What is Somatics? Clarification of what it is, and what is not.
If you Google What is Somatics? a lot of different explanations and modalities will pop up in your search.
In this post, and the next few, I'll aim to clarify what Somatics is, how it works, and how to cut through the confusion.
First off, let's start with the man who coined the term Somatics. That man was Thomas Hanna. He developed a method of movement training to help people get out of pain. He wanted to call his method straight up Somatics, but that was too general and couldn't be trademarked as such. So he called his method Hanna Somatic Education, even though he titled his book Somatics*
Ten years ago when I started teaching Somatics, I was living in a bubble and Somatics wasn't yet on the radar. Now somatics is being thrown around a lot these days. Trademarks aside, let's give Hanna and his method the respect it is due. He coined the term Somatics and that is ultimately what Somatics is. His method. His modality. Period.
I find it interesting, and a bit frustrating, that when you google somatics there's often a reference to Hanna and his coinage of the word somatics, but the articles will go on to say things like Feldenkrais, Somatic Experiencing, EMDR, etc are Somatics.
But they aren't, really.
These other modalities really fall under the heading of somatic. Let me explain. We all have a somatic nervous system, and our motor and sensory cortexes are under the control of the somatic nervous system.
When we slow down and pay attention from an internal perspective we can tune into how we feel, sense our muscles contracting and releasing. This internal awareness can help you develop a greater somatic awareness.
So, many mindful practices can be somatic, ie done with awareness of what we feel and how we move from that internal perspective. Things like yoga, tai chi, qigong, Feldenkrais, Alexander Technique, etc can all be considered somatic. They aren't Somatics though.
Think of it like the term racquet sports; there is tennis, badminton, ping pong, pickle ball. All racquet sports, but they aren't interchangeable. You wouldn't call tennis pickleball, right? I'm sure tennis players would adamantly agree! 🤣
To confuse matters even more, your somatics google search may include things like Somatic Experiencing, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and more. These are methods practiced by mental health therapists, which blend talk therapy with somatic awareness. Not the same thing at all as Hanna's Somatics method.
To sum up, Somatics is the work of Thomas Hanna. Other mindfulness methods can be labeled somatic, meaning sensing ourselves from an internal perspective.
0.00 Somatics 101 | Somatics Fundamentals for Beginners
How to find a a Somatics Practitioner
If you are seeking Somatics to help get rid of pain, calm down, and enjoy life more fully, find out where your potential practitioner was trained. Currently there are three schools in the US that certify Somatics Teachers. (The Novato Institute for Somatic Research and Training, Essential Somatics and Somatic Systems Institute). Graduates are certified as Hanna or Clinical Somatic Educators.
Be aware that there are schools that offer teacher training completely online and never have real time training with an actual live teacher. I have worked with several graduates of these programs and they freely admit after working with me that they aren't nearly as qualified in the work as they want to be. They often say they now need to go through a more rigorous and in-depth training to help their clients more effectively. Again, do your research. 😊
In my next post I will dive into what Somatics is and how it works. You can also sign up for this free Somatics 101 e-course below, or schedule your private session online or in-person in Western North Carolina. Be sure to visit my website thinksomatics.com too for more info.
I hope you found this post helpful. Do you have more questions? I'd love to hear from you! Please comment below.
* I am not an affiliate or make a percentage of sales from Amazon. I strongly encourage folks to support other book sellers. Your local bookstore can likely order the book for you, or just google Somatics by Thomas Hanna and you'll find lots of copies for sale. :-)