Thomas Hanna, who coined the word “Somatics” as it is used today, defined Somatics as “…the field of study dealing with… the human being as experienced by himself (or herself) from the inside.” Hanna Somatics is a method of using the information we experience from within to reawaken our mind’s control of our movement, and to regain and maintain flexibility and health.
Thomas Hanna began his career as a philosopher who was interested in the idea of human freedom in all its forms. He had the view that the body and the mind were not two separate things as philosophers had thought for generations, but part of the same whole. So freedom of the body and mind and perception were all intertwined. He became very interested in the mind-body connection, and in the mid-1970s, he studied with Moshe Feldenkreis, a master of work to free muscles and restore flexibility. He became fascinated with Feldenkreis’ work and worked as a Feldenkrais practitioner for many years, in addition to his academic work.
During his work as a Feldenkrais practitioner, Thomas Hanna began to study more about the brain-muscle connection and developed a clearer understanding about why muscles become chronically tense and how to most effectively release this tension. He gradually developed a new way of working with people, both interactively in individual sessions and using self-help exercises people could easily learn and do on their own. He developed one particularly useful set of exercises that he called the “Cat Stretch” that people could do daily in 10-15 minutes to remain flexible and free of muscular tension.