Somatics Trainings Coming Up in 2015

Here is our updated roster of Essential Somatics® Somatics training opportunities for 2015.

Public workshops, appointments for clinical sessions with Martha and on-going classes are on my website.

Somatic Exercise Coach Trainings – Level One

Somatic Exercises can change how we live our lives, how we believe that our minds and bodies interrelate, how powerful we think we are in controlling our lives, and how responsible we should be in taking care of our total being.

          ~ Thomas Hanna, Ph.D., author of the book, Somatics

YORK, UK- March 6 – 8, 2015 – Only 1 slot left!Image 8

DOOR COUNTY, WI – March 20 – 22, 2015 – register now!

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – March 27 – 29, 2015 – register now!

CALGARY, ALBERTA – April 16 – 18, 2015 – only 5 slots left

CARTERSVILLE, GA - May 1 – 3, 2015 - register now!

MELBOURNE (Ocean Grove,Vic.), AUSTRALIA – November 6 – 8, 2015 – register now!

ADELAIDE, SW. AUSTRALIA – December 11 – 13, 2015 – register now!

See and hear one of our new SEC coaches describing his experience.

Download a complete PDF prospectus of the training.

Somatic Exercise Coach Training – Level Two

LINDSAY, ONTARIOApril 24 – 26, 2015 – only one slot left (must have completed SEC Level One)

Hanna Somatics Retreats

HOLLYHOCK RETREAT CENTER, Cortes Island, BC – The Myth of AgingAugust 19 – 23, 2015 HollyhockBeach-3_5B872-1

Spend 5 days on beautiful Cortes Island, BC and begin to learn why people develop chronic muscle pain, inflexibility and limited movement. If you have “tried everything” for your back, neck, shoulder or hip pain, and have only experienced short term relief, come learn how to achieve long term pain relief and improved muscular function – on your own – whenever and wherever you need it. This retreat is open to the public. No previous knowledge of Hanna Somatics is required.

BALI, INDONESIA – October, 2015 – details TBA – Somatic Yoga/Hanna Somatics – this week will offer the opportunity to take Somatic Yoga classes with Jo Bentley of Soul Safari Yoga and Somatic Movement classes with Martha Peterson, CHSE

COMING UP in 2016 – Somatics Retreat in Europe

Clinical Somatic Education Professional Training Program

Learn the hands-on clinical methods of Thomas Hanna, Ph.D. to help people regain freedom of movement and eliminate sensory motor amnesia and chronic muscle pain and dysfunction.

SEMESTER ONE – November 16 – Dec. 4, 2015 – Ocean Grove, Victoria, Australia – contact Martha directly if you are interested. Acceptance requires participation in the SEC Level One training, as well as an interview and application.

Eliminating Sensory Motor Amnesia Can Bring Tiger Woods Back Into Competition

Tiger Woods is taking a leave of absence. Even he seems confused about what the real problem is. Does he need to keep changing his swing? Improve his attitude with sports psychology? Get stronger? Tiger has tried just about everything, from the best back surgeons to his trusted physical therapists and coaches, yet nothing has worked for the long term. His story is, unfortunately, all too common. He is hitting his head against the medical wall because his trusted practitioners and trainers are trying to “fix” him from the outside in, when the problem all along has been happening on the inside – within his own sensory motor system.

Tiger Woods has Sensory Motor Amnesia.

The reason none of his treatments are working – for the long term – is because Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA) can only be eliminated from the tiger_woods_injuries_576“inside out” – by learning, through movement, how to release and relax his muscles at the brain level. He is unaware of how he has adapted, physically, to the accidents and injuries and repetitive stresses of his life. Accidents, injuries, surgeries and repetitive movements have taught his muscles to stay contracted – never fully releasing. These adaptations of muscular holding have changed the way he moves and his once powerful and accurate golf swing has gone by the wayside. He can, however, get it back.

The brain teaches muscles how to move; that’s how elite athletes learn to move so efficiently. Tiger’s brain has taught him to contract his waist and trunk rotators in response to the constant twisting inherent in golf as well as in response to the accidents and surgeries he has experienced. This habitual pattern is called the Trauma Reflex.

