Clinical Somatic Education (CSE) is a groundbreaking approach to relieving chronic pain and tension, improving movement performance and increasing recovery from injuries by teaching you how to actively relax your muscles. Through slow, simple and comfortable movements and specific hands-on techniques CSE helps you to recognise the patterns in how you’re using your body and provides you with more efficient alternatives. This means you can go on moving and feeling better no matter your age.
Clinical Somatic Education (also known as Hanna Somatic Education) was developed by the late philospher and neuromuscular pioneer Thomas Hanna Ph.D. (1928-1990). He founded the field of Somatics and was the Director of the Novato Institute for Somatic Research and Training in Novato, California. In the 1970s Hanna was introduced to Moshe Feldenkrais and trained with him for several years. Throughout the next two decades Hanna developed his own method of sensory motor training, which is practiced today as Clinical Somatic Education.
Everything that has happened throughout your life has an impact on you – your body literally keeps the score. So it stands to reason that those things that happen often leave a deep mark. Take stress for example. As humans, we have primal responses to stress that are designed to help us survive and keep us safe. They’re called reflexes and they cause muscles to tighten ready to move us towards or away from a stressor. We need them. Ideally these reflexes are triggered and released without issue, but if we are constantly exposed to stress the reflexes can get stuck in our system meaning we keep a constant level of muscle tension all of the time, leaving you feeling stiff and sore.
Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA) happens when we can no longer sense and move our muscles freely. It occurs when we habituate to one or more of these reflexes, which show up as predictable patterns of muscle tension.
Thomas Hanna built on the important work of Hans Selye and Moshe Feldenkrais to name three reflexes that cause SMA:
- Green light reflex – tightening of the muscles of the back of the body in response to the get-up-and-go demands of life
- Red light reflex – tightening of the muscles of the front of the body in response to protection, fear or anxiety
- Trauma reflex – tightening of the muscles of the sides of the body in response usually in response to physical injuries
The technique used in somatics to release muscle tension is called Pandiculation. Take a close look the next time you see a cat or dog getting up from rest. See that movement they’re doing? It’s a pandiculation. They repeat it several times a day in order to remain ready for movement. Children are excellent pandiculators too, but as adults we inhibit this reflexive movement and learn the habit of holding muscle tension instead. A pandiculation has three parts – slow voluntary contraction of the muscles, slow voluntary release of that contraction and a moment of complete rest. This sends strong sensory signals to the brain to help reconnect it with the muscles giving you back control over your movement.