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Somatics: Reawakening The Mind's Control Of Movement, Flexibility, And Health Paperback – August 3, 2004
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I highly recommend purchasing the downloadable audio guides called "The Cat Stretches" by Hannah's student, Lawrence Gold, to accompany this book. It is so much easier to do the exercises correctly with a professional talking you through. You won't have to stop constantly to read, which allows you to move through the lessons faster with greater concentration. Most importantly, the audio lessons establish an effective pace for the exercises. Pacing is key to moving somatically, which is quite unlike typical stretching or strength training you will get from your physical therapist.
Done correctly, somatic movement feels like the kind of "stretch" you might do with a great big yawn in bed when you wake up in the morning. There is stretching aspect, but not in the common sense of holding muscle in a lengthened position (the word "stretch" seems to be an obstacle for the somatic instructors to the point they will say "no stretching", which is more confusing than helpful). Equally important is the contracting aspect, through which the brain (re-)learns how to exert voluntary control over muscles that may be chronically tight due to stress or trauma, or weak due to lack of use. That's the gist of it. The cat stretch series developed by Thomas Hannah will balance out the body for better posture and improved walking. Once you learn the basic cat stretch program, you can find more specific exercises to your condition online from Hannah's students, Lawrence Gold and Martha Peterson, both of whom provide coaching (though I have done a coaching myself). You can even develop your own exercises. And you can find opportunities to move more somatically in other activities.
I took my time to work through the lessons (abut 6 months) with the help of Lawrence Gold's audio coaching. Now I spend about 30-40 minutes a day doing somatic exercises. In time I expected to reduce my practice to 15 minutes. Normal people, who aren't dealing with a very old trauma response like I am, should be able to work through the lessons in 8-12 weeks, as suggested.
FYI. Martha Peterson, who was also a student of Hannah, has updated Hannah's Somatics with much better illustrations. However, a book is still a book, with all the difficulties of having to stop frequently to read until you know the exercises, and the inability to articulate pacing in words. Peterson has some good video clips online to illustrate how this all works. She also offers a DVD, which could be useful in the way I found Gold's audio program useful. I don't have her video. But, for me, I am still partial to audio because it is very relaxing, and once you get going you won't be watching a video anyway. I have found very useful tips in Peterson's book. But, in either case, Hannah or Peterson, a book serves well as an introduction and reference, not an effective manual for beginners.
Yoga adds a dimension to somatics by bringing in the breathing and meditation aspects as well as the strength piece. After you work through Thomas Hanna's approach, or even while you are working through it, you still need to build strength. Certain yoga approaches, like gentle Hatha, are more compatible with the somatics philosophy than others. Definitely there is a "no pain" mentality to this approach that works.