Tiger can very easily get back on top in golf once he learns how to eliminate his Sensory Motor Amnesia and regain an accurate sense of himself – from the inside out. He has not only lost control of his muscular system; he’s lost control of what it feels like to be Tiger Woods. Restoring muscle function and reducing excess muscle tonus is a learning process that will not come through traditional strengthening/stretching, PT or surgery.

Sensory Motor Amnesia can only be eliminated by changing the way the brain senses and controls the muscles

His doctors and trainers don’t know what to do with him because SMA doesn’t show up on MRI’s, X-rays or blood tests. Surgery only exacerbates SMA because it creates even more compensation and adaptation in the brain/muscle connection. It doesn’t address the root cause: the fact that his muscles are sub-cortically (involuntarily) contracted all the time. His brain cannot recruit his muscles properly, nor relax them fully.

One well-known trainer recommends the following advice:

Woods must now take time to listen to his body, get off the course and fully restore his strength and mobility. Rest is not what he needs most. He needs strength. Woods must focus on strengthening his erector spinae muscles, his abdominals and obliques as secondary stabilizers, and his posterior chain for function. 

This is the the same recycled myth about muscle pain that fitness trainers have been teaching for decades: when you lose your form or experience back pain it’s because you’re weak. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In actuality, muscle pain develops because the muscles are so strong they cannot, physiologically, relax nor recruit properly. Strengthening only makes things worse.

What Tiger Woods needs is not more muscles, a bigger squat or stronger obliques. He needs to learn to relax the muscles of his back and waist muscles.

Tiger needs to learn how to pandiculate with Somatic Exercises (instead of stretch), and work with a skilled Somatic Educator in a clinical setting. He needs to de-habituate the stress reflexes he is stuck in so he can regain balance in the center of his body and move freely again. I would love to see Tiger back on top of his game and back in control of his life. With Hanna Somatics he will find that not only does his life go better, but his golf game comes right back where it used to be – and possibly even stronger than before.

Here is a sample of a good place for him to start:

How Do You Reverse Hip Pain?

Here is an old blog post, recycled and updated with free videos. It has stood the test of time.

Strengthening hip muscles doesn’t always relieve hip joint pain.

In this post about hip pain and labral tears I questioned the commonly held belief that strengthening the muscles of the hip will somehow relieve general hip joint pain when you’ve had an injury (like a labral tear).  Here’s a recap:

  1. Labral tears are generally the result of athletic injury or wear and tear over the years due to accidents. Labral tears cause instability in the hip.
  2. Instability in a joint causes muscles to contract to try and create stability.
  3. This kind of reflexive contraction to save yourself from further pain or injury or to compensate because because of an injury changes the way in which you would normally move.
  4. The muscles involved in this “Trauma Reflex” pattern must be trained to relax first before beginning any course of strengthening or exercise. Otherwise you will more deeply entrench a pattern of muscular dysfunction.

I recently read a blog written by a young woman who has struggled with hip pain (and also has a labral hip tear) for 4 years.  One extensive post had to do with her experience of dealing with hip pain. She strongly advocated hip exercises, and included links to videos of yoga stretches and repetitive Jane Fonda-esque exercises, all under the heading, “Hip Exercises Will Hurt.

Maybe they will.

And if you have a hip injury that hasn’t been addressed, hip exercises will hurt your chances of ever feeling really good again.

To  her credit, the writer admitted that she still has hip pain despite the exercises and noticed that one leg seems “shorter” than the other – yet her own doctor’s advice was to strengthen her hip muscles and to “not expect much more mobility than she already had.” Despite her good intentions and obvious search for pain relief, from a Somatic Education perspective there is better advice out there than what her doctors gave her or what she is giving her readers.

Try these Somatic Exercises for hip pain relief.

When hip joints are tight, it’s because the muscles that attach into the joints have learned to stay tight. They need to be retrained, slowly and intelligently – not forcefully – to release, lengthen and move freely again.

