Somatics sessions come under two main headings:
Somatic Movement Education and Somatic Movement Therapy.
Generally a Somatic Movement Education session might be taken in a group setting and Somatic Movement Therapy may be taken on a one-to-one basis, although this is not always the case and depends very much on the Somatic technique in question.
Let’s explore some familiar Somatic modalities and also introduce not-so-familiar, but wholly valuable, Somatic techniques.
Hanna Somatic Education®
The principles of Hanna Somatic Education® are that characteristic postural difficulties come about due to chronically contracted muscles which relate to primitive reflexes: the Landau reflex, the Startle reflex, and the Trauma reflex (motor contractions which surround physical or severe emotional trauma – accident, surgery, long term stress, etc).
Hanna Somatic Education® uses two approaches.
The first approach is one-to-one hands-on lessons where the client is guided by the practitioner to perform certain movements while the practitioner observes, evaluates and emphasises movements according to the client’s specific needs.
The second approach is Somatic Exercises™ which are done by the individual as a maintenance programme which can be in a group class or self-practice at home.
Another example is Body-Mind Centering™, created by Bonnie Bainbridge-Cohen, which combines movement, vocal, perceptual and hands-on work with the study of life’s physiological, psychological and developmental processes.
This modality considers movement the expression of “inner learning” accumulated since infancy, as basic skills (such as breathing, nursing, rolling, crawling and walking) are acquired and the structure of the organism takes form.
How a person moves or even holds his or her body is a reflection of a process of personal evolution.
Body-Mind Centering® is also delivered in private one-to-one sessions and group sessions with the emphasis being directed towards the individual’s self-discovery and transformation.
These sessions can be concerned with individual goals or may be presented as principles of the work offered for exploration.
Classes involve movement and hands-on bodywork to heighten the client’s awareness of a specific bodily system or area and may also include the study of anatomical illustrations and models, and experiential explorations to increase sensory awareness and integrate that awareness with one’s intention and action.
The Feldenkrais Method®
In the Feldenkrais Method® the technique is a vehicle for improving both physical and mental functions through the exploration of bodily movement patterns and the use of attention.
The Feldenkrais Method® is based on the brain’s innate capacity for learning and the potential for lifelong growth and development.
The two modes of learning in the method are:
Awareness Through Movement® which is delivered in group sessions which are normally done lying down or sitting. As the lessons progress, participants become more aware of their movement habits, affording new patterns of behaviour.
Functional Integration® is the second mode of learning which is a one-to-one hands-on interaction specifically designed to meet the needs of an individual. In these individualised sessions movement is used as a means whereby to promote changes in patterns of thinking, sensing, feeling, and interacting with others.
So in summary, Somatic modalities generally have a Movement Education and Movement Therapy application, and are delivered in a group setting and as one-to-one sessions.
They seek to improve an individual’s total functioning by improving awareness of established patterns of movement behaviour and promoting, through sensory perception, the possibility of change and healing through repatterning ingrained movement habits via conscious control.
Developing new physical and mental awareness, along with newly integrated neuromuscular reflex patterns, can allow you to have greater freedom, ease of movement, and joy living in your moving body.
Hanna, Eleanor Criswell, Ed.D., Orlock, Vera. and Questrel, Alan S in Allison, Nancy, Ed. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Body-Mind Disciplines. Rosen Publishing (1999), pp 212 - 222