Karen’s Background

Karen Douglas de Fenzi

I teach Hanna Somatic Education because it reawakens the brain and guides us into experiencing deeply satisfying and wonderfully effortless whole body movement. My passion is for others, as well as myself, to be able to experience the physical, mental and emotional freedom that comes from knowing and understanding yourself better.

When I became 50, divorced and “unemployed”, Hanna Somatic movements helped me move through adversity in my life and enabled me to understand and do something about the debilitating pain I had been enduring in my lower back and hips for several years. After an MRI scan I was told I had spondylosis, which meant degeneration and slippage forwards of the lower vertebrae in my spine, and offered high dose steroid injections to numb the pain. I was told I had to stop doing any kind of movement, in other words, stop doing all the activities I enjoyed in life. At this time I was in the final stages of my training as a yoga teacher but when the professor broke this news all my instincts were to keep moving because for me, movement is health.

This was how I discovered Hanna Somatic Education and I applied to The Novato Institute in California for their training programme to become a Hanna Somatic Educator. From the very beginning of my training, I developed the courage and confidence to move slowly and subtly into my pain and then back out of it again, with control, each time experiencing less and less pain. I was starting to learn and become aware of how to lengthen my back muscles each side of the entire length of my spine that were so tight over so many years because of accumulated habit patterns of painful, inappropriate movement. Gentle practice of Hanna Somatic movements each day, for a few minutes, has enabled me to regain full mobility in my spine. As the movements have gradually integrated into my everyday life, I have realised a number of other subtle benefits that accompany them, like clarity in my thinking and regulation of my internal homeostatic functioning, such as my digestion and breathing. I now cannot think of a single aspect of human existence that would not benefit from Hanna Somatic movements.

My direct training with Eleanor Criswell Hanna, Thomas Hanna’s wife, and her team at The Novato Institute in California will complete in February 2019. I have stopped teaching yoga and practicing yoga asana because, although I had been practicing yoga postures since I was 14, I realise now that some of them probably did me a lot of harm without me even being aware of it. I still continue with my practice of the philosophy of yoga. Hanna Somatic movement, however, underpins and complements beautifully any other movement activity we may choose to pursue. 

I have always worked in the field of education. Originally I read Biological Sciences, specialising in microbiology, at The University of East Anglia and spent several years teaching Science and ‘A’ level Biology to high school students. After I had my first child I decided to become a full-time mum at home bringing up, eventually, three children. When my youngest started school, I began reading Psychology with The Open University, gaining a Postgraduate Diploma. My research with The Open University was looking into how women experience Caesarean birth. With these qualifications I wanted to become a councillor and so I travelled to The University of Cambridge and gained a Certificate of Professional Study in Child and Adolescent Counselling Skills. However when the circumstances in my life dramatically changed and I began to experience physical and emotional pain which lasted over several years, I had to rethink my future and direction. I slowed down the pace of my life, growing through my experience and began looking at myself and what was most important to me.

Hanna Somatic Education helps me gain insight for what is truly important in life. I have been able to teach myself how to put my own aspirations and needs first which has enabled me to give to others without depleting myself. I now fully appreciate what I do and why I am doing it and I feel good within myself. Importantly, I know how to maintain my good internal feelings. In my early 50’s I have started up my own business and am growing my business, founded on this unique and exceptional work that most people have not heard of, as yet. Currently I am working in collaboration with The University of Cumbria and The Novato Institute in California to develop a research programme that will bring the benefits of Hanna Somatic Education to more people.