About Martha

Martha Peterson, a  Certified Hanna Somatic Educator and movement expert, is the author of the book, “Move Without Pain”, published by Sterling Publishers. She has also produced the instructional DVD, “Pain Relief Through Movement,” as well as a line of “Pain-Free” Somatic Exercise DVDs, which are now selling worldwide.  Martha is a graduate of Somatic Systems Institute in Northampton, MA. and holds a B.A. in Dance Education from the State University of New York, and certification in Massage Therapy from the National Holistic Institute in Oakland, CA.

Martha teaches in the United States and Europe and has traveled to Australia and Canada to present trainings and workshops. When she’s not traveling she gives private sessions and teaches Somatic Movement classes at her office at Wellspring Health Collective in Maplewood, NJ. Martha works with clients who have struggled with chronic pain, joint stiffness or postural problems. She teaches them how to get long term pain relief from chronic pain patterns using the gentle, and revolutionary techniques and methods of Hanna Somatics.

Her expertise comes from over 30 years of working with professionals in the field of dance, bodywork and somatic therapies. She established the first on-site massage therapy programs in Washington, DC at the World Bank, the US Justice Department, and Dept. of Health and Human Services, and has worked with dancers, actors, athletes, children and seniors.

As a former professional dancer who, at one point suffered chronic hip and knee pain due to injuries, Martha understands the frustration and struggle many people go through trying to discern between the myriad different modalities that claim to relieve, or “fix” chronic pain. This is how she discovered Hanna Somatic Education, the only method that taught her, in a short time, to reverse her pain and postural imbalances and regain her freedom of movement. She finds that mastering healthy body mechanics and proprioception is the key to maintaining flexibility and freedom of movement.

In addition to private sessions and group classes, Martha conducts online video sessions for those in both the US and internationally who seek personalized help for pain relief and improved movement.  In 2012 she instituted the Essential Somatics® Professional Training Program in Clinical Somatic Education, which trains appropriate candidates to become skilled clinical practitioners.  Martha is available for speaking engagements and corporate workshops, which focus on injury prevention, healthy biomechanics, and worker wellness.

When she’s not working, Martha enjoys traveling, hiking, walking long distances, dancing, gardening, and playing. With her 83 year old mother, Martha has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and travelled to Sikkim, Northern India, to trek in the Himalayas. She’s learned that the key to remaining healthy and mobile is daily, vigorous, fun movement.

56 thoughts on “About Martha

  1. Hi Martha,
    It’s Josh Leeger…from Exuberant Animal.
    Can you recommend a good starter-text or other media to get into Hanna somatics?

    • Hi Josh! I would definitely start by reading the book Somatics, by Thomas Hanna. I’d also order “The Myth of Aging” audio series, narrated by Thomas Hanna, from somaticsed.com: http://www.somaticsed.com/catOrdering.html Lawrence Gold’s website – http://www.somatics.com/ – has lots of information, too. I’m putting up some short videos on YouTube by the end of the week which I hope will be helpful in explaining and demonstrating Somatics. I’ll also have a DVD of the basic “cat stretch” of Somatic Exercises out by June. You can always email if you have any questions at all about Hanna Somatics. Nice to hear from you!

      • And feel free to contact me with any questions. There are certain, to my mind, crucial, bits about Somatics that Hanna doesn’t emphasize in his book as much as I think are necessary; he doesn’t mention what we teach in private sessions. He emphasizes proprioception, the reflexes and the exercises. All great stuff, all extremely important, but I think it leaves the reader wondering how he got such amazing results so quickly. The answer is the technique of pandiculation and the addressing of full body movement patterns in very methodical protocols. The community of Hanna Somatic Educators has suggested to Hanna’s widow that she add a chapter about private sessions to the book so that people understand the benefit of one to one work. The exercises can “cure” many people, but others really need one to one (scoliosos, sciatica, TMJ, those kinds of clients).

  2. hi, martha i suffer from upper back/neck tension and have been told i have weak core muscles. im 48 menopausal and ache a lot. would your dvd be beneficial to me.? after reading articles on mind/ body connection i have come to realise i tend to hunch my shoulders a lot and think my body is relaxed when in reality it isnt. i just need some help to realign and untense muscles. i have had accupuncture which helps for the short term, but obviously need something to help me help myself. could you let me know if you post your dvd to the uk and what the cost would be. also can you select certain exercises or is it best to do them all in order. hope you can be of help. many thanks. elaine

