What Is Hanna Somatic Education?
“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 on the work of F. Matthias Alexander, Moshe Feldenkrais and others. Hanna, however, placed more emphasis on “pandiculation,” which is what the dog above is doing. It is not stretching statically like we are often taught, but is slowly contracting tight muscles within a comfortable range of movement, and then releasing them – we do this when we yawn, and dogs and cats do this approximately 40 times per day!
Hanna Somatic Education is a system that addresses the tendency in most of us to maintain unnecessary muscle tension. We experience “sensory motor amnesia” when we 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 brains to have more awareness, and more voluntary control of these reflexes.
There are also a number of free videos online to teach you fundamentals. Here are a few:
These movements may not look like much, but try them and notice the changes that result!
Although you can definitely learn with the above resources (that’s what I did for several years), group classes or one-on-one sessions will give you the opportunity to receive feedback, so that you are more aware of muscles that you don’t consciously realize you are tensing. This will result in faster progress, and less frustration.