Teacher of the AEQ method, level 5

From Clinical Somatics to the AEQ method

I was born on 3 October 1971. I live in Brežice with my partner and two children. I am a sole trader and have owned a bicycle shop since 1993. I am also a clinical somatics therapist. In my youth, I had considerable difficulties with stability and flexibility during physical education. I only learned to drive a bicycle when I turned 15 but soon started to cycle more and more. During all this time, I also fixed bicycles. I developed what started as a bicycle repair shop into one of the most recognizable bicycle shops in my region and also in Croatia.

I cycled, ran, swam and lifted weights. Then, pain started occurring in my left hip and became unbearable. It is worth mentioning here that I had shorter right leg. As a result, the right side of my body was not as developed as the left. Due to increasing pain, I stopped cycling and focused on lifting weights and kettlebells. I acquired all the relevant certificates and taught my clients how to move their bodies under physical strain. The stretching exercises did not change my flexibility. Not only that, my pain worsened and the time invested in them failed to achieve desired results. I sought medical advice but the explanation of causes of unbearable pain and the solutions to them did not convince me. Physical therapy, muscle strengthening, exercises with elastics, massages, chiropractic did not help me. I got used to life with pain.

It was only later, when I started to research possible causes in depth, that I discovered Hanna Somatics. After reading Martha Peterson’s book and corresponding with her, I find out what was the real cause of my shorter right leg. Even only after a few days of carrying out the basic exercises, I noticed an unbelievable improvement. So, I wanted more. I started learning Clinical Somatics from Martha Peterson. I teach my clients with therapy and exercises, I could also help them with conversation and advice. Without these insights my work would not be as successful. Especially because the world changed since Thomas Hanna first developed this method 50 years ago. People have a more difficult task at hand now as it is not easy to maintain conscious control over ourselves in modern times.

I had an opportunity to observe the effects of the clinical somatic movements on the neuro-muscular system at my years-long work with my clients. Active therapies with somatic movements resulted in significant changes and improvement of life for many of my clients, but unfortunately, the beneficial effects to often lasted only few months. They eventually returned to the previous condition and they performed the exercises only occasionally, when the pain became too disturbing.

I’ve been studying various fields of physics and human motion and I was progressively realizing that life significantly changed in the past few decades; it has become much faster and hence a person’s ability to concentrate and adapt decreased too due to the technology. We need a lot of energy for that kind of life and help of devices and appliances that do the work instead of us save us time. While we need to assess our use of time rationally if we want to survive in modern word, we don’t do the same when it comes to the use of our energy. Our body was developing throughout the evolution and the struggle for survival in the conditions of the food shortage and fight for the energy. Time was not essential, however, today we live like we’ve always driven on the fast highways, which enables us to save time, but at the same time also greater consumption of the fuels (energy) and deterioration. Also, the adaptability as the field of manipulation decreases when something unpredictable happens.

When a person has to exit the highway and drive steadily and slowly on a dirt road he is confused and insecure.
Almost stressed out, even though we’ve survived millions of years
in se razvijali v neprilagojenem sovražnem okolju.

I’m realizing the speed, pace of life is killing us – literally or indirectly – it makes us tense, stiff and inflexible. So the pain occurs, which warns us about the inefficacy and the entropy.

A better solution means to do more, or at least the same amount with less effort (energy).
In other words: think twice, do once.
Like turning from the highway to the driving skills polygon.

A deeper insight into somatics through my development

Thomas Hanna’s approach and views regarding the healing processes to address the effects of stress and trauma of daily life taking place in our bodies are unique even by today’s standards, let alone for society when Hanna began practicing somatics.

His lectures give us a broad insight into the workings of his mind and his everyday inspiration. He constantly tried to connect with purpose itself, which makes us human and reminds us what it means to be a human being.

This, however, is something that today’s society generally abandons, especially medical professions could be criticized for treating us too little as individual human beings and too much as part of the statistics for planning a particular doctrine. Thomas Hanna went even further, seeing in front of him, not just a person, but a person derived from atoms from millennia ago. Hana observed what we evolved from, what we survived and been through – and what he saw was the final product. He understood why people sought out his help and council. He knew that the reasons for our pain and problems come from our genetic material, emotional state, and the environment, which, for me, is the key achievement in understanding humanity.

