Hanna Somatics

The pain relief movement therapy called Hanna Somatics is based on the work of Thomas Hanna. Hanna was a student of Moshe Feldenkrais who developed an elaborate system of movements designed to increase body awareness and relieve pain.

Hanna took Feldenkrais's work, distilled it into an accessible and digestible format, and the result was Hanna's wonderful book, Somatics: Reawakening the Mind's Control of Movement, Flexibility and Health.

I have taught Hanna Somatics to clients in my private practice for many years with great results. Hanna Somatic movements work so well because…

  • The movements are simple and easy to learn
  • The movements are very subtle and therefore can be used even by those who are experiencing quite a lot of pain
  • The movements encourage my clients to tune into their bodies in a way many of them have never done before
  • The movements reawaken sensory-motor control of muscles that have become chronically contracted
  • The movements work quickly and efficiently
  • The movements give my clients the tools to relieve their own discomfort and thus become self-reliant rather than dependent me or other costly pain relief treatments

Hanna Somatics & Sensory Motor Amnesia

The concept of reawakening sensory-motor control our muscles is based on the problem which causes us to lose this control:

Sensory-Motor Amnesia

The first time I heard this term I had one of those immediate "ah-ha" moments. Why couldn't some of my clients get certain muscles to relax? Their bodies had literally forgotten how to do it.

As I read Hanna's book I gained a deeper understanding about Sensory-Motor Amnesia and how our nervous system can get caught in a feedback loop with our muscular system. Such a feedback loop is a conditioned response that can result from injury, long-term stress, or postural distortion.

This concept mirrors a similar phenomenon that occurs when one develops active myofascial trigger points. By practicing Hanna's movements and using them with my clients I discovered that Hanna Somatics can both aid in releasing triggers points and can also help to prevent triggers points from becoming active in the first place.

Somatic Pelvic Tilt

I've included below a short video of one of the primary somatic movements, The Pelvic Tilt. This movement is a wonderful way to start (or end) the day. Performing this type of movement at the beginning and/or end of the day is recommended because the brainwaves are slower at these times and therefore sensory-motor learning is more efficient.

Somatic Pelvic Tilt

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Stephen O'Dwyer, cnmt

Neuromuscular Therapist & Pain Relief Researcher

Stephen O'Dwyer, CNMT


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