Somatics for You

 Newsletter December 2013

Come to Class
Feel So Much Better!

Class Schedule:
December 7,14
January 4, 25
February 15, 22

National Holistic Institute
5900 Doyle Street, Emeryville, CA 94608

Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, Erick Hawkins, Anna Halprin ~ these are my dance teachers from childhood to now. They have in common the sublime Body Mind practice of Somatics as defined by Thomas Hanna. Susan Koenig is a Master Somatics teacher preserving and evolving the Hanna Technique. She weaves sensory reeducation through all my  movement experiences! Thank you Susan!

Janet Jacobson

Private Sessions with Susan Koenig available

Call 510-848-4129


Motivation, alertness, concentration and other states of mind are critical in motor learning, because they determine how well we attend to the learning and execution of any motor task.  These two processes of learning and doing are inevitably intertwined; we learn as we do and we do only as well as we have learned.

The Neural Basis of Motor Control by Vernon B. Brooks (out of print)

Susan's Hanna Somatic Class, December 8, 2012

Our on-going theme is “experiencing greater comfort and efficiency through connecting anatomy, brain, and movement patterns.”

This week we’re looking at the way gravity effects our movements and how we can replace tension, tightness and pain using slow, conscious movement. The lecture also contains a fascinating exploration of perception in human beings.

Picture Gallery
Eleanor Criswell Hanna and Jeong Myung Gim, Ph.D. in Physical Education.  He is our first student from South Korea, has translated the book Somatics into Korean, and is bringing Hanna Somatic Education into his university classes. 
Eva Waldmann is a Certified Hanna Somatic Educator and yoga teacher in Toronto, Canada.  She combines somatics and yoga in her classes.
Ken Bridgeman is a Certified Hanna Somatic Educator, a Massage Therapist, and has been active around the world as an HIV/Aids Educator with Irene Smith.  He's a veteran from the Viet Nam war, and has been active in every organization he has belonged to.  For many years he has served on the Board of Directors for the Association for Hanna Somatic Education.  Over the past few years he's had both hips replaced and uses his somatic exercises to keep himself as mobile and pain free as he can.
Gabriel Posner, Certified Hanna Somatic Educator and Massage Therapist, is a teacher at the National Holistic Institute and a member of the Board of Directors of the Association for Hanna Somatic Education (AHSE).  He currently is the Education Chair of the AHSE and for 3 years has brought us fabulous, creative educational workshops at our yearly Hanna Somatic Convention.
Sometimes I just have to throw in a more personal picture.  This is my husband, Paul Herzoff, professional photographer and musician with our friend Lily Hill.  Lilly has just performed in a fabulous Hawaiian dance and song event.  She's a wonderful example, at 67 years, of a person who stays active and engaged in life.  She uses somatic movement and Hawaiian dance and music to keep fit and happy.
Hi everyone,
With the holidays around the corner, staying calm and centered rather than stressed and anxious, can be challenging.  All the more reason to take a few minutes and do some slow, gentle somatic movements every day.

Take a short break by focusing on the bodily sensations of these simple, easy movements.

While sitting, try these two pelvic-spinal exercises.  You'll be more aligned and able to sit taller (more vertically).  You'll also find that you are more awake and relaxed going into your next activity.
When you stand up, try this for balancing your posture.  It starts by focusing on how your feet meet the ground, to literally help you feel "grounded" and ready to meet the world.
I hope you try these movements.  Enjoy the benefits from doing them.

Saturday Somatic Classes

Our December Theme is
"Finding Balance, Alignment, and Centeredness"

Explore techniques for sensing and moving in such a way as to feel and be balanced, aligned, and centered.  How we sit, stand, walk, interact with others, think, tackle difficult situations, and love, are revealed in the movements and postures of these activities.  Our head and shoulders connect with our feet, our pelvis connects to our jaw, our head-hands-and-heart connect to our relationships.  

Explore movements done on the floor, in sitting, standing, and walking to expand your ability to move with ease and confidence.  Learn some specific movements for recovering your sense of confidence, balance, and alignment under stress. 

Come to My Classes Any Time
Somatic exercises are done slowly, gently, always within your comfort zone, and with internal focus on the sensations of the movements.

Doing somatic exercises this way engages the voluntary motor cortex of the brain, the only part of brain's motor system that can reduce muscular tension (contraction).

See side-bar with upcoming class dates.

Recommended reading is the book, Somatics, by Thomas Hanna (my teacher, now deceased).  Over time you will learn all the basic exercises called the "Daily Cat Routine" (p. 99, Somatics, and last section of the book).   Class fee: $20 per class, or 4 classes for $60.

Book Recomendation

by Moshe Feldenkrais
This is an "oldie but goodie," originally published in 1972.  I recently skimmed it again while browsing through my library.  It has some wonderful information and clearly shows how Moshe Feldenkrais influenced Thomas Hanna.  

"The nervous system is occupied mainly with movement.  Movement occupies the nervous system more than anything else because we cannot sense, feel, or think without a many-sided and elaborate series of actions initiated by the brain to maintain the body against the pull of gravity, at the same time we must know where we are and in what position."  (p. 33)

I've used a number of ideas from this book, especially when guiding my classes in the  activity called the "body scan."  A "body scan" activity is focused on sensing ourself in various ways in order to experience and notice how we have organized our self.  For example, noticing where our body is touching and not touching the floor in various positions; comparing our freedom of breathing when we are in different postures; noticing features of our standing posture by feeling the difference in weight distribution on the bottom of our feet.  

The "body scan" is often used at the beginning and ending of a class so we may compare the changes in our self after doing somatic movements.  The "body scan" is a wonderful learning tool and this book has many ideas applicable to it.
  Available through Amazon.
Anatomy Corner

When we move slowly with attention and focus we engage our primary motor cortex, the area of the brain that can actually reduce the amount of tension (contraction) in our voluntary, skeletal muscles.

In Hanna Somatic Education we have a phrase, "sensory motor amnesia (SMA)."  It means we have lost some or all of our ability to sense and move certain muscle groups.  This is usually due to chronically contracted muscles that have become so tight they can't move anymore.  

Our brain has to figure out another way to move our body (soma) so we can continue to go through life.  This establishes what are called "compensation patterns" in which other muscles become recruited to do jobs they are not meant to do.

When certain muscles contract, opposite muscles are supposed to yield.  With SMA this doesn't happen and muscles engage in tugging and pulling against each other causing pain, stiffness, and a lack of coordination.  This state leads to a conscious and/or unconscious sense of being off kilter, off center, not balanced.  Our whole system can suffer, not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, in our ability to relate to others, and in our sense of daily "aliveness."

Slow, comfortable movement, done with focus retrains our brain-muscle connection by engaging and including both our sensory and motor cortex.  The motor cortex is part of our higher learning brain, located in the prefrontal area of the brain.  With slow, focused movement we re-gain muscular control and therefore ease of movement, flexibility, strength, and coordination.  Thomas Hanna use to say, "We become more of who we are."

Copyright © 2013 Susan Koenig, All rights reserved.

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