Body & Mind


Hanna Somatic Education™
The Somatic Revolution

by Lawrence Gold

Certified Hanna Somatic Educator #003
Former Associate Instructor for The Novato Institute for Somatic Research and Training

Thomas Hanna, educator and founder of the field of Somatics, was a revolutionary, in a sense. He wanted to see a revolution in the field of health care and developed a means to assist that revolution: a way for people to improve their control over their own body to eliminate pain and improve body functioning. He even used the word, revolution, and meant it in an actual sense -- as actual as the sense of the words, computer revolution. Only, instead of a revolution of human technology, he meant a revolution of human understanding and ability -- a somatic revolution.

Health care still operates primarily from the mechanical model of the human body -- the body as a "marvelous machine". Though the effectiveness of that model is evident, it has limitations. Particularly, it fails to address stress-induced diseases effectively -- chronic muscle and joint pain, chronic tension and tension headaches, back trouble, and the loss of mobility and the appearance of pains that accompany aging.

The aforementioned stress-induced diseases do not happen to a person; they result from what a person is doing -- that is, from habitual muscular responses formed after injuries or from stress, responses that operate seemingly beyond a person's control.

To address those conditions more effectively, we must adopt, resort to, and exercise a way of seeing and operating that is more than mechanical; we must adopt way of operating that is somatic.

Here's the difference: As living beings, we respond according to what we sense, both externally in the world and internally as our sense of self. Those responses affect our physiology, sometimes with lasting consequences. Mechanical interventions do nothing to give a person control over their habitual responses.

Somatic education gives a person a way to decisively resolve such complaints by simply dispelling the habitual responses and replacing them with the freedom to respond voluntarily.

Until a person takes control of those habitual responses -- and we can -- no amount of mechanical intervention and no drug can be effective, except temporarily; the condition returns because the person returns to it -- habitually and unconsciously.

There are numerous approaches to somatic education developed by such individuals as Alexander, Gindler, Speads, Feldenkrais, Trager , Aston , and Hanna; out of the traditions of yoga, the theatrical arts, sports, dance, and . Their techniques have similarities and differences; their approaches stand on common ground.

Somatic education is not "a technique"; it is a way of operating that relies upon people's awareness and their desire and ability to become more self-determining. It is an act of freedom, not of bondage, of power, not of burden.

What I am speaking of is not merely a technique to be added to some therapist's professional armamentarium, but an entryway to a way of operating that can make other techniques more effective. This distinction can be overlooked only at the expense of effectiveness, and I believe it may point to a basic step in the "health care revolution".

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