Here are a few easy movements you can do at home to begin to release hip muscles that, when habitually contracted, contribute to chronic pain. Then I’d like to caution you against certain commonly prescribed exercises that can sometimes make hip pain worse.

Instead of stretching the muscles as you go through these movements, you will pandiculate them – contracting the muscle first, then slowly lengthening it to a full relaxation (as if you were imitating a cat or dog getting up from rest). Pandiculation is the key to re-setting muscle length and restoring sensory awareness and motor control without forceful or painful stretching.

Arch and flatten: This movement relaxes the back muscles. Tight back muscles contribute to tight hip joints.

Arch and curl: Click here for an explanation/tutorial on how to do these two movements. Arch and curl helps to relax the abdominal muscles, while the washrag allows for easier full body twisting. It relaxes the back, waist, belly and hips.

Side Bend: This movement directly addresses the “Trauma Reflex” muscles of trunk rotation that, when habitually contracted, are probably the biggest contributor to hip pain. This movement will teach you to relax, release and lengthen the waist muscles so that both sides of your waist are the same length and have the same ability to bend from side to side.

 

Lie on your right side, as shown in the photo below. Have the knees folded on top of each other at right angles to the body. Rest your left arm on the floor so that your head can rest on it. Get comfortable.

Let’s first explore the lower part of this exercise: put your top hand at your waist and, keeping the knees together, slowly lift the top foot as shown at right. Notice how the hip slides up toward the ribs as you lift the foot. Allow the hip to move as the foot lifts. The waist muscles are drawing the hip up as the foot lifts. Repeat that movement 3 times slowly. Completely release the hip and foot back to neutral.

Now let’s explore the upper part of the exercise: reach the left hand over top of the head and grab your right ear. Inhale and on the exhale, very slowly lift the head into the air. Let the waist muscles and ribs contract to bring your head up. Sense the contraction in the waist as your ribs squeeze down toward your hip. Slowly release down to neutral. Repeat this 3 time slowly.

Now, let’s put both movements together for a full pandiculation of the waist muscles. Inhale, expanding the ribs, and on the exhale lift the head, and the top foot at the same time. The ribs squeeze down as the hip slides up toward the ribs. You’re making an accordion with the waist muscles!Let the movement of the waist and hip raise the foot. Notice the contraction in the groin as well. Only go as far as is comfortable and don’t force any movement! You are retraining the muscles, and reminding them that they can move.

On the inhale, slowly lower the foot and the head down at the same time. You’re lengthening and relaxing the waist muscles as the hip rolls down to neutral and the ribs relax.  up the right hip to touch the right armpit. Lengthen the entire side of your body as you come down to neutral and completely relax as shown in the photo on the lower right. You’re beginning to gain length in the waist muscles! Repeat this movement 6 times slowly.

Roll onto your back and take a minute to notice the difference in sensation between your left side and your right side. Let your brain soak up the sensory feedback. Now roll onto the other side and repeat the side bend 6 times slowly.

Finish this series of movements with the Washrag.

Remember to do all these movements SLOWLY, GENTLY and WITH AWARENESS.

Take a moment after doing these movements to notice the sensations of your body. Lie quietly on your back. This allows your brain time to absorb the sensory feedback you have given it. This new sensory awareness results in improved motor skill and flexibility.

In my next post, I’ll discuss my own answers to the following questions about labral tears:

  1. Should they be repaired?
  2. How do you deal with the discomfort of a tear if your doctor says, “let’s just wait and see.”
  3. Are you setting yourself up to create serious structural damage to the hip joint by not repairing the structural weakness?

I welcome all feedback about the advice given in this blogpost. Do the above movements for a couple of days and let me know how it goes. If you need help, advice or guidance, please contact me!

To learn these movements at home for rapid, long term muscle pain relief, click here to buy my new, easy to follow instructional DVD.

Why Somatic Movement Classes and Clinical Sessions Work Best Together

Janet (not her real name) came to my office this week complaining of hip pain. Walking upstairs was painful and laborious. She was only in her 30’s.  She had, as she put it, “a list a mile long of things she’s tried” in her quest for pain relief.  Nothing had worked. She told me, “I’m told I have piriformis syndrome. If I could just get my right buttock to relax, I think I could finally begin to feel better.”

