Frequently Asked Questions

If you are interested in learning how to teach Clinical Somatics self-care exercises, you can enroll in the online certification course offered by Somatic Movement Center:

SMC® CEI Level 1, 2 & 3

A similar version of this course is offered in person through Essential Somatics and Somatic Systems Institute.

There are three training schools in the U.S. that offer the 2-3 year professional training program which focuses on the hands-on Clinical Somatics techniques:

Somatic Systems Institute in Northampton, MA
Essential Somatics (trainings held in the US and internationally)
Novato Institute in Novato, CA (training in Hanna Somatic Education)

I recommend practicing the exercises for 20-30 minutes per day. The results are cumulative, so you’ll experience the most benefits from the exercises if you practice them every day. Your muscles will continue to release, your posture and movement will continue to improve, and you’ll continue to feel better and better in your body.

If you’re enrolled in one of the online courses, about 20 minutes per day will allow you to keep up with the pace of the course. But it is absolutely fine if you do not keep up with the pace of your course; you have lifetime access, so there is no rush.

Some people practice the exercises for 45-60 minutes per day, which is absolutely fine. However, there is no benefit to doing more in order to speed up the process. The nervous system and the tissues of the body change gradually. You should pay attention to how your body feels, and do what feels best for your body each day.

Most people should start with the Level One Course. It teaches the exercises through video demonstrations, audio classes, and written explanations. The course addresses many common musculoskeletal conditions that arise in the core of the body, including chronic muscle tension, back pain, disc problems, joint pain, kyphosis, lordosis, scoliosis, sciatica, iliopsoas syndrome, osteoarthritis, uneven leg length, and more. The Level One Course is also the prerequisite for the Level Two Course.

The Level One & Two Courses together include all 40 exercises that I teach (13 in Level One, and 27 in Level Two), so they are the most comprehensive learning experience.

If you have idiopathic scoliosis and that is your only concern, you can instead do the Scoliosis Course. This course includes the 27 exercises that most directly alleviate idiopathic scoliosis. The 13 exercises not included in the Scoliosis Course mainly work with the extremities: legs, feet, arms, hands, face, and jaw.

If you are not able to comfortably get down to the floor or lie on the floor, I recommend starting with the Clinical Somatics Chair Exercises course.

Yes! Many people want to buy gift electronic certificates for Level One and Two, the Scoliosis Course, or the Chair Exercises Course for their family members and friends who suffer from chronic pain. Please email me at [email protected] with the name of the recipient and the course you’d like to give them, and I’ll send you a Paypal invoice that you can pay using a credit card or Paypal.

The Level One & Two Courses and Scoliosis Course are designed to give you a learning experience similar to working with a private instructor. The exercises are taught in a specific order and at a certain pace in order to give you maximum benefit from the learning experience.

You will learn each exercise individually, and have several days to focus on each exercise before learning the next one. You will gain online access to each new exercise or class as you reach that point in the curriculum.

The pace of the courses is set so that you can’t skip ahead. There is no benefit to moving more quickly through the learning process. When people rush through or skip ahead, they do not experience optimal results. My experience with many students has shown that learning one exercise at a time is much more beneficial in the long run. Retraining the nervous system just can’t be rushed.

I want you to feel empowered to take control of your healing process. Please do not feel pressure to keep up with the pace of the courses; many people move through the courses more slowly than the set pace. You have lifetime access so there is no rush. The most important thing is to do what feels best for your body each day.

Clinical Somatics exercises release chronic muscular contraction and restore natural posture and movement. In doing so, they alleviate a range of functional musculoskeletal conditions—conditions caused by the way we habitually use our bodies.

You can see a list of conditions that Clinical Somatics helps on this page. You can also look through the Somatics Blog to see if I’ve written about your condition. Most of these blog posts list exercises that help each condition. And on the exercise pages throughout the courses, the conditions that each exercise helps are listed at the top of the page.

If you’re still unsure whether or not Clinical Somatics can help you, please email [email protected].

There are endless benefits to physical exercise, and you should keep up with regular physical activity—unless it is making your pain worse.

If you find that exercise makes your pain worse, take a break from that particular workout. If you can’t exercise at all because everything seems to make your pain worse, then take a break from working out until your pain is reduced or eliminated. You won’t make progress with Clinical Somatics exercises if your regular workouts are keeping you in pain.

