Table of Contents & Excerpts From Chapter One

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Quick Guide to Techniques   iv

Author’s Note   vi

Acknowledgments   vii

Chapter I: The Somatic Perspective   1

Chapter II: Origins and Principles of Somatics   11

Chapter III: Neurophysiology   27

Chapter IV: Evaluation and Contraindications   45

Chapter V: How to Learn This Work   53

Chapter VI: The Twenty-One Basic Techniques   63

Chapter VII: Extremity Techniques   145

Chapter VIII: Integrating Somatic Technique into Your Practice   167

Chapter IX: Healing the Whole Person   177

Chapter X: Basic Exercises   195

Appendix A: Symptom Checklist   201

Appendix B: Somatic Evaluation Form   202

Appendix C: Resources   203

Index   205



Chapter One—The Somatic Perspective

"We usually build habits in mind and body unconsciously, and although the habits are sometimes convenient, they all too often constrict us. So, as we age, the conditioning process limits movement in the body, and we become tighter. Tightness in the muscles affects glands, circulation, nerves—our energy—thus accelerating the body's breakdown. When the body becomes less flexible and open, it has a direct effect on the mind and personality. There is no way to stay the same. Life is change, and change in a person can take only two directions. You either become more rigid and crystallized, more set in your ways, or you continue to grow, transform, and open up to yourself and the world you live in."

—Joel Kramer

Getting Started

Life is change, states Joel Kramer in the quote above, and change in a person can take only two directions: people either become more rigid and crystallized, or they continue to grow and open up. Somatic Technique is a set of neuromuscular reeducation procedures designed to help release the chronically tight muscles that cause rigidity and crystallization, while at the same time giving patients a new and more dynamic awareness of themselves in their bodies and in their relationship to the world around them.

The work in this manual is designed as an ancillary technique to the other hands-on musculoskeletal procedures normally used by chiropractors, massage therapists, bodyworkers, physical therapists, and osteopaths. There are twenty-one basic techniques covering the muscles of the trunk, shoulder girdle, hips, neck and temperomandibular joint, and twelve additional techniques for the extremities. The work is relatively easy to learn and takes only a couple of minutes to apply, which makes it a very useful adjunct to any form of hands-on practice.

With these techniques you will be able to relieve many problems of chronic muscular pain and stiffness that do not respond to other methods. At the same time, you will be educating your patients to be more present and aware in their bodies. Somatic Technique will help them regain control of their sensory-motor system, so that they can contract and relax their muscles at will. This enhanced awareness and control tends to result in improved posture, flexibility, strength, and health...

The Somatic Perspective

The theory, or principle, behind Somatic Technique is simple. The actual method of applying the technique is simple. But it is also true that what is simple is not necessarily so easy to grasp. Somatic Technique involves a different way of seeing the body…

This perspective is based on a mechanistic, Newtonian model of health, where physical reality is viewed as being somewhat like a clockwork mechanism with, ideally, all the parts running smoothly and in harmony with each other. When things are not running optimally, then it is a matter of locating the part that is misfiring or is out of balance with the rest of the mechanism, and making whatever mechanical or chemical corrections are necessary.

However, this is a model that is becoming increasingly outmoded. Quantum physics is revealing to us that the universe is actually much more fluid, uncertain, and paradoxical than the Newtonian model would have us believe. In his book, Perfect Health, Deepak Chopra, M.D., points out that: "We tend to see our bodies as 'frozen sculptures'—solid, fixed, material objects—when in truth they are more like rivers, constantly changing, flowing patterns of intelligence." It is this "flowing pattern of intelligence" that underlies and drives our seemingly random universe which, in spite of our desire for stability and constancy, is always in a dynamic and highly creative state of flux.