We did a hands-on Clinical Somatics lesson in which, she learned, very quickly, to release her tight waist muscles, ribcage and trunk rotators. She learned the “back lift” Somatic Exercise to begin to relax her tightly contracted back muscles.

Only then was she read to learn to release her gluteal muscles on her right side. In testing her range of motion, her hip and leg barely moved. I taught her to release the entire pattern of contraction that was causing her buttock to spasm: her tight buttock, abdominals and abductor muscles. Working with feedback from my hand, she contracted these muscles together, and then slowly began to lengthen the muscles. This technique is called “assisted pandiculation” – it re-sets the muscle control and length at the level of the nervous system.  Twice more she contracted, then slowly released those same muscles, until she reached her own comfortable limit, flopping her leg inward easily. What happened next took me by surprise:

She began to yell, Oh my God, oh my God! I can’t believe it! I can’t believe it!

Are you alright? Does anything hurt? I asked. She’d scared me!

No, no, no, it’s just that I finally relaxed my buttock! I’ve been saying this all along and nobody believed me! This is my eureka moment!

Janet left the office with an ability to move her hips in a way she hadn’t been able to for 8 years.

Most muscle pain problems are functional in nature, not structural

Why did this clinical Somatics session help her when years of physical therapy, trigger point therapy, massage, acupuncture and medical treatments hadn’t? Because Janet’s problem wasn’t structural; it was functional. She suffered from Sensory Motor Amnesia. Her brain had simply forgotten how to relax the muscles that had involuntarily and violently contracted many years ago in response to two traumatic accidents. Her muscles had learned to adapt, resulting in a twisted pelvis, altered gait and tight hip joint. This is called the Trauma Reflex. As Jane learned to release the entire pattern of tightness on her right side (and compensatory tightness on her other side) and improve the function of her muscles, she began to relieve her hip pain and regain muscle coordination and balance.

Janet isn’t completely out of pain. She has more to work to do to change the holding patterns she learned from her accidents as well as from long hours sitting at the computer.  In addition to a few more clinical sessions I suggested that she attend every Somatic Exercise class and workshop she can possibly can.  I give this same advice to every client I work with. While private clinical sessions are profoundly effective, attending only a few sessions is like taking a few  piano lessons and expecting to perform like Chopin or Mozart!

People often ask, “why do I need to come to class if I’m doing private sessions and feel much better?” The answer is simple: classes gives you the opportunity to learn more. Learning takes time – especially when you’re learning to change the habits of your brain. The more you learn, and the more you practice, the more you learn about yourself and your reflexive responses to stress. You learn to regain mastery over your body and movement. Eventually efficient movement will become your brain’s default mode as you become more self-monitoring, self-correcting, and self-healing. Varying your daily Somatics routine with Somatic Exercise classes and workshops and fun, functional movement makes your brain smarter and keeps you out of pain.

Click here to find a workshop, class or training near you.

Click here to purchase Martha’s Pain Relief videos.

What Hanna Somatics Has To Teach The Fitness Industry

Here is a guest blog post from Chris Carlsen, a fitness trainer in Astoria, NY. This is his story of how he has come to combine Somatic Exercises and fitness training for a winning workout:

Several years ago I read an article on “Somatic Exercises.”  To quote Thomas Hanna, “Somatic education is the use of sensory-motor learning to gain greater voluntary control of ones physiological process. To learn “somatically” means that the learning occurs within the individual. It is an internalized process. This mirrored my philosophy based on my training in kettlebells, movement assessments and human performance. I wanted to know more.

I found Laura Gates, a Certified Hanna Somatic Educator, based in New York City.  What I learned was unbelievable: practically every movement we did was related to an exercise or assessment.  “Part 2” of Hanna’s back lift 6Walking Exercises is the same “pushing of the knee away” that we do when we roll in the initiation of the Turkish Get-up. The “Flower” relates to the squat pattern (feeling the femurs move in the hip socket). The Back Lift retrains the connection of one hip and the opposite shoulder (T-Spine rotation).

