Hanna Somatic Education (HSE), (also known as Hanna Somatics) was developed by Thomas Hanna, PhD (1928-1990). His book Somatics: Reawakening the minds control of movement, flexibility and health is a must read for all sufferers of musculoskeletal issues. Hanna was originally known for his work as a philosopher, writer and revolutionary thinker. His work in all areas hinged around the concept of freedom. Throughout his travels, Hanna noticed that people in industrialized nations had significantly more postural distortion than other countries. There was more restriction of movement, more complaints of chronic pain and higher levels of emotional stress.
How interesting that citizens of these modern civilizations, generally considered the freest in the world, were literally prisoners in their own bodies. How could one be truly free if one's activities were constantly dictated by a body beyond voluntary control, and devoid of mind-body integration.
Hanna found it even more astounding that when pressed, people actually believed that as they aged, their bodies would become naturally more stiff and less capable over time. He believed this notion to be nothing more than a myth that dated back centuries, one that most of us take as truth, and one that is quick to become a reality for those who accept it. He set out to disprove "The Myth of Aging" and lead humans into a different way of life, one marked by improvement, awareness, less pain and greater mobility.
The term Somatic is derived from the Greek word Soma, which means the living body. Hanna redefined its meaning to describe the whole and indivisible nature of the human being. The word Soma allows our mind/body to be one, each person has the ability to feel, sense and control their interaction with the environment. This includes the world of body work, where normal practice is for a client to be moved/manipulated by a practitioner. By thinking of a client as a Soma, rather than a person or body, we include them in the process of healing at every step. We recognize the client as someone capable of infinite growth and learning, not of mind and body, but the whole being.
Everything that your body does is controlled by the brain. Every time you move, your brain sends a message to certain muscles to tighten and for others to lengthen in response. Most of the messages your brain sends to your muscles are voluntary, like when dialing the numbers on your mobile phone, this is a voluntary action. Sometimes in life we do things over and over, (for example, sit at a computer the same way or tense our shoulders and neck in response to emotional stress). Because of this your brain will stop informing you of how you got into these positions, instead you will unconsciously end up there. This is called habituation.
Habituation makes our movements really efficient, because of it we don't always have to figure out how to sit in a chair, read book or put on our clothes. Due to habituation the natural process of muscles contracting and relaxing becomes affected, the brain starts to constantly send messages to your muscles to contract.
These muscular contractions become so deeply unconscious that eventually we no longer remember how to move about freely. Hanna called this "Sensory Motor Amnesia" (SMA). When we have SMA, we can't feel, and therefore find it very difficult to move and control our muscles, which can lead to chronic tension.
Hanna Somatics system of neuromuscular education (mind-body training), teaches you to recognize this learned habituated state by first teaching you how to feel the muscles that are keeping you tight and/or in pain, and then how to move them with greater efficiency.
Once you are engaged in this educational process, your brain very quickly learns how to stop sending messages to your muscles to constantly contract. The result is relief from pain, better posture, enhanced bodily awareness and a newfound freedom of movement.