The Transformative Effects of Somatic Education in My Life

By Suresha Hill, EdS, HSE, DOMTP

I became interested in the root cause of illness and imbalance very young in life after seeing my relatives perish at a young age. Some died before I was able to meet them, like my maternal grandmother who died at 35. On the other hand, my grandfather was an Olympian, and my brother and I began participating in sports at his encouragement from a young age. After bowling, playing baseball, and volleyball as a child, I continued on in martial arts, dance, tennis, and paddleball. There were normal amounts of injuries and mishaps from being so active, but nothing super serious.

I was in peak condition in my twenties — worked out for hours at a time — and in college met a friend who changed my perspective on diet. Things began to develop into a spiritual path, which took me to India and a meditative, vegan life. After living in India for two years, my health took a nosedive into being in chronic pain, incredibly weak, and unable to digest a salad or anything beyond a bowl of soup. Nearly all types of food made me nauseous. My blood pressure and blood sugar were so low I was prone to fainting. It was at this point that the injuries I sustained became much more serious and more frequent. I kept asking myself, “What is telling my body to do this?” I was convinced that my system was responding to some input that was creating this turn of events, and was champing at the bit to find out what it was and how to turn it back.

Working for physical therapists and chiropractors for several years deepened my curiosity about chronic conditions. The inquiry opened into “What is the source of healing? How can the body tell itself to regain its healthy baseline instead of just making it feel better for a while?” It was a slow rebuild to regain a semblance of normalcy in my system, filled with many more injuries and imbalances, but Hanna Somatic Education gave me the first days without pain in years.

I felt like I found the missing link for healing: including the brain and self-sensing in the equation. It was particularly challenging when my brain itself became badly injured with a series of concussions, but that made the transformative journey even more compelling. It led to an exploration that continues to open new doors of discovery, and into a wellbeing that surpasses anything of the physical prowess I experienced in my twenties. Then I was strong and fit, well-coordinated, and full of energy, but somatically blind. I was adept at using my body, but knew next to nothing about being in touch with it. Losing my strength and my health was a great motivator, as it is for so many of us, and the lessons learned to regain my health have been invaluable; it's been rewarding to share them with others.

At this point I've been able to resolve over 50 injuries and return to all my favorite activities without restraint. Each exploration into the whole being — the psyche, the breath, the soft tissue, the fluids, the bones, the brain, the organs, movement reeducation, meditation, and self sensing — provided new awe-inspiring avenues to explore, along with expanding awareness which made it all possible; not to mention the powerful influence of food and supplement choices. Each avenue afforded another level of healing, clarity, integration, and freedom. I’m happy to be able to share some of what this process revealed during the Somatic Movement Summit.

Suresha Hill earned three degrees in education, school psychology, and the Prevention and Systems Intervention Specialty of School Psychology before turning to the study of the body. She went on to study energy systems, hypnotherapy, breath therapy, hands-on muscle and emotional release therapies, visceral manipulation, and neuromuscular reeducation approaches, including Hanna Somatic Education. In 1992 she founded the Marin Center for Somatic Education and developed a body of work called NeuroSomatic Integration, followed by the recent adaptation of Whole Body Integration. Still fascinated by how the body communicates and uses information to create change, she studied the cranial system from a mechanical perspective along with the fluid body point of view, and sensitive manual approaches for the brain as well as for the skeleton. In 2013, she earned a Diplomate in Osteopathic Manipulative Theories and Practices.

She continues to study the brain, the vascular system, and nervous system, and has contributed three books dedicated to self-sensing, self-regulation, and mindful movement. Having been an athlete, martial artist, and dancer for many years, she also experienced numerous injuries that she was able to get inside of and recover from using the methods learned from her instructors, from working with clients, and from self-sensing, which are described in her Somatic Intelligence Volumes 4, 5, and 6 on the subject.

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This article appears in: 2020 Catalyst, Issue 9: Somatic Movement Summit