As we grow older our bodies – and our lives – should continue to improve right up until the very end.”… Thomas Hanna , PhD, founder of Hanna Somatic Education
Clinical Somatic Education (CSE) is based upon the unique and pioneering work of Thomas Hanna. It is a revolutionary practice in neuromuscular movement re-education or, in other words, it retrains your brain to communicate to your muscles how to safely contract, lengthen and relax in a more effective and efficient way to improve movement eliminating chronic muscle pain as well as helping to improve mental health.
In order to address the root cause of discomfort, Alana supports students in exploring Clinical Somatic Education to help them recognize where there may be muscle tension in their body as a result of repetitive activities, injury, trauma, surgery or ongoing stress or anxiety. What was once an adaptive movement to help them through a stressful experience becomes “the new normal” when consistently repeated, which creates full body habituated reflexes. This, in turn, causes muscles to become stuck in contraction producing muscular tension, aches and pain. In CSE, we call this Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA). SMA affects one’s posture when their body’s muscles are drawn into one or more specific stress reflex patterns.
These stress reflex patterns are called the red light reflex, green light reflex and trauma reflex. A person can have one or a combination of two or all three in their body.
The Red Light Reflex occurs as a stress response to actual or perceived threatening or worrisome situations as a strong forward flexion and internal rotation pattern. This posture is also perpetuated by many of our modern activities like driving, working at a computer, using cell phones for texting and web surfing, and sitting in front of a tv. When the reflex becomes habituated it can lead to a slumped posture with shallow breathing, depressed chest and rounded shoulders and spine and a tucked posteriorly rotated pelvis. This posture may also lead to complaints and symptoms of low self-esteem, depression and anxiety with sympathetic nervous system dominance.
The Green Light Reflex is a response that contracts the posterior muscles, erects the back, and prepares the body for movement or action. Developmentally, in the first year of life this reflex begins in children with the lifting of the head and the contracting of the back. It is a crucial stage in the evolution in a child and leads to the ability to first crawl and then to walk. As we get older, this posture may become habituated and can lead to tight and tired back muscles with the lower back exaggeratedly curved, belly protruding, shoulders drawn back and pelvis anteriorly rotated. People with this posture may also have complains and symptoms of being overworked and overactive with stress and anxiety present.
The Trauma Reflex occurs as a protective muscular response to severe injury, accidents or trauma. It is the reflex of pain avoidance where we cringe and twist away from the source of trauma to avoid further injury. This reflex can also occur as a compensatory pattern adopted from a one sided movement pattern or when an injury or surgery has occurred on one side of the body. The muscles of the waist and hip on one side may move into lateral contraction with uneven hips or shoulders as well as rotation or twisting through the torso.
A person’s brain goes into “auto-pilot” involuntarily controlling the muscle movement or lack thereof from the learned adaptive movement pattern. Since these unconscious movement patterns that have caused the SMA have been learned by the brain they can also be unlearned through a sensory motor method called Pandiculation. Pandiculation requires a person’s active participation and involves three elements: a conscious contraction of the muscles holding tension followed by a slow controlled conscious lengthening of the muscles and complete relaxation of the muscles.
In a CSE session a client’s posture is assessed at the beginning of the lesson to determine which stress reflex pattern is dominant while they walk, stand and move. The client will then lay on a table similar to a massage table and be guided through hands-on gentle assisted pandiculations to help them retrain their brain to sense and feel tight and painful muscles and to release the tension they hold to restore length and function.
Each session focusses on the client’s specific needs. They will learn Somatic Movements during each session to meet these needs. Following the session they will be provided with a home self-care practice from what they have learned empowering them to retain long term pain relief with practice. This gentle and enjoyable somatic movement practice allows one to improve their ability to self-sense, self-adjust and self-correct, which in turn:
- Provides strategies and tools to manage, reduce and/or completely resolve pain
- Complements and supports other health and wellness modalities
- Prevents recurring injuries by changing how their brain communicates information to
- Increases mobility, energy, strength, coordination and balance
- Establishes a sense of relaxation and ease in their body and mind
- Improves quality of life as they gain more freedom and choice through their movements