Helping and caring about people in our society have improved tenfold, and scientific progress is incredibly fast. However, the understanding of man as a complete living system has not progressed; quite the opposite. Doctors look at us in a very specific, isolated way; medicine deals only with the facts of a particular disease evident in the patient. Most often, these are, among other things, back problems. And while deciding how to operate on the spine, muscles, ligaments, and tendons, they prescribe painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs that dull the pain and alter brain function to feel and communicate different neurological information afterward.

In comparison, the alternative method of Thomas Hanna is a very basic healing method. Of course, the medical industry is intelligent and incredibly penetrating, and it saves lives, but it doesn’t explore non-surgical treatments or drug-free pathways.

My personal experience mirrors the statement above and is, at the same time, my opinion. From the age of 23 to 39, I had a stressful job with a lot of responsibility; I worked a lot. Relaxing in the morning and evening on weekends and during the holidays mostly meant cycling. I cycled alone or with company. If I look at this period with my current knowledge, I know that I did not allow myself even a moment of peace or relaxation, even though I thought differently at the time. In short, I wasn’t in contact with myself, my soma. My ten to fourteen-hour workday has taken its toll on my health, and I had constant, gradually stronger pain in my left hip and leg. 

This went on for about ten years. I cycled and exercised as I always did, but it just didn’t work. When the pain was getting stronger and the consequences increasingly unpleasant, I sought out other ways to help myself, such as sports massages, chiropractors, reflexology, reiki, and acupuncture. Every method had only short-term relaxing benefits, so I sought further. 

I started learning about somatics through Dan John’s blog, after which I attended the first workshop of Martha Peterson, an American, in Europe. So for the first time, I felt at least approximately what it is like to be an individual, a person, a catfish. At the same time, I realized what all I was doing to my body all these years. I punished myself with weights, forced myself to cycle, work all day in my store, decided to carry all the workplace stress by myself, and realized that I completely forgot how to breathe and walk correctly. 

I learned that we are much more than the physical body and that we live our days without ever thinking about our mental health. And I began to realize that I would never let someone treat me the way I treated myself. That’s why I slowly adopted a new view and began acting and moving differently, and from that day forward, I never looked back. One day of learning somatics and three therapies performed by Martha in Frankfurt did more for me than anything I tried before this. I am not only eternally grateful but also respectful of Thomas Hanna’s method. I will continue on this path with enough humility and develop the method further, just as Hanna wanted. 

In his lectures, Thomas Hanna claims that we are all soma. Every living being is soma, and they all have an inner consciousness. I have lost mine, or at the very least, lost contact with it, and I am not the only one. And at this point, Hanna’s work is of great importance because he teaches us about self-awareness in a way that no one else has used. He perfected the approach of Moshe Feldenkrais; he encourages us to explore the freedom that is part of our soma.

Hanna’s lectures give us directions on how to reconnect with our inner consciousness and rely on it. Everything happens from the very beginning of time, which is very important because somatics teaches us that we need to go back to basics and re-learn movement, reconnect with our feelings, learn everything we knew as children and what I find it very important to learn who we are and where we come from – how we found ourselves in a given situation. From here, you can begin to discover how to move forward.

Thomas’s philosophy is of key importance for our education in this field because it teaches us to see the world how he sees it and see people the way he does, as soma. We only notice the true magic of somatics when we understand this concept. If you intend to continue your education as an AEQ teacher in the future, you must also respect its philosophy. As you listen to the lectures, you learn to perceive how key elements such as freedom, our brains, mental state, and mindset contribute to physical health. Participation is not only about being present at a movement workshop and simply raising and lowering your elbow a few times before continuing with the next lesson. The required change can only be made with conscious movement, a good enough sensation of every part of our muscular system, learning how to slow down movement, control over movement, and then rest and breathing. The philosophy also encapsulates the awareness that the accident you had when you were three years old might be the cause for your limping, or that incomplete mourning after a tragic event is the most likely reason for your body leaning forward as if we subconsciously wanted to protect ourselves. The philosophy of somatics is also the understanding that the brain controls everything based on feelings from the body, whether we are aware of it or not, and that we have a part of the brain that is older than us or our physical age and that this part of the brain can determine your personality to a greater extent than you are willing to admit. We are also alive because of this part of the brain because it also regulates our breathing and digestion of food, and then other parts provide us with balance (with ears) that allow us to be equal to others and function like others.

