Somatics for You

 Newsletter February 2014

Come to Class
Feel So Much Better!

Saturday Class Schedule:
10 - 11:30 am
February  22
March 1, 22, 29
April 5

National Holistic Institute
5900 Doyle Street, Emeryville, CA 94608

Saturday Somatic Classes

Our Winter Theme is
"Creating a Meaningful Daily Somatic Routine for Yourself"
Every class teaches and reviews some of the basic 7 movements created by Thomas Hanna in his "Daily Cat Routine"  (Somatics, p. 99).  Additionally you'll want to add some of the other movements that especially speak to your specific pain and stiffness.

This winter, January, February, and March, we'll be focusing on trunk and spinal movements in relationship to the upper extremity (shoulders to hands) and lower extremity (hips to feet).  

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 safety, 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).

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, in the last section of the book).   Class fee: $20 per class, or 4 classes for $60.

Private Sessions with Susan Koenig available

Call 510-848-4129

"The only journey is the one within." Rainer Maria Rilke 
(Thank you to Nadine Kraman for showing me this quote.)
Thank you to Bernie Austin for posting this on FaceBook.
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”~ Rumi

Unlocking Your Body by Thomas Hanna
This short video clip allows you to see Thomas Hanna in action.  You can purchase the full video at

Community Announcement

After nearly 15 years as a Somatic Therapist, Abby Rose is happy to announce the birth of her NEW WEBSITE:

Abby Rose, SEP, HSE is a Hanna Somatic Educator and trauma therapist in Oakland, CA.   Her practice has a strong educational focus and provides self-care tools for calming the body’s emergency response system and building a sense of safety and resilience. 

Abby’s work ranges from chronic stress to traumas such as accidents, falls, medical procedures, and physical or sexual assault to early developmental trauma (stress patterns that began in childhood). 

Drawing on her experience resolving her own chronic pain, Abby’s practice has a strong focus on working with long-term pain, movement limitations, chronic muscle tension and injury recovery.  She takes delight in helping people learn how to use their bodies as a resource for recovery.
Picture Gallery
This is the first image ever of a single molecule showing individual atomic bonds, taken just last year. Notice how the hexagonal arrangement of the atomic structures are similar to the way bees construct their hives, the geometry of the new material graphine and the Earth-wide hexagonal vorticies on the poles of Saturn. Hexagonal geometries are fundamental to the structure of space-time itself according to Nassim Haramein's physics.

The incredible pace of our technological advancement is even more apparent when you consider that an image of a single atom of hydrogen was released less than a year later! :
Thank you Richard Eshlelman, Hanna Somatic Educator, for this FB picture.
Terra Wilzlow, a 3rd grader shocked everyone with her experiment that shows the difference between organic and conventional. It changed my mind forever.

You can watch a short video here.
The legendary cellist Pablo Casals was asked why he continued to practice at age 90.  "Because I think I'm making progress," he replied.


"Life is a song - sing it. Life is a game - play it. Life is a challenge - meet it. Life is a dream - realize it. Life is a sacrifice - offer it. Life is love - enjoy it." - Sai Baba

 Thank you to Verónica Cervantes, student in training for Hanna Somatic Education, for this quote from FB.
Make Friends with Your Brain

Most people do not understand how and why tense, chronically contracted muscles can have a detrimental effect on the body.  Let's look at an example: Susan sits 8 or more hours everyday including looking at a computer screen, driving, and hanging out on the couch at home in front of the TV.  Hours can go by with her back hunched forward, shoulders rounded forward, head forward, hips and elbows flexed, and her tense shoulders riding up toward her ears.  She is training her brain to assume these postures, that is keep many muscles shortened and contracted for hours. 

When she stands up or goes to do other activities she is stiff, maybe her lower back is painful, and she just doesn't feel motivated to exercise much because it doesn't feel good.  And she's still recovering from a (minor) shoulder injury when she had to lug heavy luggage around on her vacation 3 weeks ago.  She decides to start going to gym two times a week.  In some ways she feels better, but in other ways her lower back and shoulder pain get worse, so she stops going to the gym.

 What's happened?  While exercise is good for us in general it doesn't release the chronic muscular contraction patterns we already have developed from our life experiences.  We need to understand more about the brain - muscle connection.  We need to make friends with our brains.  Why?  Because the brain and nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and nerves) are responsible for most of the functioning and organization of our body including our muscles and joints and therefore the quality of our movements.  Different areas of the brain control movement in different ways.

