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Somatics by Thomas Hanna

In his book Somatics, Thomas Hanna, Ph.D. tackles the medical assumption that pain and degeneration are the inevitable result of the aging process. Not only that, he offers a simple plan to recover lost flexibility, balance, and posture. His exercises, he assures us, will bring us back into connection with our lost mobility while reducing pain and discomfort. It almost sounds too good to be true. But is it?

Most people suffer from pain and discomfort at some point in their lives. When this follows an injury, it is easy to watch the play of cause and effect. This can allow us some feeling of control during our healing process as we regain lost function and strength. When we don’t know why we hurt, we can feel like victims of our own bodies. When we ask our doctors for help, they offer drugs for pain, and tell us to buck up and accept our lot. We are growing older, after all. What else should we expect? Everyone knows that bodies wear out eventually.

Hanna challenges this idea. He points out that although this is true for many people today, there are also many circumstances in which people maintain function and vitality right up to the very end. Gerontologists call this “successful aging.” Rather than dismiss such cases as oddities, Hanna thinks we should embrace them as possibilities, and learn how to make our own lives turn out like theirs.

Five case studies are reviewed in the course of the book. In each case, through guided movements, flexibility is restored and pain is alleviated. Several of the cases are quite extraordinary; one woman regained the use of her frozen shoulder after just one treatment, despite almost two unsuccessful years of conventional treatment. Another case involved a man who had not been able to straighten his knee for almost two years. He rediscovered how to control what he had once given up as lost.

Although Somatics is full of information for the professional, it is very accessible to the lay reader as well. He uses clear language that anyone can understand. After describing commonly seen habits of movement, he gives us the keys to unlock our own blockages through simple exercises that almost anyone can do. These slow movements rebalance our structure by bringing awareness to the way we actually move our bodies, and teach us how to develop more balanced ways of moving.

The final chapter includes his basic movement explorations. His exercises are simple, mild, and brief. He offers a series of lessons, in which the reader may explore different areas of the body. By encouraging the reader to reacquaint themselves with their movements, he invites us to take our own steps on this healing path. And if my brief explorations with this work are any guide, change really is possible. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking to find a new sense of vitality, movement, and freedom in their body. And really, who isn’t?


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