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

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

Post by Robert Burns » Tue Apr 19, 2022 5:16 pm

I recently found out that you can get this book as a PDF on Archive:

You have to create an account and request a temporary loan to see the whole thing, so you can't just download and keep it, but you can request access for 14 days and it's pretty short and to-the-point. It was published in 1988, and the theory of somatics is not yet well-known, but I believe this is largely because the so-called healthcare industry doesn't like the idea of funding and promoting simple, long-lasting treatments of chronic pain, stress, and mental illness. After all, a business that only serves one-time customers isn't going to make nearly as much as one that keeps you coming back every week.

To be clear, I'm by no means implying that this is some magical treatment that will fix all your ailments and neither is the author. This is not New Age pseudoscientific crap, and I'm not a doctor, but obviously there are many cases where something like this is not going to help. With that said, I think just about everyone can get some significant benefits out of this. Also, one of the great things about somatics is that you don't have to wait long to see results (most people say they feel better after just one session), and it costs essentially nothing aside from the relatively little time it takes to learn and practice the method.

To describe it simply, somatics is an approach to releasing chronic muscular tension and building bodily awareness from within, as it views the mind and body as one. Instead of getting massages and chiropractic adjustments to try to externally force your muscles to relax (which usually doesn't produce lasting results), you are actually learning, or relearning, how to relax those muscles on a subjective, neurological level. The way this is done is by consciously and deliberately contracting and releasing the tight muscle groups, really focusing on how they feel as you do this, and gradually this action done regularly brings awareness and control back to those muscles.

The important concept here is sensory-motor amnesia. If you have been constantly contracting certain muscle groups due to bad postural habits, physical injuries, or even prolonged emotional stress, among other reasons, you will start to lose the ability to relax those muscles, even consciously, and beyond that, you often won't even fully realize that those muscles are contracted 24/7. This leads in turn to stiffness, pain, fatigue, even depression and other mood disorders, and the real cause of these symptoms is easily overlooked. Technically it is a form of dissociation, but almost everyone will experience it to some degree in their lives, and Hanna named it sensory-motor amnesia (referring to the dual loss of feeling and control of the muscles).

Most doctors will approach you like your body is a robot that needs oil, maintenance, new parts, or even reprogramming, and they completely ignore that subjective aspect of it. They give pills to numb the pain, forcibly stretch out tight muscles, or, if they are a mental health practitioner, they may try to reason you out of your negative mental state and give pills for your "chemical imbalance" too. They almost never come close to teaching you how to relax and reintegrate these subjectively detached parts of your body that are the root cause. No, they just slap some duct tape on it and say it's the best they can do. I never really could accept that. It did take me years of trying all sorts of other things before I finally came across this approach, but I can honestly say that I feel more relaxed than I've ever felt in my life as a result of trying this, and I even saw significant results after one time trying it.

Not only has somatics worked far better for my personal health issues than anything I've tried before, but it strikes me that the philosophy behind it is quite aligned with the Cosmotheist understanding of reality and consciousness: There is but one Reality, and that Reality is the Whole. We are not meat robots controlled by some spooky ethereal ghost that resides independently in our body; we are the body, and the mind is the body. The separation exists only in our imagination.

Anyway, I hope that some of our people will find this book and this approach as useful as I have.

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Jim Mathias
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Re: Somatics: Reawakening the Mind's Control of Movement, Flexibility, and Health by Thomas Hanna

Post by Jim Mathias » Wed Apr 20, 2022 12:51 am

Much can be said about training the mind to overcome a tension-related adverse muscular issue, and that appears to be what Riley is getting across here. I'm certainly no stranger to both muscular and spine-related issues and have learned a few simple things. One is that is appears being conscious that you have to give stressed parts some rest after heavy or prolonged exertion so they'll recover. My hands experience this regularly, the pain tells me it's time to give them a break.

I've had vertebrae get out of alignment here and there over the years, and have used the services of a chiropractor with repeated success. The chiropractor has provided me, intuitively, with an education also. An exercise taught to help me rehab after adjusting my spine has been very useful when the problem (usually in the same area of my spine) arises again. I try the very simple exercise first for a few days to see if I can "adjust" myself first and if that doesn't work, then make an appointment. But you know what? More often than not it works, and I understand why it works.

The bottom line here is learning and applying that knowledge carefully. Thanks for the referral, Riley!
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