In Hanna Somatics the person is training his or her brain to reset the resting tonus (level of contraction) of the muscles so the muscles:
     *  Function better - are more responsive to efficient coordination and organization,
    *  Are able to relax and resume normal muscle lengthening after they have worked,
    *  Maintain their physiologic health - such as receive optimum blood and lymph supply.  

To reset the resting level of tonus in muscles, we need to temporarily move from the motor cortex of the brain rather than subcortical areas of brain such as the cerebellum.  The motor cortex is the only part of the brain that can change the resting tonus.  Without going into all the physiology involved, what we basically need to do is:
    *  Move slowly enough to give the brain - muscle connection time to communicate more efficiently.
    *  Pay attention to the sensations of the movements so that we are giving our self adequate sensory feedback from which the motor cortex can adjust and course correct.
    *  Move only within our comfort zone; no over-efforting.  Less is more.
    *  Develop a positive and patient attitude with our self.
By moving somatically in this way, we have given our muscles and joints a tune up like you would give to a car.  Everything runs better.  Our muscles have released unwanted tension and contraction, so they can function better. We go back to our life again which is largely run subcortically and feel so much better.  The result is easy upright posture, flexible joints, and comfortable movement.      
Try these Hanna Somatic Movements and feel better. 

        Cat # 2: Arch and Curl (Somatics, p. 99)

        Deep internal line
Email contact:
Book Recommendation
Functional Anatomy
by Christy Cael

This book has many helpful features, including wonderful illustrations about how to palpate bony landmarks.  Most anatomy books give muscle origin, insertion, nerve enervation, and have a picture.  This book also has a section on the function of the muscle.  Most people don't even realize what this means. As an example, I've chosen the rectus femoris.  For those that don't know their anatomy the rectus femoris is the only muscle of the quadriceps group to cross both the knee (knee extension)  and hip (hip flexion) joints.  Here is a partial sample from the functional section for the rectus femoris.

    "During walking and running the rectus femurs pulls the femur forward while kicking out the lower leg.  This places the foot in position to contact the ground and accept the weight of the body.  This muscle is stronger in knee extension than hip flexion but still assists muscles like psoas, iliacus, sartorial, and tensor fasciae latae in moving the hip.  Because of its origin at the anterior inferior iliac spine, the rectus femurs also has some ability to tilt the pelvis anteriorly."

For practitioners, such as Hanna Somatic Educators, whose intention it is to help clients (and our self) make functional improvements in our movements, this is a valuable addition to our professional library.

Anatomy Corner
Postural Patterns

Do you recognize any of these postures in yourself or others?
A standing postural assessment is part of many forms of educational and therapeutic disciplines designed to help people release pain and stiffness.  As a Hanna Somatic Educator, my colleagues and I, use a visual and palpatory assessment of clients in standing, as well as watch our clients walk.  It's great fun to sit in a public place and notice how people stand, sit, walk, and scurry by in order to hone our visual skills.  This picture below taken from google images is one example of an attempt to show some of the many postures humans can take.

Notice that the shape of the spine, our vertical axis, also shapes the trunk.  Imbalances in standing posture are usually exaggerated in walking and therefore sometimes easier to see.  In Hanna Somatic Education we work with our clients fully dressed and therefore become quite good at "seeing" the posture through the clothing.  Noticing how clothing drapes and wrinkles around the body, how the belt line slants, how seams, buttons and pockets line up on various horizontals and verticals is actually very helpful.  

In Hanna Somatic Education we study three basic postural patterns.  Because these postural patterns are so habitual, so ingrained, Thomas Hanna called them reflexes.  All three reflexes cross our "somatic center," between the rib cage and the pelvis.  The "somatic center" negotiates all movement change:  upper and lower, side to side, and rotational.  The Red Light Reflex pulls us into an over-flexed posture.  The Green Light Reflex pulls us into an over-extended posture.  The Trauma Reflex pulls us into a side to side and rotational imbalance.  Thomas Hanna also named a fourth postural reflex, the "Senile Posture," which occurs when there are so many chronically contracted muscles that the front and back of the body are co-contracted and movement is nearly impossible in any direction.  

Read Somatics by Thomas Hanna for a thorough description of these postural patterns and their implications for health.
140 Year Old Mama!
I was so taken with this picture of a 140 year old mama turtle and her 5 day old offspring that I decided to include it in my newsletter.  (FaceBook)

Copyright © 2014 Susan Koenig, All rights reserved.

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