    • Hi Elaine,
      It sounds as if you could really benefit from the Somatic Exercises on my DVD. Yes, I ship to England. Here’s the link on my website that gives you all the information you need to order: http://www.essentialsomatics.com/index.php?/hanna-somatics-book-dvd
      The cost is $29.99 plus $3.99 shipping. I’ve sold a lot of DVDs to the UK!
      It sounds as if you’re stuck in what we call the “red light reflex” – rounding forward and hunching the shoulders. A lot of people get stuck in that reflex due to worry, anxiety, slumping at the computer or excessive driving. It’s not uncommon and it’s highly reversible with Hanna Somatics!
      Please let me know if you have any other questions – I’m here to help.
      Best to you,

  3. Hi Martha
    I live in Latin America (Brazil) and am waiting for your book to release. I am using Hanna exercises from his book and will see a RPG professional for helping out with aligment of the body. I have upper back pain.
    They should have this kind of professional here, but don´t; I see many Pilates, Rolfing, RPG , Yoga but not a single Somatic Educator.
    Does somatics mix well with RPG?


    • Hi,
      I just did a little research about RPG. It looks like Hanna Somatics could be complementary to this kind of therapy.

      My suggestion would be to buy my DVD (http://www.essentialsomatics.com/index.php?/hanna-somatics-book-dvd) and start learning the Somatic Exercises on the DVD. They follow the book, Somatics, quite closely. I can also help you learn to get rid of your upper back pain via personal online Skype sessions (http://essentialsomatics.com/index.php?/hanna-somatics-sessions-workshops/online_video_session).
      You can pre-order my book via Amazon.com now and will receive it when it is officially released in January 2012.

      The RPG sounds interesting, but I’m quite sure that you can learn a lot about WHY you have upper back pain and WHAT YOU’RE DOING to cause it to become a habit in your movement. This is what we teach in Hanna Somatics: how to become aware of what you do in your daily movement and responses to stress that causes the muscle pain – and then how to release it so it doesn’t come back (and, should it come back, what to do about it).

      I hope this helps. Please feel free to call on me to do one on one Skype sessions. I’ve had good success with them and if you’ve already read the book, Somatics, I can help you understand how to do the exercises properly so you can really get the most out of them to reverse your pain.

      Best to you,

  4. Martha,

    Whatever happened with your labral tear? Did you have the repair surgery? Or were you able to manage it without surgery and using the Hanna Somatics?

    If you had the surgery who performed it and how was the recovery? Yes I have a labral year and have not had surgery.

    • Great question! I haven’t yet had the repair surgery, but I’ve very close to deciding to do it.

      For the past year and a half I’ve worked with Hanna Somatics to see what I can do to minimize the discomfort I feel – on and off, not constantly – in my hip. Here’s what I’ve found (and I may just flesh this out and make it a blog post): when you have a structural deficit, which is what a labral tear is, your body responds by contracting certain muscles, sending out signals, all involuntarily. The system says, “something’s wrong, let’s respond.” If I didn’t do Hanna Somatics to release my muscles (and then do a lot of walking to strengthen myself), I’d be in a big mess. I feel pretty good and am still quite active. But I know I can feel better. The discomfort hasn’t completely disappeared.

      I’ve worked with a LOT of people with labral tears, who feel much better doing Hanna Somatics. However, it doesn’t FIX the problem.

      Because I’m a very active person and want to continue to be, I’m going to have a chat with my orthopedist and see if he’s supportive of surgery. If I were someone who didn’t care about hiking, walking long distances, or vigorous activity, I’d probably be fine without the surgery. But I’m someone who intends to be climbing mountains at 80 – just like my mother!!

      How are you doing with your labral tear and you hip?


  5. Hi Martha,
    I bought your dvd’s and book and corresponded with you recently from Wisconsin!! I have just been told I have a probable labral tear or tears due to femoroacetabular impingement. I had seen somewhere on your blog that you were not impressed by your research on the arthroscopic procedures that are done in this area, but now I see that you~ even you, with all your Somatics expertise~ are re-considering surgery. My my, there goes my rationale for avoiding it myself 🙂
    I am inferring, then, that if I devoted myself to Somatics work (which I clearly need and would benefit from, regardless), I might be able to defer a decision on surgery, but still may have significant restrictions on activity, as I do now. Like you, I wish to walk long distances/ hike while travelling, although I have no desire to mountain-climb!!
    One factor I have to contend with is my age (mid-50’s) and my general fitness level, which is much poorer than yours. Some people seem to feel that at this point, someone in my place might be better served to hold out for a total hip replacement.
    I am really unsure now what to do and would very much appreciate knowing what you decide. Thank you, Martha!