Each educator may have different ways to explain movement, yet there is no denying that we are all helping to restore the same movement patterns. The power of Somatic Exercises comes from exploration of movement on the floor, as we did when we were babies. We are reeducating sensory motor movement without the stress of gravity or body-weight. This creates awareness and reverse Sensory Motor Amnesia. And, as with fitness, breathing guided every somatic movement.

Hanna Somatics has brought my personal training full circle; it is the line that connects all the dots. Enhancing my understanding of the mind, brain, body feedback loop and the central nervous system has improved every aspect of my training. My students’ consciousness of their movement and posture has become more consistent and the Somatic Exercises have become great references for lifting cues. As for me personally, my lifts feel slower in my head but still strong and powerful in execution. Somatics will be something I incorporate for the rest of my life.

When Laura told me about the Essential Somatics® Somatic Exercise Coaching Training I could not pass up the opportunity to learn more and educate my trainers. The training was awesome. Martha Peterson and Laura are not only great teachers, but also passionate about helping others. My fellow trainers could feel the change in how their bodies felt immediately and could not deny its effectiveness.

How does Somatics fit into fitness?

Ground Exercise , Body Weight and Breathing

Weight is a stressor. Sometimes we need to take the stress of body-weight and gravity out of the equation to get the Training-img2nervous system to simmer down and absorb motor learning (movement patterns).  This is accomplished by somatic and corrective exercises on the ground. These types of ground exercises build a foundation for future loading; as we master them we can make these patterns stronger by progressing them to half kneeling and then standing. In this way we can determine if the pattern breaks.  Once we repeatedly stick form then we must add stress. It is like building a cushion.

Do athletes need to start here? More than anyone! To paraphrase Gray Cook, ” We adopt poor movement as result of pain. Part of survival system allows movement around problems we cannot move through. When the pain is gone sometimes the poor movement pattern remains.”

As we go through life, stresses and injuries force us to reroute the “movement maps” we developed as babies.

Athletes are great compensators. They will find a way to get the movement done.  They are also very explosive; at times so much so that they cannot accurately feel their body’s sensations and be aware of their movement. Slowing things down to make changes and build back their speed with better control is what is required! Athletes also become asymmetrical because of repeated patterns. These asymmetries result from the three stress reflexes that Thomas Hanna writes about: the Red Light, Green Light and Trauma Reflexes. Getting rid of these reflexes and regaining symmetry is what reduces injury risk.

I have a weekly class I call “Recovery.” In this 90 minute class we do Somatic Exercises, followed by dynamic mobility work and locomotion drills ( walking, skipping, carioca, shuffling).  The group’s control and efficiency of mobility work has greatly increased after Somatic Exercises. Locomotion to me is “Somatics on your feet.” Locomotion drills set a foundation to progress students to more uncontrolled environments such as agility and speed drills. This allows students to pick up on their movements, and for me to pick up movement hiccups.  You can surely bet if there is movement inefficiency with no load, there will also be inefficiency with weights.

Brilliant generals are said to possess “coup d’oeil”, which in French means power of the glance. It is the ability to make sense of the battlefield.  Hanna Somatics enhances the power of my glance.

Chris Carlsen is the owner of Iron Lion Performance and Director of Fitness at the Matrix Fitness Club in Astoria, New York. He participated in the Somatic Exercise Coach Training in 2014.

Pandiculation – “Dynamic Stretching” Squared

In a   New York Times article about stretching, Gretchen Reynolds reported on the largest study ever conducted on the effectiveness of stretching. The results showed that…

Stretching makes no difference one way or the other as far as injury prevention is concerned.

The percentage of those runners assigned to do 20 second static stretches before every run, was identical to the group assigned to the “no stretching” regimen. The study was conducted over the course of three months.

Dr. Ross Tucker, a physiologist in South Africa and co-author of the Web site The Science of Sport said, “There is a very important neurological effect of stretching. There is a reflex that prevents the muscle from being stretched too much.” This is  what Hanna Somatic Educators have taught their clients for years: the reflex Dr. Tucker refers to is called the “stretch reflex.” It is invoked by static stretching, and induces the muscle to contract back against the stretch, in effect making it tighter than it was before. This is a reflex that protects the muscle from trauma.

