your own movement patterns. During each session you learn one or two of the somatic movements, to take home and add to your daily practice. Setting down the new habit of daily somatics practice can be one of the most challenging aspect of sensory motor amnesia to overcome!
Once your body is familiar with this new. more efficient way of moving you should find that you need only to remind your muscles how to release every now and again. It's still advisable to practise daily (or the old issues will return) but not for so long. It's not like an exercise routine - it's more a way of incorporating new ways of moving into your daily life.
Expect to gradually improve over time. As your body softens, you become more connected to your centre and your body softens some more. You move more like an animal. Thomas Hanna used to say "It's what the cat does".