    • Hi Jeri,

      I’ll have to write another blog post about labral tears, and surgery just to make my views clearer, because you’re not the first person to get the idea that I’m not in favor of labral tear arthroscopy. I write that if you have hip pain in general, strengthening isn’t going to help until you learn to release the muscles that are “amnesic.” Learn to release your tight, “amnesic” muscles first, then do strengthening.

      If you have a structural problem and don’t get it repaired you could be setting yourself up for further damage in the future. I’ve had several knee surgeries myself due to dancing and skiing accidents. Somatics does NOT fix structural problems! I wrote about Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees, and how quickly his MDs determined that he needed surgery, yet my MD was hesitant to do it for me when I asked him to. I didn’t understand that. He did state at our last visit (4 mo. ago) that labral tear surgery isn’t a magic pill. That has been confirmed by one of my readers who had the surgery, and said he’d advise doing everything possible before doing surgery. He’s doing Somatics now and feeling better.

      If you have faulty structure, and you’ve done all you possibly can with your functional movement: Hanna Somatics, balancing out your body, mastering the way in which you walk, sit, stand, drive, etc., and you STILL have discomfort that gets in the way of your life (as I do at times), then surgery can be a God-send.

      I’m sure that if I didn’t do Somatics I would be in excruciating pain. Why? Because when you have a structural problem (which usually results from a trauma or long term sensory motor amnesia), your brain will contract your muscles in compensation. I’m aware of that, because it’s what I teach. I know what to do to keep myself feeling good – but that annoying ache and some muscle restriction in the joint – is always there due to the labral tear. Somatics won’t fix a structural problem. It will fix functional muscle problems, which might be at the root of your original problem that caused the tear.

      Time spent doing Somatics and learning to regain balance and symmetry in your body is critical. Combine Hanna Somatics with labral tear surgery done by an MD who’s an expert in this kind of surgery (like one of my readers from NH who writes a running blog: http://recoveryourstride.blogspot.com/) and you’ll probably be feeling much better. But surgery alone without Hanna Somatics to correct your sensory motor amnesia and get your brain back in control of your muscular system would be short-sighted.

      If you feel that you’re not at a strong fitness level at the moment, make that a priority. If you need to lose weight, do it. Change your nutrition – do it. If you need to walk more, sit less, sweat more – find a pleasurable activity that you enjoy doing that can help you get healthier and stronger. Be patient with yourself, but persistent. I’ve recovered quickly after my knee surgeries in large part due to a healthy constitution going into the surgery in addition to Hanna Somatics before and after the surgery. I’m confident that you can do that, too. I’m here to help if whatever way I can.

      I’ll let you know what I wind up doing about my hip. It would be nice if I had better health insurance, but that’s an entirely different discussion all together!

      Thanks for your comment,

  6. Hi Martha,
    I stumbled upon your website looking for exercises to prevent hip replacement. I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, but I strongly believe in prevention. I have hip bursitis caused by disc replacement and scoliosis corrective surgery done last June. I am 50 years old and was very fit prior to the surgery and I am now trying to get back my level of fitness. I’ve been working out both at home and with a trainer since last November, but the progress is very slow and I keep aggravating the hip bursitis. I see my chiropractor 3 times a week and get trigger point massage once every 2 weeks. I wish there was someone like you in my area (Fairhope, Alabama) All of your books and DVDs look good to me, but I don’t know where to start. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Lynn,
      It sounds as if you have quite a number of muscular issues to deal with – from compensation from scoliosis to back issues. Scoliosis creates an imbalance in the center of your body so that your gait is altered. I’m sure you know this in a very somatic way because you live in your body! Addressing the overall pattern of muscular imbalance is the best place to start.
      My suggestion would be to begin at the beginning: learn the most basic Somatic Exercises on my Pain Relief Through Movement DVD, then go on to learn the exercises on my Pain-Free Legs and Hips DVD. This will help you begin to release the muscles that are tighter on one side of your waist (scoliosis) and the muscles of the back and abdominals that compensate within the pattern of scoliotic twisting.
      The only practitioner we have is in Athens, AL – on the other end of the state from you! So sorry. Do you ever get up to Huntsville? My NY colleague, Laura Gates, goes down there regularly and conducts workshops and clinical sessions. She had scoliosis for years and is an expert in helping people release such patterns. Her website is http://www.fullmovementpotential.com
      I also conduct online video Skype sessions if you think you’d like to do that.
      I’m here to help. Please let me know what else I can do for you.

