Somatics ONLINE CLASSES are on Mondays at 11.15am. Open to all. Each class is 1 hour. You need a mat or blanket to lie on. Recordings available. To join, email firstname.lastname@example.org
INDOOR CLASSES are on Wednesdays 11.30 at Liskerrett Centre, Liskeard. Please book - phone 07729 907056 or email email@example.com.
What is Somatics?
Somatics is brain work, not exercise. It is about improving your control over your sensory-motor nervous system, which is a feedback loop. You sense as you move. The somatic experience is uniquely yours - only you can experience what you are sensing as you make that movement. The more awareness you bring to this internal experience of sensing, the more control you have over the movement and the more efficient your movement becomes. There is no limit to how much you can improve.
In Somatics you move slowly, which gives your brain time to absorb and integrate the new sensory information. The movements are comfortable and easy - it is a bit like yawning or sighing. All you do is concentrate on the movement. You do not stretch your muscles but instead you lengthen them by slowly releasing the tension that is unconsciously held in them. How do you do this? By doing movements called "pandiculations" (see below). You only need to repeat the movement two or three times for the brain to integrate the new information. This is how you change long term habits. This is how you get relief from long term pain.
Pandiculation comes from a Latin word "pandiculare", meaning to yawn. Pandiculation is the main method we use in Somatics to release unconsciously held tension in muscles. This tension we call "sensory motor amnesia" or SMA (see below). A pandiculation has three parts: a contraction, a slow release, and a pause to integrate. Once you learn how to pandiculate you can release muscular tension anywhere in your body. The saying we have is "do more of what you're already doing". This means you deliberately contract muscles that you want to release, so that you can feel them more clearly. Then you slowly release, and wait for the change to place in the brain.
Sensory-motor amnesia is unconsciously held muscular tension. The muscles have forgotten how to let go fully, so they can't find their full resting length. They are constantly under tension. This is why tension leads to pain - the muscles are tired from continual use.
Thomas Hanna, the inventor of Somatics, identified three main stress reflexes. These are natural survival reflexes, common to all living things, or "somas" (see below). They are instinctive movement patterns, governed by the brainstem, the unconscious part of the brain. They are there to protect you and are innate responses to environmental stress
Over time, if these reflexes are constantly triggered and never fully released (due to SMA), they become habitual and cause chronic muscular tension and pain. All three reflexes can happen suddenly or build up over time. Usually people have a mixture of all three but one will be more dominant than the others The reflexes are:
- the "red light" reflex, also known as the "startle reflex", is a contraction of the front of the body, a curling forward in self-protection. The classic "red light" position has all the elements associated with old age: bent forward, hump back, rounded shoulders, depressed chest, knees drawing together, chin tipping up as the back of the neck disappears into the shoulders.
- the "green light" reflex, also known as the "landau reflex", is a contraction of the back of the body, in preparation for action or escape. The classic "green light" posture is with the back arched forward in a sway back, giving the appearance of a protruding belly with the hips slumped forwards, neck protruding forward and and the weight on the outside of the feet.
- the "trauma" reflex is a one-sidedness, a lean or tilt to one side or a rotation of the shoulders out of line with the hips. It is often the result of injury or a surgical operation but can also come on slowly as the result of long-term one-sided repetitive movement. If you become aware of the daily movements that you do that are distinctly one-sided you will gain insight into your own SMA.
In Somatics you explore the reflex patterns by pandiculating. By bringing these unconscious reflex patterns into your conscious awareness you become able to feel them more clearly. And when you can feel them you can change them.
A soma is a living being, an organism or a living system, dependent on and connected with all other living systems. Thomas Hanna identified four dimensions that apply to all somas. These are: all somas know which way is up (a response to gravity); somas all face forward so they can find what they need; all somas have two sides so they can move. The fourth dimension is time. Somas exist in time. Change takes place over time and movement is co-ordinated in time.
Private Clinical Somatic Education Sessions
These are one-to-one, hands on sessions that help you find and undo your own patterns of habitual movement. At least 4 sessions are recommended to give time to explore the three stress reflexes identified by Thomas Hanna - the red light, green light and trauma reflexes and to make sure you have all the information you need to practise independently and change your ingrained habits. Hands-on feedback or "assisted pandiculations" help you feel more clearly which muscles to contract and which to turn off, and how to improve your control over them as you gently release the contraction.
For more information please have a look at the Clinical Somatics page (click here) and then phone or email for further information and booking
What is a Soma?
"All the movements are comfortable and easy"