In the quantum perspective on healing, the key to returning the organism to a state of optimal health does not lie in tinkering with the parts or physiological process, as it does in the Newtonian model. Applying the Newtonian view to healing, as is the case in allopathic medicine, where drugs or surgery are utilized to correct the offending part or process, or in certain chiropractic techniques, where the spinal vertebra are frequently made to conform to some theoretically ideal alignment, can have negative side effects. The negative, inimical side effects of prescription drugs are well-documented. As for surgery, in just one example, back surgery, a 1988 study revealed that of 250,000 surgeries performed that year, only 10% were actually necessary.3 One can only wonder as to what permanent damage may have been done to the spines of the 90% who did not actually need the surgery their doctors convinced them to go through…


This "new wave" is the quantum model—and it is also the somatic perspective. Chopra addresses the quantum approach with great clarity and depth in his book, Quantum Healing. Essentially, the quantum/somatic perspective is a functional one. It sees the organism as an interactive, highly dynamic, mind/body phenomenon. The mind cannot be separated from the body, and the body cannot be separated from the mind. In the quantum model, the state of the patient's consciousness is an integral aspect of well-being. The thoughts and attitudes a patient holds in his mind intimately affect the physiological processes in the body and the degree of muscular tension or relaxation—and vice-versa. In his book, Chopra details the convincing scientific evidence for this…

Benefits Of Learning This Work

Somatic Technique, then, will add a truly educational and rehabilitative component to your work. It is important to be patient with yourself as you learn this new approach, because it involves above all a change of consciousness in the way you view the body, as much as it does the learning of any new therapeutic technique. The more present and aware you are in your own body, the easier it will be for you to help your patients or clients become present in theirs.

As for the techniques themselves, study them as I suggest in Chapter Five and experiment with using some of them in your office. Use them on problem cases, especially where the difficulty seems to be primarily neuromuscular—where the patient has lost awareness, and therefore ease and flexibility, in some part of his body….

Take your time. Find out how far you want to go with this. Do a little bit each day, as I did when I started learning this work, and gradually you will become good at it. In time it will become an important part of your practice and your patients will value what you do for them somatically. Of all the adjunctive therapies and educational tools available to hands-on practitioners, Somatic Technique is one of the simplest to learn and easiest to use. At the same time it is one of the most effective in terms of results because of the way it helps patients regain control of their own sensory-motor processes.

Developing mastery in the technique also brings a number of very real benefits to the practitioner, and I would like to conclude this introductory chapter by outlining a few of them here:

1. As a practitioner of Somatic Technique, you will enjoy the strength and conviction that come from having a valid, scientific, and "cutting-edge" rationale behind what you do. As you will learn, Somatic Technique is based upon sound neurophysiological principles. It makes sense and, once you grasp the principle yourself, is easy to explain to your patients and your professional colleagues.

2. Your knowledge of the body's sensory-motor learning system, and its relationship to healthy neuromuscular functioning, will enhance your overall understanding of the nature of health and disease. It will become clear to you that when people are not consciously relaxed and at ease in their bodies, but rather are tense and relatively inflexible, a whole host of health problems can arise. You will have a better and more intuitive understanding of Deepak Chopra's quantum healing model, which represents the "new wave" of health optimization and care.

3. In the clinical work, you will have a powerful set of techniques for releasing the chronically tight muscles that cause pain, stiffness, postural imbalance, spinal misalignment (including both fixation and subluxation), and low energy.

4. Your patients will appreciate this work and what it does for them. They will see that it really does give them a new sense of freedom and well-being in their bodies. They will report being able to sense and feel muscles they didn't know they had. As one of my patients once said, "It's as if I am learning to think with my muscles."

5. You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are making a genuine contribution to the long-term well-being of your patients by giving them tools that both educate and empower them. Patients frequently comment on the fact that they feel as if they are regaining control of their bodies—a faculty they had lost, until they started the somatic work.

6. Your reputation as a health professional in your community will be enhanced. Whether you are a chiropractic doctor, a physical therapist, massage therapist, or bodyworker, you will become known as a practitioner who brings state-of-the-art neuromuscular understanding and technique to the care of his or her patients. Professional referrals will increase as you talk about and, especially, demonstrate your work to other practitioners.

7. Doing the basic exercises, and having the clinical work done on you by other practitioners, will give you more energy, and will help you feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally.

8. Your study of Somatic Technique in particular, and the somatic field in general, will open up your mind and enlarge your perspective on the true nature of healing. You will have a better understanding of what it means to be a healthy, or "whole," human being. As you learn to embody your new understanding, to make it your own, it will increase the level of satisfaction and success you enjoy both in your practice and in your personal life…