What is Hanna Somatics method?

The process of awareness, biological function, and the environment, with all three components, considered as a synergistic whole. That whole is a training program and cornerstone of refining your bodily perceptions, called ‘somatics’. Hanna Somatics improves not only your strength and alignment, increases body awareness, but your so-called ‘sensory authority’ as well. In this article, I will cast some light on a method that I teach, which integrates mentioned health and wellness concepts into a whole, called Hanna Somatics Method.

I am Hanna Somatics Movement Coach and I help people understand and perform this approach in their everyday life. In my teaching, I like to point out that Hanna Somatics Method represents a straightforward and easy to understand training program, and on top of that has a deep and powerful meaning.

Hanna Somatics Back Lift

How Hanna Somatics helps to regain the brain’s control of tight painful muscles through “Pandiculation”

The founding father of this somatics method is Thomas Hanna, who developed it as a revised and upgraded version of Feldenkrais, method of the brain and the body reconnection. With the help of involuntary acts of stretching of the soft tissues, called ‘pandiculations’, I teach people to first consciously try tensing their affected muscles, which they consciously cannot relax, and then gradually withdrawing the tension until the muscle feels relaxed once again. This phenomenon serves to overcome the so-called ‘sensory-motor amnesia (SMA)’. SMA is the condition of chronically tense muscles that have learned to remain contracted due to repeated and reflexive response to stress such as t, traumas, injuries, repetitive tasks, and on-going emotional stress.

By practicing pandiculation, the brain learns to move again and to consciously feel the stiff, inflexible, and somewhat forgotten muscles that are no longer used by the person.

Sebastian Urbanik

Pandiculation helps the body in orientation and self-organization. Tu put it simply, pandiculation can be understood as a ‘software update’ for your brain: it “re-boots” the brain’s sensation and control of the muscles every time you do it.

By practicing Hanna Somatics method, people not only regain control of their body and muscles but also of their own life, feel competent and successful

In my classes, I teach people how to perform various exercises, which will give them a proper natural feedback. The person can then use the sensed information to relearn the movement by providing a more and more precise muscular response every time the exercise is performed. It is a nature’s way of maintaining the functional integrity of the myofascial system: a sensory-motor system communicates directly with another sensory-motor system. When it’s all going well and according to the plan, it resembles a dance where every step is meaningful. 

Nevertheless, I tend to explain to every individual that pushing harder or less hard when exercising at a time may sound simple, but it is not for someone with early mentioned sensory-motor amnesia.

Sebastian Urbanik

SMA can be understood as a chronic, inadequate muscular activation and function that can be neither sensed nor properly managed. To push hard at once would be much easier, but when a person gradually reduces the tension, the brain and the muscle have to do all these fine gradations. I think it is very important for the person to be focused because as soon as he or she drifts away with his or her thoughts, the sense of control will be lost and the activation of the muscle will ultimately fail. This is the point where pandiculations step in to overcome that barrier and I emphasize its importance whenever I can.

To improve the lack of accuracy, movement impulses correct the movement. The second and third time the person usually performs the action with more confidence and stability. Finally, the person not only regains control of his or her muscles but also of their own life, feel competent and successful. It creates the joy of movement like a child who just discovered what it can do with the body.

Hanna Somatics Arch & Flatten

But how exactly does Hanna Somatics method help you get in touch with your body?

I will give you an example of Hanna method on upper parts of our body, our shoulders let’s say. In order for a person to feel the affected shoulder muscle, providing a first sensory information and basically just telling the brain that there is something interesting going on is crucial.

Then I advise the person to move the shoulder several times first upwards, into the wrong posture, and then downwards, but only to the starting position. The sensory feedback that arises when moving is something new and interesting to the patient’s brain– a sensation it has not felt for a long time. However, the person will not receive a tasty sugar cane as a reward from the brain, but a different response- it causes a stronger contraction of muscles because the upward movement goes with the involuntary tension, not against. The body has therefore (unlike the abrupt stretching) no reason to lock against the movement. 

The innovation that Hanna introduced is active learning. I teach people to purposely pull their shoulder up even more, against the pressure of hands, who are pushing down on their shoulder.

Sebastian Urbanik

Hanna Somatics creates the joy of movement like a child who just discovered what it can do with the body

I can clearly tell that the reaction of the person is pure joy: the shoulder feels more relaxed, steadier, bigger, looser, lighter. The person can now see that in the mirror. Only now does he or she realize with astonishment that other shoulder hangs up and feels tight and small. There is a difference now.

Imagine now that every muscle in your body can be manipulated and healed by using the same method, Hanna Somatics. It is my goal to advise individuals how to perform these exercises correctly and to embrace this method in their lives because it can be a life changer.

If you want to untie a knot, you must look at the cord carefully then gently undo the tangle. Yanking on the cord will only make the knot tighter.

Thomas Hanna

REFERENCES

  1. Batson G, Schwartz RE. Revisiting the value of somatic education in dance training through an inquiry into practice schedules. Journal of Dance Education. 2007;7(2):47–56.

  2. Bertolucci LF. Pandiculation: nature’s way of maintaining the functional integrity of the myofascial system?. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2011;15(3):268-80.

  3. Eddy M. Dance and somatic inquiry in studios and community dance programs. Journal of Dance Education. 2002;2(4):119–127.

  4. Geber P, Wilson M. Teaching at the interface of dance science and somatics. J Dance Med Sci. 2010; 14(2):50-7.

  5. Keng SL, Smoski MJ, Robins CJ. Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: a review of empirical studies. Clinical Psychology Rev. 2011; 31(6):1041-56.

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Sebastian Urbanik Bodyworker and Hanna Somatics Coach
Sebastian is a Bodyworker with 15+ year's experience and a Hanna Somatics Coach. He is currently studying with the AMN (Applied Movement Neurology Academy) in London, UK.