Thomas Hanna, Ph.D. developed Clinical Somatic Education (also known as Hanna Somatics) after being a Feldenkrais practitioner and studying neurology at the University of Miami Medical School, where he researched the muscular ways in which humans respond to stress reflexes and how these full-body reflexes can habituate at the level of the central nervous system, causing muscular pain that contributes to many common conditions.
Thomas Hanna called this inability to sense and voluntarily release tight muscles sensory-motor amnesia (SMA). Muscles with sensory-motor amnesia have learned to stay so contracted that no matter what you do—stretching, massaging, or drugging the muscles—they will not relax for the long term.
Hanna Somatics goes to the root of the problem: your brain and nervous system and their control of muscles and movement.
Thomas Hanna developed hands-on movement techniques and self-care exercises that directly address habitual muscular tension to reverse pain and regain mobility:
During an assisted pandiculation, the client first slowly and consciously contracts the involuntarily tensed-up muscle even more against resistance from the practitioner and then slowly with the feedback of the practitioner lessens the tension with heightened sensory awareness until the muscle lengthens and finally relaxes. In contracting a muscle tighter than its present contraction rate, the voluntary part of the brain that controls the muscles receives strong sensory feedback and is resuming control of the muscle that had sensory-motor amnesia. Pandiculation eliminates SMA quickly by returning control of muscles to the sensorimotor cortex.
2. Kinetic Mirroring & Release Positions
This technique was developed by Moshe Feldenkrais and named kinetic mirroring by Thomas Hanna. It is also used in osteopathy, ortho-bionomy, and in the somato-emotional release in craniosacral therapy. The practitioner brings the client passively into a position that brings the ends of the contracted muscle closer together, passively shortening the muscle. The job to contract the muscle is done by the practitioner. The sensation of “shortening without effort” instead of “shortening by means of habitual effort” results in a change of tension setting in the cerebellum, the neurons stop firing, and the muscle relaxes.
Some very effective Release Positions typically facilitated by the practitioner can also be done by the client at home with the aid of pillows, boxes, etc.
Hanna Somatic Body Therapy also includes Somatic Exercises and Body Awareness Training.
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