Somatic Movement

Somatic Movement is the best way to relieve pain that results from unnecessary muscle tension, and to improve freedom of movement.

Somatic Movement 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.

“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!

Thomas Hanna died in a car accident in the middle of training his first group of students, which is why his work is not more widely known. Although tens of thousands of people can attest to the positive benefits of somatic movement, there have been very few scientific studies to quantify typical results. One recent study, however, found significant reductions of neck and back pain with just a few sessions – on average, pain levels measured on a 5 point scale decreased from more than 3 to 0.7 or less, and the use of pain medication declined substantially!

Clinical Somatic Movement

Photos: before (left) and after (right) one Clinical Somatic Movement session

Clinical Somatic Movement involves one-on-one, hands-on sessions.

I specialize in relieving back pain and achieving better posture (with less effort)! Sessions include teaching individualized movements to practice a few minutes each day at home – to reinforce gains and to make additional progress.

New clients are accepted only by referral or request. Contact me at 517-275-2388 or phil.howard@zoho.com for an initial consultation to determine if I can support your specific goals.

100% satisfaction guaranteed.
  • Better Posture program [also known as the relieve “text neck” or forward head posture program], typically one session weekly for three weeks – $240
  • Back Pain Relief program, typically one session weekly for seven weeks – $560
  • Single or maintenance sessions – $90

Availability: most Tuesdays and Friday afternoons.

Location: Williamston Wellness, 1235 E. Grand River, Williamston, Michigan 48895

What people are saying about Somatic Movement 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.”

“I’ve tried numerous methods to release chronic body tensions that helped but didn’t last. Clinical Somatics has improved my posture and loosened tension throughout my body. The difference is remarkable!”

About Phil Howard, CCSE

I am a Certified Clinical Somatic Educator (Essential Somatics) and Somatic Movement teacher. I am also a member of the International Somatic Movement Education and Therapy Association (ISMETA).

Although I have experience with dozens of modalities in attempts to resolve decades of chronic back pain (and eventually sciatica and a bulging L5/S1), Somatic Movement was the only one that addressed the root of the problem – within a few months of daily practice in 2014 I was pain free, and a half inch taller due to releasing tight muscles in my lower back and hips.

I have taught Somatic Movement group classes since 2017, including at The Early College at Lansing Community College, LotusVoice in East Lansing, and the City of East Lansing Prime Time Seniors Program (“Move out of Pain,” Fall 2020 and Fall 2021). Classes and workshops are available for organizations by request.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I expect in a Clinical Somatic Movement session?

What can I expect in a Somatic Movement group class or workshop?

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

Where else can I learn Somatic Movement?

What conditions can Somatic Movement help me with?

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

In addition, Somatic Movement can free restrictions of movement, which results in increasing speed, coordination and power (golf, tennis, running, team sports, dancing, etc.).