Frequently Asked Questions
Many people who are new to Clinical Somatic Education (developed by founder, Thomas Hanna; aka: Hanna Somatics) are curious as to why their discomfort can’t be addressed with traditional approaches. Here are a some FAQs to understand why this work will benefit you:
Q. Can’t I just stretch if my muscles are tight?
No, muscles that are tight cannot be stretched to a new or different length by an external force (i.e. stretching).
Muscles must be actively lengthened and this is an internal neural event that takes place in the sensory-motor area of the brain, not by outside forces.
Stretching can cause muscles to spasm.
Stretching doesn’t work for long-term results because it often triggers the stretch reflex. This ancient reflexive pattern is a primary defensive motor reflex that causes muscles to tighten in order to protect themselves from tearing, or to protect the tendon from tearing apart from bone. The signal of the stretch reflex only goes as far as the spinal cord, which immediately sends the signal back to the muscles to tighten and protect.
Stretching will not undo your tightness. Once you’re done stretching (the way we all learned when we were kids/young adults), your brain goes back to telling your muscles to hold tight again.
Clinical Somatics will retrain your stretching needs and results
With Clinical Somatics, I will guide you to bring voluntary awareness in shortening (contracting) a group of muscles and then voluntarily controlling the release of those muscles, which will eliminate tightness.
This is very similar to the way a cat moves daily. Cats and dogs move themselves daily in what looks like gentle, yawning-type stretching movements, but they’re not the same stretching that humans do. These cat and dog-like movements are called pandiculation and the animal moves with pleasure, contracting into a pattern and then slowly releasing and relaxing out of that pattern.
If you really want to change the potential of your muscles over time, you need to work with the brain, which is the focus of Clinical Somatic Education.
Q. Is Clinical Somatic Education Right for me?
Clinical Somatic Education is a SAFE, EASY, and GENTLE practice that is beneficial for everyone (both young and old).
Humans adapt to their daily patterns of use and stress over time. Due to habituated or overused movement patterns, muscles become held in an unconscious and chronic contraction (i.e. due to sport/activity, car accident, repetitive stress, sitting at a computer, texting or wearing certain footwear). These are just some of the associated daily stressors from our movement or lack of movement habits.
The nervous system learns to adapt to these patterns and postures, leading to a larger impact on health and imbalances.
The way we sit, stand and move each day over the course of our lifetime causes much of the chronic pain, reoccurring injuries, and even joint degeneration experienced in our culture. These patterns are not noticeable at first, but in time you might detect an imbalance in your posture or discomfort in the way you perform an activity.
Many people attribute these imbalances, aches and pains due to aging, but truthfully, the only part about aging that is correct is that we’ve lived on the planet longer and we’ve practiced our adapted patterns longer than our youthful counterparts. What doctors and others call aging and degeneration, could very well be practiced movement patterns that have lead us astray. So yes, we do feel it as we age. The good news is, we can do something about it.
We can learn from cats and dogs who move gently 30-40 times per day (in a yawning-like stretch), which resets the muscles so they don’t hold tight all the time. Our animal friends don’t need to go to the gym or yoga class to remain supple and once you learn about this, you too can help change your aging process and shift your experience from one of stiffness or pain to one of ease.
Clinical Somatic Education addresses the root of the problem through focused, gentle movements that reprogram what you’re currently doing and improve your movement patterns, which in turn, improve your daily activities.
Q. How is Clinical Somatic Education different from Yoga or Pilates?
Instead of focusing on strengthening around an affected joint or stretching muscles around that joint, Somatic Movement Education retrains the nervous system to get back to controlling muscles and joints properly.
During a Clinical Somatic session or Somatic Movement class, students experience improved flexibility, breathing and relaxation. Students are amazed at how great they feel and how small and gentle the movements are. Upon leaving class, students feel less stiff and tight compared to when they first come to class. Clients report far bigger and better results from weekly Somatics than when they were attending weekly yoga or pilates. Somatics can impact your yoga or pilates class and make it more easeful..
Q. How does Clinical Somatic Education differ from other healing modalities, such as physical therapy, massage and chiropractic care?
A Clinical Somatic Educator uses sophisticated hands-on tools/techniques to teach clients to change their own neuromuscular system.
Other typical hands-on therapies (e.g., physical therapy, massage and chiropractic care) tend to do the work for the client through external hands-on manipulation. In other words, the receiver of the work is passive.
A major difference between Clinical Somatics and other healing therapies is that the receiver is active in Clinical Somatics.
Unlike other healing modalities, Clinical Somatics doesn’t focus solely on strengthening muscles or joints or realigning bones. Those benefits do occur with Clinical Somatics; however, it happens over time as you undo years of habitual patterns through reprogramming the neuromuscular system.
Clinical Somatics is a good complement to these other therapies. Often in the healing process, many doctors and physical therapists recommend more than one type of treatment for maximum benefits.
Clinical Somatics and Somatic Movement classes will support your healing and continue to benefit your overall health and wellness. In other words, Clinical Somatics isn't only for those in pain. It's adaptable for any human being because each of us experiences holding patterns caused by stress and life’s activities.
Q. Is Clinical Somatic Education a form of “bodywork”?
It is different than traditional “bodywork” and would be more accurate to say, it’s a form of “brain-work.”
Essentially, the practitioner acts as a facilitator for the client to actively re-educate and recalibrate the brain’s feedback loop as it messages muscles.
In somatics, the client is focused and participates in the process and progress.
According to the Somatic Systems Institute, “the practitioner does move the client’s body, but this movement is entirely for the purpose of altering signals in the brain and central nervous system to change how the nervous system interacts with, and controls, the rest of the body.”
Q. Will Clinical Somatic Education work in conjunction with other therapies?
YES. Clinical Somatics is a good complement to other therapies, such as physical therapy, massage, acupuncture and chiropractic care.
These latter therapies may initially eliminate pain and can set the stage for a more long-term solution using Clinical Somatics.
With Clinical Somatics, clients learn to do the work on their own for more lasting improvements and to avoid reoccurrences. This is a win-win approach for people who would like to benefit from multiple therapies.
Be your own health advocate and choose what feels right for you. There is no 'ONE' therapy for ALL, we are unique and it could be beneficial to try more than one type of therapeutic approach.