If you feel that your regular workout is keeping you stuck in habitual posture and movement patterns, try something new! It can be difficult to make progress with Clinical Somatics exercises if you keep reinforcing old muscular patterns with your regular workout routine. So, mix up your workouts and try new activities that make you move your body in new ways.

If you practice yoga, you should read: Combining your Clinical Somatics and Yoga Practices.

The best way to keep up with regular exercise while reducing your risk of pain and overuse is by cross training—practicing different types of exercise on a regular basis. You should incorporate both aerobic exercise and strength or resistance training into your weekly workout schedule. I also recommend practicing forms of exercise that use your muscles in different ways. For example, if you love weight-lifting, do a short yoga routine a few times a week to elongate your muscles and improve your balance. If you’re a long distance runner, try swimming so that you can keep up your cardio fitness while taking strain off your legs and giving all the muscles in your body a gentle resistance workout. My personal recommendation is to incorporate at least three different types of exercise into your weekly routine.

Many people ask what time of day is best to practice Clinical Somatics, and whether to practice the exercises before or after their workout. I find it most beneficial:

  • To do my full Clinical Somatics practice (30 minutes) either after my workout or in the evening when I’m done moving for the day.

  • To also do a few exercises before my workout if I’m feeling particularly tight in a certain area of my body.

The most important thing is to stay aware of how you’re using your body during your workout. As you continue to practice Clinical Somatics exercises and improve your sensory-motor awareness, you’ll become increasingly aware of how you’re using your body when exercising. Ideally, you’ll be able to incorporate the things you’ve learned from practicing Clinical Somatics exercises into your workouts by using your body in more natural, efficient ways. Slower, less intense workouts can give you the opportunity to integrate what you’ve learned from your Clinical Somatics exercises because you have the time to focus on how you’re moving. If you are able to to this, then working out can enhance the progress you’re making in your somatics practice.

Be aware of how other therapies may be affecting you. I typically recommend that people cut back or stop practices such as static stretching, chiropractic, rolfing, deep tissue massage, and any other manipulative therapy while practicing Clinical Somatics. These therapies do not retrain the nervous system and can often cause muscles to become tighter, interfering with the somatic learning process.

Gentle massage and acupuncture are generally fine to continue while practicing Clinical Somatics.

If you feel that physical therapy exercises are helping you, then by all means continue with them. But if you feel that they might be making your muscles tighter or keeping you stuck in habitual muscular patterns, then take a break from them and notice the changes you feel.

The truth is that everyone’s patterns of muscular tension and pain are so unique that there is no way for me or anyone else to accurately predict a time frame for your learning and healing process. Some people experience significant benefits within the first few days or weeks of practicing the exercises, while for others it takes longer. There are many factors that affect your progress, including: your current level of pain and/or muscle tension, your stress level, your regular daily activities, any physical activities you engage in, and any structural issues you have (such as joint or nerve damage). I strongly encourage everyone to read this post, which gives my best advice about how to approach your learning and healing process: Unlocking Your Body: Your Personal Process of Releasing Tension and Pain.

I want you to feel empowered to take control of your healing process. If you encounter an exercise that causes pain or discomfort, feel free to skip it and come back to it in the future. It is not productive to put yourself in pain.

You can also take the approach of doing extremely small versions of the exercises that feel challenging, which I call micromovements. You can also modify exercises as needed in order to make them doable for you. Feel free to email me if you’re unsure about specific exercises as you go through your course.

You can login and access the course material on any device. The course videos stream through Vimeo, and the audio MP3 files (the Daily Practice Classes and the individual exercise audios) can be both streamed and downloaded. The only known access and download issues are:

1. Older iPads occasionally have issues with the Vimeo video player. Users may need to update their browser to the latest version.

2. Mobile iOS devices do not allow direct downloading of MP3s. Users of these devices can simply stream the audios instead of downloading, or can download the files directly to Dropbox using the links provided within the course. You can sign up for a free Dropbox account here.

Sarah Warren is an NCBTMB Approved CE Provider. You can earn 4 NCBTMB CE credits in the Self-Care category by completing the Level One Course. Click here to learn more!