      All the best,

  7. Good morning, Ms. Peterson. I have just become aware of somatic exercises in the last few HOURS but have had buttock, thigh and calf pain for several years all starting in the buttock, pirriformis (sp?) area. While I was working and making good money, I went to countless physical therapists, chiropracters, massage therapists, bought all kinds of gadgets used all kinds of creams, lotions, faithfully exercised, spent thousands of dollars, but EVERYTHING I’ve done or used has only been a temporary “fix”. The pain returns and worse yet, my body seems to get used to the the exercises I’ve done that helped and now no longer help at all. I am 67 and am in pain 1 hour and again sometimes 5-6 hours a day which makes my quality of life terrible although otherwise I am in perfect health! I have been out of work since March so money if definitely an issue. Is there any way I can purchase used tapes in order to get started. I am intrigued by everything I’ve read in the past few hours about somatic excercises and very eager to be out of pain and LIVE again. Thank you for your time!
    Phyllis Allison – phyllisvallison@att.net – Roswell, Ga. 8/19/2012 6:45am EST

    • Hi Phyllis,

      I’m not aware of anywhere to buy used tapes. I only sell my instructional DVDs. My suggestion is to invest the money to purchase my book and DVD package. It is worth it. This is the best way to begin to learn the most basic, important somatic exercises that will help teach you to begin to reverse the state of chronic muscle pain that you’re stuck in.

      You can also purchase my book, Move Without Pain, on Amazon.com.

      I would also make use of my blog. I have lots of information, free videos and free tips about how to apply the learning and concepts of Somatics in order to learn how to reverse pain on your own. However, the best way to start is with my “basics” Pain Relief Through Movement video.

      All the best,

  8. Hi,

    Thanks for the useful postings about the application HS and the relevancy to better living and more ease. Do you know of HS being applied simultaneously or in an integrated way with ontological coaching/somatic coaching? If not, what are your reflections, insights in terms of applying HS to have fuller and deeper resonance and integration of our essential selves. I also would think HS is relevant applicable to any and all performance or realization of outcomes/goals.



    • Hi Tivo,

      Here’s a very apt quote from Thomas Hanna that speaks to your question:

      Somatic education is not only something new and unexpected, it is something of momentous consequence: It entails a basic transformation in our understanding of the human species and of the capacities of the human individual. That which we have believed to be unchangeable in the human creature has been discovered to be not, after all, so unchangeable. Such a discovery amounts to a reassessment of the nature of ourselves and of humankind.

      To be “somatic” encompasses all areas of one’s life: mental, emotional, physical, occupational. There IS no separation between the brain/body/mind. Our thought patterns evoke emotive responses in our muscles. This is already well documented by studies on meditation. Our mental attitudes can either keep us from expanding our somatic abilities or help us transform the way in which we engage in our lives.

      So yes, ontological coaching and somatic education are very complementary. It’s the “physical side” of ontological coaching. That being said, Somatic Educators are expertly trained to address sensory motor amnesia and muscle pain/mobility issues specifically by teaching clients to improve sensory motor awareness and muscle control. This work, however, invariably has an affect on the whole person.

      Thanks so much for your comment. It opens up a terrific discussion!

  9. I have severe pain in my right knee. I limp. Have limited mobility in this leg. No one can tell me what it is. Doctors give me pain meds. They don’t help. Can you suggest anything?

    • Hi Shirley,

      If your doctors have “done everything,” meaning MRI’s, X-rays and scans to make sure that you don’t have anything ripped, torn or broken, then it’s quite possible that you have “sensory motor amnesia.” This translates to tight muscles that the brain has forgotten how to release, relax and move properly.

      My suggestions would be to begin learning Somatic Exercises, which you can learn from my DVDs, from my book, Move Without Pain, or Thomas Hanna’s book, Somatics. Depending upon where you live, I would also suggest a few hands-on clinical sessions with a Certified Hanna Somatics (or Clinical Somatic) Educator. When your muscles aren’t working properly and your gait if out of balance, or your hips aren’t level, you will often feel the pain in your knees.

      I hope this helps. Remember, I also do one on one Skype video sessions with people to get them started learning the exercises and becoming more acutely aware of their movement, and posture, and how their muscle pain could be related to muscle imbalance and less than efficient movement.