Because of such an understanding, clinical somatics and its successor, the AEQ method, differ from other methods. No other is similar to it, and none delves so deeply into man. For example, hiring a personal trainer to help you gain muscle mass, shape your body or lose excess weight will help you achieve your goal, but it will not consider the main system that takes care of the exercises – the muscle nervous system.

Most trainers will push you to your limits and not even pay attention to improving the brain and muscles’ connection.

I can list you even more examples, especially when I was learning kettlebell exercises four years ago, and I had athletes in my groups, which were agile and fast in their sports discipline. They seemed very strong, but if they bent over too fast if they wanted to, for example, pick up a water bottle, they could get severely injures, forcing them to stay out of exercising for weeks. The injuries resulted from contracted muscles, which are the result of disregarding the cause of rigidity and not trying to fix it. I see people who do not know ignore the philosophy of sports, yoga, or Tai chi. I also belonged to this society. We compete with ourselves and others, we go to extremes, and we feel like we haven’t gotten anything in return for all our efforts. When we can’t repeat a pose or exercise that we managed just fine a day ago, we count that as a failure. Thomas Hanna said that soma exists in time and that it isn’t necessary that you will be able to perform something today, what you managed to perform yesterday, because your environment and conditions will change, just like your soma – that is, for me, the base reason of understanding, practicing and further developing Hanna’s philosophy. 

Imagine that you have active therapy with a patient, which is not aware of their own body and doesn’t even know that he should be aware of it. He moves around like a puppet and responds to your every command. He does not know why he is moving his hips up and down; he moves them. This is somatics without its basic principles – mindless, divided, and unfocused. In short, pointless. That’s why, when teaching somatics, the most important thing is to present its principles appropriately and understandably, which will help the client understand what you want from him.

I have briefly tried to show the physical aspect of somatics, but there are also psychological benefits. According to Bessel Van Den Kolk’s book, the body keeps in mind somatic movements and their mental health benefits. It describes that all the events and traumas we experience in life are trapped in our bodies, muscles, and minds until we use an effective method of releasing the trapped unused energy of the emotions created by these events. These events and traumas vary from horrifying, such as fighting in a war, sexual and physical abuse, to accidents that physically affected the body. Everyday stress also counts. 

Traumas remain trapped inside the body and cause chaos and tension until they are relaxed. They affect the central nervous system’s operation, your brain becomes tired, exhausted, and all this influences your quality of life. The AEQ method offers a system of relaxing these tensions caused by unwanted trauma. With every performance of movement according to the AEQ logic, that tension will begin to relax and disappear. A new feeling of awareness of your body will appear, the level of energy will rise, which allows us to deal with trauma on an emotional level. 

My experience so far and my growing knowledge of Thomas’s teachings, and the addition of my insights to further improve his method and regular AEQ exercises, have completely changed my view of other people and myself. I used to take on other people’s worries; now I don’t do that anymore. My most destructive property was competing with myself and pushing myself beyond my limits. I do not do that anymore. It was probably the biggest and easiest change I could make because I had a guarantee that we exist within time. The abilities we had yesterday aren’t necessarily going to be here today, and that this is alright and acceptable. Be the best you can be right now – I use this approach with others. I have become more tolerant and understanding of other people’s traumas, and I no longer look at my own as a weakness.

I am honored that I was able to gain this knowledge, to understand and improve it, and it is my great pleasure to be a part of a community, which gains experience with such passion and expands knowledge, and shares it with others that need and want it. 


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Aleš Ernst, clinical somatics, and differentiation s.p.
Ulica bratov Gerjevič 1A,
8250 Brežice


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