FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is Hanna Somatics?
Hanna Somatic Education® (also known as Hanna Somatics) is a rapidly effective form of neuromuscular (mind-body) movement re-education that goes directly to the root cause of most chronic muscular pain: the brain and the way in which it senses and organizes the muscles and movement.
By learning to regain both awareness, sensation, and motor control of muscles – an educational process that can only be achieved through movement – the brain can remember how to relax and move the muscles properly. This process of sensory motor training creates improved muscle function and enhanced sensory awareness.
Get Started with Alissa’s most requested Mat Class: Daily Somatics for Riders/Athletes (PDF or AUDIO Session)
What is Equine Hanna Somatics® (EHS)?
Equine Hanna Somatics® (or EHS) is a natural method of mind-body integration for performance enhancement, pain relief, longevity and an increased sense of well-being (for both horse and human) based on your horse’s natural movements and thought patterns.
EHS is an adaptation of Hanna Somatics®, a proven, natural and safe method of pain relief and sensory motor training for humans, adapted for horses. Like humans, horses experience stress and develop chronically contracted muscles. Chronically contracted muscles often create discomfort and restrict movement. EHS is a hands-on procedure for teaching horses, along with their riders and handlers, about voluntary and conscious control of their neuromuscular systems.
EHS education is also a very enjoyable experience for the horse. They love the attention, gentle work, licking, chewing and relaxing into each session. Results from mild to mind-blowing are often observed after the very first session – horses often appear shinier, covered in dapples, with a smoother topline and increased freedom of movement during and immediately after the session. After the session: horses walk, trot and canter more easily; their muscles move more fluidly; and they are more supple and responsive to rider requests.
Equine Hanna Somatics gives you and your horse the tools for Self-Maintenance – to get rid of pain, speed up muscle growth and training, prevent future injuries, heal faster, feel better, and develop a stronger bond…
Is EHS Right for My Horse?
EHS can be beneficial for any horse exhibiting signs of Sensory Motor Amnesia (or SMA), or chronically contracted muscles (like the stubborn ones in your lower back that tense up and refuse to let go when you overwork your own body). These overly tightened muscles can block circulation and nerve impulses from flowing freely through the muscle tissue, resulting in a ‘numbed zone’ that becomes inaccessible to the horse. Instead of feeling smooth and springy to the touch, like healthy muscle tissue should, this are can feel either very firm or overly soft and squishy. To the horse, this muscle will feel and act like it is weakened or fatigued, or overreact to stimuli and trigger habitual behaviors, like pawing. Over time chronic muscle contractions can lead to muscle atrophy and/or asymmetry – all part of Sensory Motor Amnesia.
Over time, SMA can: decrease performance effectiveness, decrease flexibility or suppleness, decrease stride, increase resistance to training, create the possibility of accidents, increase pain, restrict movement, increase stress/fear/anxiety, increase the effects of aging and cause disassociation or disconnection (from Eleanor Criswell Hanna, Ed.D of the Novato Institute for Somatics Research and Training).
EHS can also be an effective tool for horses experiencing pain, stiffness and other symptoms commonly associated with aging. It is also a wonderful bonding experience for you and your horse.
How Does EHS Work?
Through gentle, guided movement exercises your horse will gain an increased awareness and control over their muscles, overcome poor postural habits, and re-program their resting muscle tone back to a healthy state by changing ‘muscle memory’ at a neurological level. Your EHS educator, and eventually you, will make hands-on suggestions, and your horse will move their own body by contracting and relaxing their muscles very slowly. These purposeful movements originate in the voluntary motor cortex, the only part of the nervous system that can actively relax muscles. Once the horse feels the release occur with intentional muscle relaxation, he can do it again on his own because his neurons have been ‘rewired’ and are now able to remember how to communicate with muscles previously affected by Sensory Motor Amnesia.
EHS Education is a rapidly effective form of mind-body movement re-education that goes directly to the root cause of most chronic muscular pain: the way the brain sense and organizes muscles and movement. By learning to regain both awareness, sensation and control over muscles – an educational process that can only be achieved by natural movement – the brain can remember how to relax and move the muscles properly. This process of sensory motor training creates improved muscle function and enhanced sensory awareness.
What is the difference between EHS, massage or craniosacral?
I’m an equine bodyworker certified in massage, red light therapy, and recently also certified in equine craniosacral therapy/ecosomatics, and I am having a lot of success with former and new clients. My question is about whether there is a difference between Hanna Somatics and my certifications?
The short answer to your question is YES, there is quite a difference between Equine Hanna Somatics and Cranio-Sacral or any other modality for equine, canine or human. With your experience and studies, you are an ideal candidate for our Professional Training and Certification in EHS.