      All the best,

  10. Hi Martha,
    I have a very strange problem which doctors can’t figure out and I am looking for answers.
    Last April I woke up in the middle of the night (after a highly stressful day) with severe sciatica in my right leg. It was numb and vibrating and tingling all the way to my toes. There was extreme tightness in my butt and it hurt to move it. I went to the doctors and a neurologist and they found nothing wrong with me. They took MRIs and all said it was “all in my head” and gave me pain pills that did not work.
    I finally went to a chiropractor and he took X-rays and said that I had a lot of things out of joint. He cracked my hip joint, L5, and SI and I felt a lot of relief from the pain for the first time. But the pulling and tightness was still in my butt and it kept pulling everything back out of place. It took me 3 months at the chiropractor to get everything to stay. He also did decompression for a bulging disc he said I have (I believe him because I told him I couldn’t afford that and he gave me the entire treatment for free!).
    So right now I am no longer in pain. I am not out of place. But the tightness is still there and very strong and so is the sciatica. The numbness has gone, but the vibrating and tingling are still down my leg and into my toes. It is so upsetting and annoying.
    It feels tight from the muscle right next to my L5 (in my back) to my stomach to my hips and finally to my groin. I think it might be the psoas but I’m not sure.
    What can I do to help feel better again? I have tried stretching at it helps a little but not enough.
    Thank you!

    • Hi Dana,
      Your story is so similar to the stories I hear in working with people with sensory motor amnesia. My suggestion is the same for you as it is for most people: begin with the basics of Hanna Somatic Exercises. You can purchase my basics DVD from my website.
      If you live near a Certified Hanna Somatics (or Clinical Somatic) Educator I would highly recommend one on one clinical hands-on sessions to begin re-educating your brain to teach your muscles to release and relax again.

      I would also suggest – if you don’t live near a Certified HSE – that you schedule a one on one Skype video session with me in order to receive more individualized guidance. No one can fix you but YOU. It’s YOUR brain that controls YOUR muscles. Once you begin to lose awareness of how your brain and muscles are adapting to stress in your life (through contracting the back/waist/abdominal muscles in patterns or tightness), then it feels as if something’s happened TO you. It hasn’t. It’s developed from the inside out. And you have the key to reversing that. I can help you.

      All the best,

  11. Hi Martha
    I purchased your DVD, book and CD package and am devoting almost an hour a day to somatics. I have noticed some improvements in the few weeks I’ve been doing the exercises. However 15 years or so ago I had a labral tear that has left me unable to abduct my legs. This has left me with a range of problems such as not being able to comfortably sit on a motor cycle or to do certain karate stances. Does your basic DVD hold all the exercises I need to do to improve the abduction problems or are them some other exercises I need to do additionally?

  12. Dear Martha,

    I am just wondering if it’s still possible to get benefits from the exercises even if you are not as flexible as the people in the video demonstrations? I ask this as, although I’m 37, I had hip surgery many years ago that has left me with a very stiff hip and the beginnings of Osteoarthritis (It doesn’t hurt at the moment and do regular hydrotherapy). Therefore, in exercises that require the hips to move towards the chest I really struggle with this. My lower back and knees are often very sore and I wonder if this is due to the compensations I make for lack of flexibility in the hip. I’d be very grateful for any help or advice.
    Kind Regards

    • Hi Patricia,

      Great question. The short answer is yes, it is very possible to get benefits from doing Somatic Exercises, no matter what has happened “to” you in your life.

      The goal is not about looking like me or anyone else. It’s about regaining awareness of what it feels like to be you – right now – where you are in time. Your medical/accident/surgery history is unique to you, so you can only start at your own personal beginning.

      Start small. If you haven’t had much exposure to Hanna Somatics, purchase my book or Thomas Hanna’s book, Somatics, and start to learn the concepts: tightness in the CENTER of the body will create tightness in the periphery (hips, knees, legs, neck). Purchase my basics DVD…and begin to learn how to release and relax the muscles in the center that move the hips. Tight hips are due to tight muscles that attach to the pelvis and hip joints. You can learn to release these muscles, slowly, but surely, in order to gain more flexibility.

      I also suggest doing one on one clinical sessions if you live near a Somatic Educator. Or consider a few Skype sessions with me. I can help you. Tight muscles are reversible. All it takes is re-training the brain to re-train the muscles and sensory motor system.

      I hope this helps.
      All the best,

  13. Hi Martha,
    I wanted to let you know how incredibly helpful Somatics has been for me. It has literally changed my life. I was diagnosed with arthritis at the tender age of 16 (I’m now 42) and have been in pain since then. I have good days and bad days but I have to say that since starting Somatics those good days are turning into good weeks! I suffer a lot from sciatica and was having tremendous problems for about a year and a half. It got really bad at the end of last summer and my husband stumbled upon your website whilst looking for any kind of alternative pain relief. I immediately bought your book, DVD and Thomas Hanna’s book. After reading both books and starting the exercises with the help of the DVD, I got almost instant relief. Within a few weeks of consistent practice I am basically sciatica free and if I do feel the pain coming on, I just lie down and do my exercises and all is right with the world. The most amazing thing about somatics is that it IS for everyone. Anyone can do the movements and I bet that there are very few people out there who will not get some relief – even if they didn’t know they needed it! It’s so simple but yet makes perfect sense. I have not stood this straight for over 20 years and I absolutely, without doubt, attribute it to ongoing Somatics practice. The whole world should be doing these movements. Thank you Martha for changing my life and that of my family’s. From Russia with love!!

