What is Somatics?

Image: My teacher, Essential Somatics® founder and CEO Martha Peterson practising a gentle yet powerful somatic movement called The Flower

Hanna Somatic Education (otherwise known as Clinical Somatic Education or ‘somatics’ for short) is a highly effective, gentle movement practice that changes muscle function at the level of the brain. The brain and nervous system control the muscles. Therefore the only way to permanently change muscle tone is by engaging the brain through movement.

Somatics is sensory-motor training that releases chronically tight muscles that have over time learned to remain involuntarily (beneath the level of consciousness) contracted from everyday stress, habituated patterns of movement, or accidents and injuries. Gentle, slow, controlled movements are explored and experienced with full internal awareness of sensation. The word ‘soma’ means the living body as sensed from within.

The Somatics term ‘sensory motor amnesia’ describes the involuntary muscular contraction held in the body where the brain has lost either full or partial control of a muscle group resulting in a functional breakdown. The roots of SMA are always in the centre of the body — the front, back and sides, where powerful muscles connect the lower and upper halves of the body at our centre of gravity (the somatic centre.)

Hanna Somatic Education focuses on full-body patterns of muscular contraction, not just one area. Tightness in the somatic centre of the body results in tightness in the periphery — ‘centre to periphery’ is a key somatic principle. Gentle, pleasurable movements reverse three key reflexive patterns to stress (red light reflex, green light reflex and trauma reflex) — restoring and increasing motion. This results in improved awareness, balance and control and efficiency and ease of movement. This new found spaciousness feels expansive and freeing — like being a kid again! The new length in the muscles changes posture and alignment and brings nourishment to previously forgotten tissues.

Somatics can be learned in a class, workshop or private session. I am trained as an Essential Somatics® Movement Teacher and teach under the name Sunshine Somatics in my community of Powell River on Canada’s West Coast (the Sunshine Coast). Clinical Somatic Educators use assisted pandiculation to release more deeply held SMA. See the Essential Somatics website for a list of practitioners.

The numerous health benefits of a daily somatics practice (as short as 15 minutes a day) include increased oxygen intake from more efficient breathing, improved lymphatic and cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, improved digestion, improved mental health and more. Somatics can be helpful for many health conditions such as lower back pain, neck and shoulder pain, sciatica, scoliosis and more.

Learning somatics offers the following benefits:

  • Rapid, effective pain relief from many common muscular pain conditions
  • Skills for life that teach you how to regain conscious control of habitually tight muscles
  • Self-efficacy — no need to rely on external practitioners to “fix” you
  • Increased suppleness, flexibility, energy, coordination, balance and proprioception
  • The release of both emotional and physical trauma stored in the tissues

Through the technique of PANDICULATION muscle length, sensation, and function are restored at the level of the brain. More coming soon on SMA, pandiculation and the three reflexes — stay tuned!


Hi, I'm Emma. Welcome to my blog and thank you for being here. I'm in the midst of (mindfully!) wrestling with Wordpress to get my blog up and running. More to come shortly!