Essential Somatics® Professional Training in Clinical Somatic Education

Essential Somatics® announces its first semester of a two-year professional training program in Somatic Education, in the tradition of Thomas Hanna.

Semester 1, Module 1: February 16 – 23, 2013

Somatic Education, in the tradition of Thomas Hanna, is a safe, highly effective, and scientifically-based method of neuromuscular reeducation that goes to the root cause of most chronic muscle pain: the brain and the way in which it senses and control muscles and movement. It is hands-on movement education that teaches you to help your clients eliminate their own chronic muscle pain for the long term – faster and more efficiently than passive modalities.

This method, developed 30 years ago by Thomas Hanna, Ph.D., teaches people to regain their physical independence, eliminate muscle pain, improve mobility and body awareness, and restore optimum voluntary muscle function.

Many of you have asked me when I will start teaching. One of my clients echoed a sentiment that is all too common; it highlights the importance of training more people in Somatic Education. She said,

“I have certifications in a lot of methods. I have a lot of knowledge, but I still can’t seem to help my clients get to the root of their muscular pain. I feel that Somatics is the missing link.”

Somatic Education, in the tradition of Thomas Hanna, gets to the root of most chronic muscle pain. It Image 8is the missing link in scientific information about the loss of voluntary muscle function (that is not pathology or disease related).

This training is open to those in bodywork or movement professions, fitness trainers, and healthcare or medical profession. If your current method of bodywork or client/patient care isn’t educating your clients to be able to experience long-term pain relief and an ability to independently keep themselves feeling good and moving better, this training is for you!

Visit the Essential Somatics website for more information.

Download the full training prospectus.

Learn about Somatic Education in the tradition of Thomas Hanna.

This class is open to a maximum of 9 students. For any questions, or to request an application please contact Martha.

If you want to learn more about Somatic Education, but are not ready to commit to a two-year clinical training, you can learn to become an Essential Somatics Exercise Coach.

Kinesio Tape: Does It Really Work?

In a previous blog post, Muscle Pain: Is It Really A Medical Condition, I wrote about why the study of Somatic Education should be a part of medical school curriculum. I’d like to take the discussion further.

In the 2012 Olympics many saw an interesting addition to the uniforms of athletes: colorful stripes of tape on the shoulders, backs, and legs. This Kinesio Tape was the “therapy” of choice on the part of the supporting medical staff caring for the Olympic athletes. The goal was to ease muscle pain and improve muscle function.

Kinesio Tape is elasticized tape that is thought to relief muscle pain and improve muscle function. Statistical evidence supporting the use of Kinesio Tape is insignificant, yet more and more professional athletes are using it. Power Balance bracelets were all the rage not too long ago, so perhaps this is a similar trend. This tells me that people aren’t basing their choices on science, but rather on celebrity popularity.

Kinesio Tape is not a long-term solution to muscle pain or muscle dysfunction.

Better movement doesn’t come from applying Kinesio Tape to one’s body any more than a better tennis swing will come from wearing the same tennis outfit as Serena Williams. Reeducating movement patterns will improve movement.

Here’s why Kinesio Tape doesn’t work and how you can get muscle pain relief and improved muscle function/athletic performance:

Kinesio Tape acts as slight sensory feedback to the muscles in order to give them a different sensation, yet that is not a strong enough level of feedback to reset the cortex for more optimum muscle function.

The sensory motor system of the brain controls all voluntary movement of muscles. When muscles are excessively tight, painful, or not functioning as well as desired, it is because they have learned to stay contracted at the level of the central nervous system; improvement in the sensory motor cortex is the best option for long-term improvement. A muscle that holds excess tension is a muscle that cannot fully release, nor contract. Muscles that are fully relaxed and low in tonus are more efficiently recruited for ballistic movement – the kind of action that is basic and necessary to all sports.

Pandiculation, a hard-wired brain reflex, is the most efficient method for restoring full muscle function and sensation. By contracting muscles and then slowly releasing them the brain is able to retrieve both sensation and full movement potential.

Nothing that anybody does to you can change what your brain and muscles are doing.

This means that instead of putting something on your body in a vain attempt to change the pain, you must teach your muscles to do something new and different from within to reset the cortex of your brain. Some clients have described their experience of pandiculation as one of a “software update” of the brain, so the muscles can move more efficiently and freely.