    • Joanne, thank you so much for being such an inspiration! The fact that you spend the time to do your Somatic Exercises and “re-discover” your movement and movement patterns is the first step. Yes, everyone can benefit from the simple, sensible information that Thomas Hanna taught – and wouldn’t it be great if every doctor “prescribed” a dose of Somatics to those with chronic muscle pain?!

      You are most welcome!

  14. Hi Martha, can you recommend somatic specialist in Toronto, Ontario (Canada)? and what somatics should I do for internal and external hemorrhoids? thank you.

    • Hi Patricia,

      Yes, there is a Somatic Educator near Toronto. Her name is Elaine Steers (elaine.steers@gmail.com). She is one of my clinical students and she is quite good.
      If you’re habituated to the red light reflex, it is not uncommon that you would have hemorrhoids as a “by-product” of sensory motor amnesia. In the red light reflex the abdominal muscles tighten involuntarily. This will constrict the internal organs, including the organs of digestion and elimination. However, please understand that Somatic Educators do not “diagnose” any problem. They merely teach you to regain voluntary control of both your muscular system and somatic awareness so that you can learn to relax the muscles that may be contributing to your situation.

      All the best,

  15. Can you recommend a way to help someone diagnosed with focal dystonia. Some years ago I was diagnosed with focal dystonia in my left hand and left foot. This condition often makes it difficult to walk more than a few blocks at a time. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    • Hi Stephen,

      I really don’t know if Hanna Somatics can help someone with focal dystonia. What I do know is that learning to improve your proprioception and muscle function can only help you. Hanna Somatics helps improve conductivity along neural pathways, which can certainly be a “secondary gain” for you. From my research on focal dystonia, there are several factors that come into play, so I really can’t accurately say. I will put this question out to my colleagues and see what they say.

      Thanks for your question ~

  16. Hi Martha, I have a torn oblique that wasn’t diagnosed until years after the fact and is now scarred over and unrepairable surgically. This has caused other muscles in the neck, shoulder, hip and leg to compensate so I get pain on my entire right side. My doctor described my muscles as “de-conditioned.” Can you suggest what I can do to begin re-conditioning them?

    • Hi Mike,

      I would recommend a series of hands-on clinical Somatics sessions and a daily routine of Somatic Exercises to retrain the brain to retrain and “condition” the muscles (to use your MDs word). You undoubtedly have a trauma reflex that has taken over and your brain has “organized the system” (which is what it does, even under our conscious awareness) to help you move forward. The problem is that you’ve got Sensory Motor Amnesia that needs to be reversed so you can regain freedom of movement.

      Where do you live? I can recommend a practitioner if you don’t live near me.


  17. Hi Martha,
    I live in DC and am interested in finding out more (I used to live in Morristown :). I have chronic hip pain and plan to schedule arthroscopic surgery for a labral tear, fraying…soon, but believe Somatic ‘exercises’ could only help! If there is a practitioner nearby, please let me know. I welcome all information!
    Thank you,

  18. Pingback: How to relax your body in only 5 minutes | Oevaru

    • I really appreciate your sharing this work with your community. It is important, breakthrough and accessible enough that people can learn to help themselves. Once you understand that you and your brain are responsible for much of the muscle pain and stiffness you experience in your body you can learn to become aware of it so that you do not adapt in a negative way to the stresses of your life.

      All the best,
      Martha Peterson

  19. Hey this is Brilliant, What DVD should i purchase if I have a computer job and im on the computer most days and for many hours? I know i ‘ve got some form of pandiculation through my body and i really want to fix it before its too late, It feels like my legs are out of sync with each other when i tried to do a glute bridge. Also my upper body and back feels like its leaning to the right side all of the time and my back is feels and is visibly uneven. And when i sit down my legs are never comfortable as they are and I feel a little pain from my right leg/hip joint. Lastly my neck muscles feel like the left side is a lot more stronger in the left side and so weak on my right side.

    • Hi Isaac,

      My suggestion would be to purchase the Pain Relief Through Movement “basics” DVD. Begin learning the most important basic Somatic Exercises that can help you begin to change the way your brain senses and controls your muscles. Begin applying the awareness to the way in which you sit at the computer, stand, walk, etc. The movements are designed to help you restore accurate awareness of your body in space and your brain’s ability to control your muscles. Honestly, it’s like hitting “refresh” in the brain/muscle connection.

