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By Mary Ann Gray Voorhies

Clinical somatic education, otherwise known as Hanna Somatic education, makes use of a major “mind/body” discovery. Its use and practice can prevent degeneration, stiffness, aches and pains, certain diseases and age-old health breakdowns in our middle age and older populations. It has the power to dramatically counteract the aging process. But, not only can it counteract the usual affects of aging, it also has the power to REVERSE them. Now, thanks to Thomas Hanna, we have an easy internal way to avoid the decline of bodily function, which is now usually thought of as the curse of getting older.

The fact is that during the course of our lives, our sensory motor systems respond to daily stresses and traumas with SPECIFIC MUSCULAR REFLEXES. These deep stress brain reflexes, when repeatedly triggered, create habitual tightening and shortening muscular contractions, which we cannot voluntarily relax. These muscular habits become so deeply ingrained, habituated, involuntary and unconscious that eventually insidiously we no longer remember how to move about freely. The result is stiffness, soreness, pain and a restricted range of motion. Along with this also in many cases the posture becomes distorted. Furthermore, the habitually shortened tight muscles impinge and pull on our organs, bones, tendons, ligaments and other bodily structures. This habituated state of “forgetfulness” is called SENSORY MOTOR AMNESIA (a state in which the sensory motor cortex has lost control of certain muscles and muscle groups). It is this insidious unconscious process and its secondary effects that we falsely think of as “just growing older.” Actually this “old age” is a STRESS-induced phenomenon that can really happen at any age. With the new knowledge of somatic education, humankind need not become infirm and decrepit.

The habituated stress reflexes that cause sensory motor amnesia are the following:

  • RED LIGHT REFLEX — The red light reflex is caused by fear and worry, which can result in hunched shoulders and a rounded back. When the red light reflex is incessantly triggered the stooped posture can contribute to heart disease, depression, nervousness, shortness of breath and many other maladies.
  • GREEN LIGHT REFLEX — The green light reflex is also called the Landau reaction, which also is the mark of the responsible adult, who lives by clocks, calendars, quotas, commissions, etc. This is the go-go-go reflex. When the green light reflex is incessantly triggered it can cause fatigue, high blood pressure, swayback, soreness, and back, neck and shoulder pain that might require surgery if left untreated, among other ailments. (This is culturally induced).
  • TRAUMA REFLEX — The trauma reflex is caused by falls or accidents such as car wrecks, ski accidents, athletic injuries and the like. This is when the posture looks out of balance with one shoulder higher than the other. This can cause pain and perhaps a need for surgery.

One of the things that Hanna discovered is that when we bring the body back into balance many surgeries can be avoided. SOMATICS can help one escape the deleterious effects of the above reflexes by bringing the body back into balance. The good news is these negative effects have been learned and they can be unlearned.

Clinical somatic education is EDUCATION — it’s education of the brain. How can bad habits be unlearned? By re-educating the sensory motor cortex and the neuromuscular system. One can reprogram the neuromuscular system through the use of slow, simple movements called PANDICULATIONS. (More about this later). These movements can be done with a certified Clinical Somatic Practitioner or by yourself on the floor. These movements, which involve contracting certain muscles, send signals to the sensory motor cortex. The sensory motor cortex, in turn, sends signals back to relax and reconnect to the muscles and takes control again. The results are smooth functioning of the brain/muscles, relaxation of muscles, pain relief, restoration of balanced posture, and the relief of pressure on surrounding bodily structures. The result is RELIEF AND RESTORATION of one’s previous more youthful self.

The practice of somatics actually creates new neural pathways in the sensory motor cortex, restoring healthy whole body function and returning the system to its former healthier state.

One of the most exciting things to remember about practicing somatics is that human beings now have the power to direct their CONSCIOUSNESS to take control of their own healthcare and not to depend so much on others. Remember, through practicing somatics much of what ails humankind can eventually be eradicated.

Hanna said, “I am convinced that a program of early training and sensory motor awareness and motor control would cause, within the span of one generation, a reversal of the major public health problems.” He also said that “somatic exercises can change how we live our lives, how we believe that our minds and bodies interrelated, how powerful we think we are in controlling our lives, and how responsible we should be in taking care of our total being. In fact, as these discoveries related to our conception of what human beings are and what they can be, has broad philosophical implications for understanding the nature of our existence.”

Some of this material was taken from the following books:

Somatics: Reawakening the Mind’s Control of Movement, Flexibility and Health by Thomas Hanna

The Body of Life: Creating New Pathways for Sensory Awareness and Fluid Movement by Thomas Hanna

Watch Mary Ann showing some practical exercises

For more information, visit:

Mary Ann Gray Voorhies –

Lawrence Gold –

Colm McDonnell – The Somatic Movement

For more blogs on Hanna Somatics go here>>>

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