nova vita Somatics
Thomas Hanna put forth the concept of sensory-motor amnesia (SMA) to describe the human tendency to forget certain movements or ways of relating to muscles or muscle groups, leaving them chronically contracted. The contraction is the result of ongoing sub-cortical, brainstem-level impulses sent to the motor units causing contractions of muscle fibers. The return to cortical control returns the control of the muscles to the client.
There is a shift with somatic exercises from reflexive, automatic physiological programs to the more voluntary control areas of the brain and behavior for more cortical control.
The Somatic Exercises have their origins in the work of Moshe Feldenkrais, who was an Israeli physicist who invented an ingenious body therapy (Functional Integration) and over a thousand exercises designed to enhance movement and awareness. Thomas Hanna studied with Feldenkrais in the training class that Hanna organized in 1975 while he was director of the Humanistic Psychology Institute in San Francisco. During the next ten years or so, working somatically with thousands of clients at the Novato Institute in Novato, California, he evolved the work in some highly effective ways. From his work with clients and his awareness of the principles of biofeedback, he developed a unique approach. Biofeedback is the use of electronic devices to measure bodily changes and feed back that information to you. With the information you are then able to self-regulate your bodily processes more effectively. This may be used for relaxation and the management of stress responses or to enhance performance.
A somatic exercise program enables you to systematically go through your various muscles or muscle groups and voluntarily contract certain ones while lengthening others and then contract and slowly release the opposite muscles or muscle groups.
Hanna recommended that the Daily Essential Somatic Exercises, which he called the Cat Stretch and which I teach, be done when you first get up in the morning just as a cat stretches upon awakening. Some people also do them before retiring at night so that they can go to sleep without the muscle contraction patterns accumulated during the day. It is also valuable to do certain ones following exertions such as swimming, weight training, lifting heavy objects, running or walking, and so on. As you do them over time, you will notice a cumulative effect. More and more you will be aware of your body as you are experiencing certain situations. You will be more likely to organize yourself as effectively as possible for the situation.Somatic exercises are so effective because they involve the brain in the way it controls muscles and movements. They are designed to increase the voluntary control and flexibility of your muscles. These gentle and safe movements are completely natural and relate to movements that we perform on a daily basis such as reaching for a high shelf or walking up stairs. They are done slowly and with the least possible effort in a mindful way as an exploration focusing on the movement itself rather than some goal or measurement of achievement.