Hanna Somatic Education:
by Lawrence Gold Credentials | Publications | Personal Page
The stage is set for SMA when the person fails to end their self-guarding behaviors after the injured area has healed or the stressful situation has passed. As the self-guarding reaction persists, it becomes so familiar to the person that they cease to notice it. The associated tensions become automatic. In a state of un-awareness and automatic guarding, they use muscles inappropriate to a movement to help the affected muscles, whose job it ordinarily is to do the movement. This kind of movement behavior sacrifices coordination and grace for a sense of safety of the injured part. The tension adds undue effort to movement -- "one foot on the accelerator, one foot on the brake".
SMA is, therefore, a residue of injury that causes pain and distorts or restricts movement long after tissue healing has occurred.
People who have never developed much bodily feeling or coordination are particularly susceptible to SMA, as are people with complicated and resistant personality structures (who hold much nervous tension).
The pain associated with sensory-motor amnesia is part of a distorted body image; parts of the body have too much sensation (pain) and parts have too little sensation. Some muscles are too tight and some are feeble. Muscles are strong in some movements and weak in others.
Clients of Hanna somatic educators typically discover (to their surprise) that their muscles twitch or tighten involuntarily when body parts are moved by someone else (e.g., their somatic educator, during examination); that they move jerkily or lose strength in certain positions; that they involuntarily apply excessive force to some movements and have too little strength in others; they experience a restricted range of motion.
The techniques of Hanna Somatic Education have the client in positions and doing movements slowly enough and with enough attention to feel the movements continuously. Constant sensing and control, in combination with the hands-on techniques of the process, bring about relaxation and better control.
A typical maneuver begins with an act of muscular contraction, mindful of the sensations, regulating the amount of effort so as to remain within ones comfort zone; continues with slow relaxation, still mindful of the sensations; and ends at complete relaxation. The client typically relaxes to a deeper level than when the movement began following slow-motion movements that take anywhere from ten to twenty-five seconds.
The clinical somatic educator helps to guide the client into position. For example, to involve the muscles of the front of the neck, the client may be guided into position lying on the back. In that position, lifting the head activates the muscles of the front of the neck. Hands-on guidance into position, movements (in this case, an example might be to lift the hips), and coaching such as, "Slowly lift your head and swallow," enable the client to locate and activate the muscles effectively in coordinated patterns. Instructions such as the following, used in alleviating TMJ syndrome (habituated clenching of the jaws) might be used: "Now, slowly lower your head. When your head is down, relax your neck," might end such a maneuver. Position, movement, attention to the sensations of the movement, and pacing of the movement produce the result.
Different movement functions involve different positions and instructions for movement.
With practice (usually within minutes), participants in Hanna Somatic Education enjoy a significant, lasting, and cumulative improvement of muscular control, coordination, and movement. They relax, recover their comfort, and move more easily. Moreover, they spontaneously catch themselves tightening up and are able to relax at a moment's notice.
The typical sensation of recovery from SMA is feeling longer, straighter, more comfortable, more secure, better put together, and more movable(a result of relaxation). Sometimes, people report more "energy moving through the involved areas" -- a sign of greater sensory-awareness.