Reynolds goes on to write, that “Dynamic stretching, or exercises that increase your joints’ range of motion via constant movement, does not seem to invoke the inhibitory reflex of static stretching, Dr. Tucker said. When “you stretch through movement, you involve the brain much more, teaching proprioception and control, as well as improving flexibility.”

Pandiculation improves muscle function at the level of the nervous system.

Hanna Somatic Educators have been teaching students for decades not to stretch to change muscle length, but rather to pandiculate. Pandiculation is a brain reflex action pattern that animals do. Next time your dog gets up from rest, watch what he does; he’ll put his front paws out and lengthen his back as he relaxes his belly. This “wakes up” the muscular system at the level of the  brain, so that the brain is always in control of the muscles.

The action of pandiculation re-sets muscle length and brain level control of muscles and movement. It re-educates all movements of a muscle: concentric, isometric (when you hold the contraction for just a second) and eccentric. The brain “takes back” that part of the muscle’s length and function that it had lost voluntary control of. Pandiculation sends a strong signal to the sensory motor cortex, which in turn serves to “reboot” the function of the  muscles for greater sensation, motor control, balance, proprioception, and coordination.

Pandiculation of over-trained and tight muscles can prevent knee, hip, and back injuries when running.

Phil Wharton, well known author of the Wharton Stretch Book, now agrees that contracting a muscle first, then moving it through its range of motion is much more effective than simple, static stretching. Dynamic stretching, however similar to pandiculation, is not the same as pandiculation, nor is it as effective. The key to freer movement in any sport or activity is freedom of movement in the center of the body. If you don’t release and repattern the large muscles of the center – from which all movement originates – you will experience only short term improvement. Think of an animal, first contracting its back muscles, then slowly and deliberately lengthening them only as far as is comfortable for them to go – then doing the exact same thing with the muscles of the front of the body.

You may have a favorite athletic stretch; explore a way to pandiculate it: tighten into the tight muscles first, then slowly lengthen away to the end of your comfortable range. Then completely relax. This can be done with hamstrings, quadriceps, waist muscles, triceps, biceps, you name it!

Here is a short video that shows a couple of easy pandiculations you can do prior to your run. Try them out and see what you think. To learn these and other Somatic Exercises that can teach you to reverse your pain and regain freedom of movement, click here.

The More You Move The Smarter You Become

In his book, The Body of Life, Thomas Hanna wrote,
…all learning is sensory motor learning.
The ability to hear, read, and even form ideas in one’s head involves movement. When we think we are activating muscles, or, at the very least, motor neurons to aid in our learning process. It is automatic and unavoidable. When we solve a math problem in our heads many of us move our fingers unconsciously. Some people, as they read, will silently mouth the words they are reading.

Neurobiologist Roger Sperry, 1981 Nobel Prize winner for brain research, said: “Ninety percent of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain is generated by the movement of the spine.” According to Hanna, he also concluded that “the sole product of brain function is muscular coordination.”

A recent study in Finland confirmed what Thomas Hanna and other somatic education pioneers have contended for decades: there is a link between motor (movement) function and brain function. They found that children whose motor skills were lacking were more likely to have learning difficulties. What does this mean, then, for children who play less, use more technology, and spend more time being passively entertained?
climbing a tree
From my perspective this means that more movement,  as well as movement exploration. can only have a positive affect on children’s test scores, ability to focus and to learn.

If we spent as much time nurturing our children’s movement intelligence as much as we do their test scores, we might find other benefits as well: improved social skills, spatial awareness, self-esteem, problem solving – and the ability to truly sense our bodies and how they respond to stress.

Becoming physically masterful and aware is the gift that keeps on giving. Somatic awareness and physical autonomy is the birthright of all human beings. We are meant to move forward, grow and learn.

For an interesting perspective on children, movement and neuroscience go to Dr. Kwame Brown’s Move Theory. He is a tireless advocate (as well as a neurophysiologist) for creating solutions to childhood inactivity.