Hanna Somatic Exercises and clinical hands-on methods address Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA), which is the root cause of most chronic muscle function pain. SMA occurs due to adaptation to stress – which includes athletic training and over-training, as well as accidents, injuries, surgeries, or repetitive stress. A short routine of Somatic Exercises or a series of hands-on clinical sessions can teach those who have “tried everything”  for pain relief – including Kinesio Tape – to eliminate pain for the long term. Back pain, sciatica, SI joint dysfunction, chronic neck, shoulder, and hip pain, and chronic headaches are all conditions easily eliminated with Hanna Somatic (Clinical Somatic) Education.

This method is the best kept secret in the field of healthcare, pain management, and athletic performance. Athletic trainers, physical therapists, massage therapists and body workers can be at the forefront of athletic training and rehabilitation using the clinical techniques and movements of Hanna Somatics.  It’s simple, scientific, easy, fun, and comfortable. And it will change your life and maybe even save your athletic career.

If you’re interested in a participating in a professional certification training in Clinical Somatic Education, or becoming a Somatic Exercise Coach, contact Essential Somatics for information.

Muscle Confusion and Somatic Differentiation

“Muscle confusion” is marketed as a new, cool, breakthrough discovery that is the outstanding characteristic of P90X, a very popular fitness routine/method. I’ve discussed this concept before, and it bears repeating: “Muscle confusion,” is a bit of a misnomer. When you mix up your routine with different kinds of ballistic movements, you’re not actually confusing the muscles. You’re disrupting the circuits in your brain, and giving the brain new and different feedback and stimulus. Your brain actually teaches them to become smarter through increased sensory feedback. The biggest benefit of this kind of training is increased sensory awareness and motor control.

A more accurate word for “muscle confusion” is “differentiated movement.” This term was coined by Moshe Feldenkrais, creator of the Awareness Through Movement exercises and Functional Integration. Feldenkrais began to see in his own work how breaking down patterns of movement into little seemingly unrelated sequences brings an almost instantaneous improved coordination and range of motion in the muscular system.

One of the best example of differentiated movement is the somatic exercise called the “seated twist.” It is a profoundly effective exercise for relieving neck and shoulder pain by breaking down all the movements inherent in a full spiral twist of the body.

In this exercise you learn to differentiate the head from the trunk, eyes from the neck and head, upper body from the lower body for increased movement and freedom of restriction of the neck, shoulder girdle and trunk. Increased range of motion and rapid pain relief occurs not through force, but through intelligent sensory integration and re-patterning of muscles that had forgotten how to move properly.

Other examples of differentiation and “muscle confusion” are brushing your teeth with your left hand (if you’re right handed), walking backwards, or running, then stopping to do 5 jumping jacks, then running again. You’re essentially distracting the brain from its habitual ways of sensing and moving. Current studies on brain plasticity tell us that “mixing it up” and creating a challenge for your brain helps the brain adapt and grow new neural connections. This is what creates the “big results” of P90X.

Somatic Exercises before your workout will create even smoother, more intelligent and coordinated movement.

If you want to take the results touted by P90X to an even higher level, add a short routine of somatic exercises before and after your workout.  Somatic exercises are – for most athletes – profound differentiation. Why? Because these exercises are done SLOWLY, with attention to the end range of the movement – something few athletes, with the exception of dancers, do when preparing to move. What, you may ask, is there to learn from moving slowly if your sport involves ballistic movement?

Slow movement “wakes up” the muscles safely and allows the brain to accurately sense what is happening in the body. Athletes learn to compensate due to accidents, injuries or over-training.  This can create an imbalance in the somatic center and accumulated muscle tension that gets in the way of smooth, efficient movement.  The end results of such compensatory patterns is one of moving like a car with the emergency brake still on.  Somatic Exercises teaches you to eliminate this kind of accumulated muscle and movement tension so the brain can recruit only the muscles necessary to get the job done.

Any sport or vigorous workout like P90X requires balance, muscle coordination, and mastery of specific movement patterns – flexing, extending, side bending, twisting, rotating. The more “body smarts” you have, the less likely you are to get injured from overuse or carelessness. Somatic Exercises are a missing link in athletic training that can help you differentiate yourself into improved coordination, muscle function and movement you never thought you could do.