“Somatic” means to experience sensations and movement from a first-person perspective, or from within. Broadly, somatics includes Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais Method, yoga, tai chi and related systems. The term was coined by Thomas Hanna (1928-1990), a philosophy professor who built upon the work of F. Matthias Alexander, Moshe Feldenkrais and others.

Hanna, however, placed more emphasis on “pandiculation,” which is what we do instinctively when we extend our arms upon awakening (often accompanied by a yawn). We are not stretching statically, but slowly contracting tight muscles within a comfortable range of movement, and then releasing them –  notice that dogs and cats do this approximately 40 times per day!

Somatic Education in the tradition of Thomas Hanna is a system that addresses the tendency in most of us to hold unnecessary muscle tension. We may lose the ability to consciously let go of involuntary reflexes when they are no longer needed, such as back muscles that contract when getting ready to move quickly, but don’t fully release when we are done moving. By deliberately contracting and noticing the increased tension, then slowly letting it go, we can retrain our brain and nervous system to have more awareness and more voluntary control of these movement patterns.

Online Group Classes – September 2020

“Move Out of Pain,” Tuesdays, September 8 to 29, 11am to noon EST (via Zoom)

City of East Lansing Prime Time Seniors Program

$37 non-members, $32 Prime Time members

to register: email or leave message at (517) 337-1113


Clinical Somatic Education

Contact me to schedule clinical somatic education sessions (one-on-one, hands-on):, or 517-275-2388

Initial one hour session – $40 (half price, for a limited time only)

Follow-up one hour session – $80 (most conditions are resolved within 5 to 7 sessions, while more severe conditions, such as scoliosis, may require more).

Availability: most Tuesdays and Friday afternoons.

Location: Williamston Wellness, 1235 E. Grand River, Williamston, MI 48895 (phone 517-655-4234)

What people are saying about somatic education with Phil Howard

“I often struggle with tension in my back muscles that leads to back pain, and this helped to relieve it.”

“I felt amazing after the session.”

“…my headache went away.”

“I felt less stress in my shoulders and in my body than I ever felt before…”

“I found it very helpful, and it relieved a lot of tension in my back that I did not know that I had. I found it extremely interesting how such tiny movements for such a small period of time could effect such huge changes.”

About Phil Howard, CCSE

Phil is a Certified Clinical Somatic Educator (Essential Somatics) and Hanna Somatic Movement teacher. Although he tried numerous modalities to address decades of chronic back pain (and eventually sciatica and a bulging L5/S1), Hanna/Clinical Somatics was the only one that addressed the root of the problem – within a few months of daily practice he was pain free, and a half inch taller due to releasing tight muscles in his lower back and hips.

Frequently asked questions

What can I expect in a clinical somatic education session?

What can I expect in a Hanna somatic movement group class or workshop?

How do I recognize habituated muscle tension (sensory motor amnesia)?

Where else can I learn somatic education?

What conditions can somatic education help me with?

  • headaches
  • back pain and sciatica
  • shoulder and neck pain
  • muscle spasms or cramps (e.g. back spasms, charley horse)
  • knee, foot or plantar fasciitis pain
  • temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ)
  • scoliosis

In addition, somatic education can help improve posture and free restrictions of movement, which results in increased performance (golf, tennis, running).