The more in depth answer involves levels of external influence and nervous system involvement in the work. I think of it like this:
Manual/Manipulation (like massage, chiropractic adjustments, stretching, acupuncture/pressure, etc) is applied from the outside to the clients body. The brain becomes aware of the work via feedback from the sensory system.
Matching/Meshing/Cooperative techniques (Feldenkrais, Cranio-Sacral, energetic work, gymnastic training, etc) not only informs the brain of the work via the sensory system, but at times involves the CNS at the spinal chord level.
Voluntary Pandiculation (intentional muscular contraction and mindful release of that contraction, in conjunction with natural movements) originates in the motor cortex of the clients brain, travels through the spinal chord to select areas of the body which are involved in the voluntary movements. The movement, muscle tone and other sensory feedback returns to the brain, creating a complete feedback loop which allows the brain to reset the resting muscle tone. Hanna Somatics is not so much a technique applied to the body, but is a way to tap into what is purely a function of vertebrate physiology. This is what makes EHS unique. This is also what causes the results of EHS (similar initially to those of bodywork and other therapies) to occur so rapidly and last for so very long. EHS is not so much bodywork as it is Education.
What makes EHS Unique?
Most methods of bodywork (including massage, chiropractics, acupressure/puncture and many others) are applied TO the horses body. EHS is a cooperative, guided movement that works WITH the horse’s own brain, enhancing the mind-body connection, giving you and your horse the tools for self-maintenance. This will help you get rid of their pain, speed up muscle growth and training, prevent future injuries, heal faster, feel better and develop a stronger horse-human bond.
What Should I Expect at an EHS Education Session?
Private EHS sessions generally take 1 – 1.5 hours. Huge changes in conformation/posture, stride length, attitude and muscle activity are often seen in the very first session. Optimum results are generally seen after 3 -5 sessions, which can be done daily or weekly. A follow-up session is recommended 2-4 months later, or anytime the horse experiences a trauma, injury, or stress that causes him to change his health, attitude or way of going.
Each session includes an initial analysis of movement and conformation, followed by cooperative movement exercises between the horse and the EHS educator.
Most of the session is done at the halt, preferably in a quiet space away from direct sun or wind, with enough room to allow the horse to move 3 – 4 strides. A post-session assessment includes observations of changes in the muscles and movement, and instructions on how you can perform simple EHS exercises in order to continue helping your horse find relaxation.
EHS Educators work with the horse’s cooperation, as partners in a dance of movement to relax chronically contracted muscles and relieve the pain associated with them. As mentioned above, these chronic contractions are associated with stress, repetitive motion, trauma or injury and they can distort the natural balance of your horses body. Much of what we have been taught as ‘conformation’ is actually posture. With relaxed muscles a horse’s posture can improve dramatically and sometimes instantaneously and even better, this stuff works for humans too!
What is Somatics for the Rider?
Somatics for the Rider is a curated selection of Hanna Somatic Movement and Exercises as taught by Alissa Mayer at her Clinics, Workshops and in Private Sessions to riders, dancers and athletes all over the US and in Europe.
What are the Benefits of Somatics for the Rider?
Pain Relief & Relaxation
Increased Range of Motion
Increased Fine Motor Control
Effortlessly Improve your Posture, Seat and Position
More Endurance and Energy
Access to your Natural Balance and Symmetry
Unleash your Athletic Potential
Learn to do the movements on your own, as Self-Care!
What to Expect at a Somatics for the Rider Session or Group Class?
Somatics for the Rider Sessions can be done on the ground (like yoga), on a massage table in a private session, and/or in the saddle – to create a truly neutral seat and relaxed position/posture both on and off the horse. It is very important for the health and performance of any horse that the rider/trainer is also relaxed, balanced, and in athletic control of his or her body. The rider/trainer will also learn how to perform somatic exercises at home to achieve optimum results from the Hanna Somatics educational process.
What is covered in a Workshop?
All of Alissa’s courses include elements from these three areas of her unique expertise:
- Equine Hanna Somatics® – posture re-boot and neuromuscular “reset” for the horse to address tension.
- Somatics for the Rider – remove the physical “roadblocks” to effortless balance and maximum range-of-motion, and gain body awareness to become your best, most athletic and pain-free self!
- A Somatic Approach to Horsemanship™ – Achieve new levels of Connection, Energy Management, Soundness and Self-Carriage with refined training based in physiology & physics for healthy movement and immediately improved posture. Prevent Brace by programming in healthy movement and lightness on the ground and from the saddle.
How do I Get Started?
To learn more about EHS Education, purchase our instructional video Equine Hanna Somatics® Session 1. This video is designed to teach the owner/trainer (that’s YOU) how to do a basic full body Equine Hanna Somatics session with any horse, at any age or level.