      I would also suggest purchasing one of the DVDs that most addresses the other issues you have, whether it’s for the neck/shoulders or legs/hips. Only you know how it feels to be in your body, so you’re the best judge of that.

      And remember that I conduct Skype sessions with those who want to have my personal guidance in learning the Somatic Movements on the DVDs. The sessions are tailored to your needs and personal areas of sensory motor amnesia.

      All the best,

  20. Hi Martha, I contacted your recently regarding the ptsd stuck in my back and shoulders and as you know I have suffered a year of involuntary movements associated with this primarily muscles violently jumping up and down in my back, shoulder jerking, upper back bouncing up and down and contracting shoulders, a lot has calmed but I am left with the tight right shoulder which also has a little contraction in and left shoulder jumps up a notch it is all very weird but I have become almost agoraphobic as it is ptsd based muscles jump about more when I am out. I’ve had emdr and the mental trauma is sorted but my body won’t let it go. I know there’s no magic wand to stop the involuntary stuff but any progress is welcome and I would like to know which best DVD to order, to target tight back and shoulders and essentially a whole body aspect. I have your book but find it easier to work from a DVD . A lot has changed over the past year so I am hoping this continues . Thank you. Rachel

  21. Hi Martha, thank you for your blog, I’ve recently discovered Somatics and it’s really worked for me in helping to manage pain in the muscles in my pelvis and around my right hip. You mentioned that you do Skype sessions 1-1? Could you email me with more info, cost etc? info@rutheburke.com. Many thanks for your amazing work!

  22. Hi Martha, I live in Toronto, Canada. I am currently suffering a flare up of four herniated discs and as you can imagine, in a lot of pain. Before that I had many years of hip, back and knee pain. I have gained weight partly through a stressful life change, menopause and a viscious cycle of exercise being painful so not exercising and and yet knowing part of the problem was I was not exercising which caused more pain. Felt helpless to know what the correct kind of exercise was.Someone recently recommended Hanna Somatics and gave me your website, which looks hopeful for me as once this flare up subsides would truly like to get at the root of this pain and break this life of chronic pain. These herniated discs are certainly a wake up call, as I am completely immobile, drugs don’t help and I am unable to work or concentrate on much of anything due to taking a morphine based drug. I see that you are based in New Jersey. I guess, I’m wondering if I bought your book and dvd whether that would be enough to get started or whether you can recommend someone in Toronto to go to some private sessions to get started. I am financially strapped but am willing at this point to put all my priorities in getting my back health under control and joining the human race again. Any advice would be gratefully received. Thanks

    • Hi Anna,
      My best advice is to get in touch with Elaine Steers who lives near Toronto. Her email is elaine.steers@gmail.com. She is one of my clinical practitioners in training who also teaches classes.

      Herniated discs occur due to excess muscle tension. Muscles attach to the spine and literally pull the discs out of alignment. Learn to release the muscles of the back, waist and abdominals and the spine will get some “breathing room” and be able to come back into alignment. It’s a process, as you probably know from reading my website, of re-educating your brain, muscles and movement.

      Get in touch with Elaine and see if you can get in to see her. Otherwise I can do a few Skype sessions with her and get you started learning how to relieve the pain you’re in so you can move well again.

      All the best,

  23. I have worked with many different modalities, most of which have been helpful to some extent. However, I have rarely been fully pain free since my early thirties and am now in my fifties. Much of my regular pain comes at night, thus spiralling into sleep problems. I have at times had muscle spasm so bad that I can’t weight bear for up to 48 hours, tend to hypermobility and showed multiple bulging discs and Tarlov cysts in a scan 18 months ago. Despite this, I have led a largely normal life, still ice-skate, hike, kayak and more, as well as working full time (unfortunately in a desk-based job, which doesn’t help, though I have a sit-stand desk which has improved things somewhat).
    Recently, I have been working with Restorative Exercise, which also emphasises release. However, whilst I feel the way I use my body has changed hugely for the better (I now have a hip strength and groundedness that was absent, proper arches in my feet, better alignment altogether), I’m not sure it is addressing muscle tension patterns that I increasingly suspect are the main cause of my night pain. I have also found that, even in an approach that is fundamentally about alignment, good biomechanics and release, I can cause myself problems because my hypermobility will allow me to move my body beyond what is good for it. I recently had quite a long period where one hip was sitting incorrectly in the socket on and off (specifically noted by my osteopath) and I think a particular exercise was the trigger.
    I am wondering if you have any experience of working with people with hypermobile tendencies (I’m guessing that, as a dancer, the answer may be yes) and, if so, if you have any specific advice with regard to your exercises?
    I am currently experimenting with what is on the website before considering either or both of video sessions and buying the video/book when the latter is back in stock.
    Many thanks!

