“If you can sense it and feel it, then you can change it”. So said a man called Thomas Hanna, a 20th-century philosopher and movement therapist. Hanna was the one who coined the term ‘somatics,’ something you might have come across at your yoga or Pilates classes, but he was by no means the first to work in this particular way. The history of ‘somatics’ reaches back into the 19th century. So, what on earth is it, you’re asking? And why isn’t it on the timetable at the gym?

The part of our nervous system which deals with reaction to sensation and movement impulse is called the somatic system. In a very big nutshell, our nervous system is organised into two parts, the autonomic and the somatic. The autonomic deals with all those functions such as breathing, heart function, homeostasis and gut function which have to keep on happening without our conscious control. The somatic nervous system deals with conscious control of our movement, the feedback loop from muscle to brain to muscle. The practice of ‘somatic movement’ is to do with becoming more consciously aware of the sensation of our movement and, by gaining awareness, being able to change movement patterns, postural problems and emotional trauma.

We imagine that in our contemporary life, where there is such a lot of emphasis on social media, people have become more concerned about how they present themselves to the world. But we human beings have been thinking about our self image for centuries. We think of our appearance, our identity, which tribe we belong to and so on. But what about how we feel, from the inside?

Thomas Hanna reckoned there are two ways in which a human being can be viewed: from the outside in, or from the inside out. Inside out – what does that mean? Think about how you experience yourself, how you feel the sensations of yourself. What are the sensations of your body? What do you feel when you breath? What do you hear when you close your eyes? Can you feel the pulse of your heart? Can you feel the sensation of your middle toe or the third vertebrae in your neck?

It takes time and patience to tune in to your somatic system and become aware of the inner geography of your body. You need a good guide, but the benefits of conscious movement will reach out into all aspects of your life.

Find out more at yorkpilates.com