Thomas Hanna’s somatic work has been essential to the development of the field of somatic education. From redefining the word “somatic” and developing the concept of somatics as a field of study, to starting the magazine/journal Somatics, to developing theories and practices of somatic education, Hanna greatly influenced this fledgling area of work. This article presents the somatic philosophy, theories, and education techniques of Hanna, focusing on the aspects that are unique to this somatic explorer. Hanna’s techniques are contrasted to the traditional somatic movement training of Tai Chi. The difficulties of researching a learning such as somatic education are discussed. Ideas are presented on how kinesiology and somatic education can inform each other.
Bradford C. Bennett
Ezequiel Morsella, Anthony G. Velasquez, Jessica K. Yankulova, Yanming Li, Christina Y. Wong, and Dennis Lambert
The function of the conscious field remains mysterious from a scientific point of view. This article reviews theoretical approaches (passive frame theory and ideomotor approaches) that elucidate how the conscious field is intimately related to a special kind of action selection. This form of action selection is peculiar to the skeletal-muscle output system. The notion of encapsulation and how it explains many properties of the conscious field are discussed, including why the conscious field, though in the service of adaptive action, contains contents that are not action-relevant; why the field has a first-person perspective; and why the field is so thorough, in terms of its contents, the contrasts among contents, and the representation of spatial layout. The authors discuss subordinate encapsulation and the hypothesis that the conscious field is what allows for encapsulated conscious contents to influence action selection collectively, yielding what in everyday life is called voluntary behavior.
Patricia Vertinsky and Alison Wrynn
Internationally acclaimed sport historian Roberta Park was among the Academy of Kinesiology’s leading scholars. Her extensive career at the University of California, Berkeley, was a powerful example of one woman’s agency and success in the hierarchical world of higher education. Systematically opening up the breadth of embodied and gendered practices deemed suitable for examination by sport historians, Park’s pioneering scholarship helped turn a narrow lane into the broad highway of sport history. She demonstrated that it is neither possible nor desirable to study the history of medicine, health, or fitness without accounting for the body, raising provocative questions about the historical origins of training regimens for sport and exercise, and excavating the histories of the biomedical sciences to better understand the antecedents of sports medicine and exercise science. She never abandoned her faith in the importance of the profession of physical education, properly supported by scholarly enquiry, holding up Berkeley’s foundational program as a template to guide physical education’s future and grieving its demise in 1997.
After defining somaesthetics and explaining the terms of its definition, this paper distinguishes between somaesthetics and other somatic disciplines concerned with improving the quality of our movement. The paper then outlines the roots of somaesthetics in pragmatist philosophy and the philosophical idea of the holistic art of living that combines cognitive, aesthetic, and ethical concerns. The next section discusses the three branches of somaesthetics and its three dimensions while also mapping their interrelations. After a section that contextualizes somaesthetics in relation to affect theory and cognitive science and that briefly notes some of its many interdisciplinary applications, the paper concludes with a discussion of the somaesthetic approach to the issue of norms and values in somatic experience, inquiry, and practice.
Charlotte Woods, Lesley Glover, and Julia Woodman
The Alexander technique is an educational self-development self-management method with therapeutic benefits. The primary focus of the technique is learning about the self, conceptualized as a mind–body unity. Skills in the technique are gained experientially, including through hands-on and spoken guidance from a certified Alexander teacher, often using everyday movement such as walking and standing. In this article the authors summarize key evidence for the effectiveness of learning the Alexander technique and describe how the method was developed. They attempt to convey a sense of the unique all-encompassing and fundamental nature of the technique by exploring the perspectives of those engaged in teaching and learning it and conclude by bringing together elements of this account with relevant strands of qualitative research to view this lived experience in a broader context.
James Stephens and Susan Hillier
The Feldenkrais method (FM) is a process that uses verbally and manually guided exploration of novel movements to improve individuals’ self-awareness and coordination. This paper reviews recent literature evaluating the therapeutic value of the FM for improving balance, mobility, and coordination and its effectiveness for management of chronic pain. The authors also explore and discuss studies that have investigated some of the other bodily effects and possible mechanisms of action, such as (a) the process of learning itself, (b) focus of attention during motor learning, (c) autonomic regulation, and (d) body image. They found that research clearly supports the effectiveness of the FM for improvement of balance and chronic pain management. The exploration into mechanisms of action raises interesting questions and possibilities for further investigation.
Wolf E. Mehling
A purported key mechanism of action in most mind–body movement approaches is the maturation and development of bodily awareness. This is an experiential learning process with its own phenomenology, underlying neurological processes, and challenges for scientific study. This report focuses on the assessment of changes in bodily awareness, which is of key importance for the documentation of this learning process for both research and clinical application. Objective assessments requiring lab equipment are briefly reviewed. Qualitative assessments can be performed by interviews, focus groups, and second-person observation of movement performance. In addition, systematically developed self-report questionnaires have become available in recent years, have undergone extensive validation, and are presented here.
Timothy W. Cacciatore, Patrick M. Johnson, and Rajal G. Cohen
The Alexander technique (AT) has been practiced for over 125 years. Despite evidence of its clinical utility, a clear explanation of how AT works is lacking, as the foundational science needed to test the underlying ideas has only recently become available. The authors propose that the core changes brought about by Alexander training are improvements in the adaptivity and distribution of postural tone, along with changes in body schema, and that these changes underlie many of the reported benefits. They suggest that AT alters tone and body schema via spatial attention and executive processes, which in turn affect low-level motor elements. To engage these pathways, AT strategically engages attention, intention, and inhibition, along with haptic communication. The uniqueness of the approach comes from the way these elements are woven together. Evidence for the contribution of these elements is discussed, drawing on direct studies of AT and other relevant modern scientific literature.
Collin A. Webster, Judith E. Rink, Russell L. Carson, Jongho Moon, and Karen Lux Gaudreault
Birthed over a decade ago and built on a solid foundation of conceptual and empirical work in public health, the comprehensive school physical activity program (CSPAP) model set the stage for a new and exciting chapter of physical activity promotion through schools. On the academic front, there has been much enthusiasm around the potential of CSPAPs to positively affect youth physical activity behaviors and trajectories. However, program uptake in schools has yet to take hold. This article examines the CSPAP model and proposes an illustrative supplement to enhance communication about its application. The authors begin by charting the model’s challenging contextual landscape and then highlight the model’s early successes in spite of such challenges. Subsequently, they turn their attention to limitations in the way the model is presented, which appear to undermine CSPAP advocacy, and focus on improving the messaging about CSPAPs as an immediate step toward increased implementation.