  24. Hello,
    I am interested in private somatic sessions. I have been dealing with some chronic MSK issues, including costochondritis, TMJ, pelvic dysfunction, headaches, back pain; pretty much every part of my body feels twisted and out of sorts. Haven’t seen improvement with regular physio, chiro, etc.
    Can you advise as to cost and how many sessions are generally required.
    Many thanks,

    • Hi Sakie,

      If you are in Canada (as your email address suggests) I would need to refer you to a practitioner in your area. My prices are listed on my website under Clinical Sessions. Each person is different, however I usually see people between 4 – 6 times. The linchpin is whether or not you incorporate the learning into your life by doing the Somatic Exercises daily and integrating the changes you make in your awareness and movement.

      Just let me know where you live and I will do my best to find you someone to work with.

      All the best,

  25. Hello Martha. I’ve been following the routines in your book and first video. Love them! I realize I hold tremendous amount of unconscious tension in my face (forehead, between the eyes, lips, mouth, jaw) . Do you have a somatic exercise(s) suggestion for that? Or a link to one? Is this addressed in any of your dvd’s? Also, have you ever made a video clip of yourself doing sun salutations somatically? I would LOVE to see that!

    • Hi,

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying the movements in my book and on my DVDs. A lot of people hold unconscious tension in their faces and jaws. This is generally due to habituation of the red light reflex and emotional stress (how many times have we all “gritted our teeth” when annoyed and irritated?!).
      The Flower is a great movement for that reflex. To pandiculate the face specifically…just put your hands on your face, wherever you feel the tension, and explore moving those muscles. Once you voluntarily move muscles your brain wakes up! You can gently pandiculate them as well – gently tightening them and slowly releasing them. Play with it and see how it goes.

  26. Hi Martha-
    My husband has suffered for several years w terrible leg/hip pain that we initially thought was arthritis. He has since been told it is an IT band issue( needs to be stretched they say) and a hip flexor. He has been doing PT for about a year and is really getting worse! His gait is horrendous and his pain is really increasing! Any suggestions ? I feel terrible as he’s done everything they have told him to -to no avail ! Which DVD should I buy? Thanks

    • I would recommend that your husband learn the basic movements first and then explore the movements on the Pain-Free Legs and Hips DVD. He needs to re-educate his muscles to relax rather than to strengthen, as the PTs would have him do. This can only make matters worse.
      Remember that I also teach online Skype sessions. Your husband could benefit from working one one one with a skilled practitioner as well.

  27. Hi Martha, thank you for all of your resources, I recently discovered your helpful blog after I ordered Hanna’s book– I am working my way through the first lessons. I discovered somatics after a friend with chronic lower back pain recommended it, as I have been suffering from chest pain for a year now. I feel it centered in the intercostals when I make certain movements, and tried physical therapy & acupuncture but neither worked. Doctors assumed it was due to exercise, which Hanna’s book helped me realize was ridiculous, especially since I spent so many hours at my desk working on projects and carrying books & papers around…I saw myself in his descriptions. Initially, because of the discomfort, I cut down on yoga and began primarily jogging for exercise, but now from the Hanna book I am realizing that might have been further tightening and contracting the muscles! Two questions: I can’t find much related to somatics and this frontal pain– the Hanna book really emphasizes the back. I know it’s all connected but wonder if there are particular lessons I should be repeating as I go through the sequence? Also, the book does not specify whether it is best to cease other forms of exercise (running, biking) while doing the Hanna lessons more intensively for the first time? I’m so desperate to try to mitigate this pain that I’d like to create the best conditions while I’m starting out. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you again!

    • Hi Hillary,

      What you are describing is a classic “Red Light Reflex.” Hanna writes quite a bit about that reflex in one of his chapters of the book, Somatics.

      I would re-read that chapter in Hanna’s book and then, if you haven’t read mine, do so! I have linked an article about the red light reflex on my website for your reading. What’s important to understand is that if you have sensory motor amnesia (SMA) almost any physical activity won’t be as fun as it should be because you can neither sense yourself or your movement fully. Therapies don’t work to release SMA, because SMA is learned. You must learn to release it at the level of your nervous system. Once you can fully control both the front and back of your body in addition to the sides (bending and twisting easily, without pain or restriction), your movement will be freer, much more efficient and, for most people, pain-free.

      What you’re learning is to sense yourself. This takes learning and awareness.

      I hope this helps! There’s much you can do to learn how to release your tight chest. Check my website for more information.

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