Somatic therapy is a holistic therapy that studies the relationship between the mind and body in regard to psychological past. It is thus a process of inquiry into how consciousness inhabits the living body.
The Benefits of Somatic Therapy
- Helps to uncover movement patterns / habit (Samskaras) that are built on misalignment, inhibitions, co-contractions, and compensations.
- Awaken sensory motor amnesia
- Helps lubricate joints, nourishes and hydrates tissues, create ease and increase range of motion
- Interoception will regulate our nervous system and reduce pain sensitivity.
- Variety of movement creates better coordination and neuroplasticity. It helps us to adapt better to our environment physically, mentally, and emotionally.
- “Subtle is how the body works. Gross is how the mind works.” Paying attention to small changes can create profound impact on the way we think, move and relate.
- Motion is powerful to Emotion. Movement can be used as a gateway to explore emotional regulation
Being, doing, and the space inbetween what is, what could be, and the unknowable ~ Jennifer Pollins
Contemporary yoga presents a svelte, slim, flexible, bikini-toned, model-like poster image of what a modern yogi (yogini) should look like. The power of glossy marketing have certainly encouraged many to take up this form of fitness modality as it is now a modality practiced by over 36 million people*. However, it has also turned away many others who might have the notion that Yoga is an exclusive club for social media savants. The accessibility of Yoga has often been mistakenly positioned as a practice for – 1. those who are hypermobile enough to pick up the practice easily, 2. those we are determined enough to put themselves through the ordeal of contortionism, or 3. those who thick-skinned enough to suffer through the humiliation of being “stiff”.
The yoga landscape is really diverse now with a gazillion choices on styles and lineages. It can be overwhelming to even get started!
There is Hatha Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Power Yoga, Hot Yoga, HIIT Yoga, Yin Yoga, Barre Yoga, even Beer Yoga, Dog Yoga, and the list goes on.
But what if, just what if, Yoga isn’t about touching your toes or forcing your body into odd shapes, or being able to look good in Lululemon gear, in order to get a glimpse into enlightenment?
What if it is actually a practice centred around cultivating awareness, using different toolkits, to better connect body and mind? What if it can be fun, accessible and engaging? What if it can offer you insight into how you carry your beliefs through your body so you have more choices? What if it helps you to understand more about your relationships with self and others so you have more confidence, clarity and empathy in your interactions?
For me personally, Yoga is first and foremost, a somatic practice to arrive into the present moment. What does that mean?
Somatic education is an exploration into waking up the internal senses to uncover our own physical and subtle mind-body mapping, to help us determine the way we inhabit in our environment and respond to elements and people around us.
The practice shines a light on our habitual but unconscious neurological patterning that manifest into how we breath, our holding gait, and reactivity to circumstances. These are manifested through pre-dispositions, deep seated patternings, and years of conditioning.
Bringing together mindfulness and somatic tools, we can gain more clarity into our own feelings and behaviour as an embodied biological process in order to live with greater ease and grace.
- It is body centered to improve awareness of the body-mind connection
- It is a sensory approach (rather than cognitive approach) to learning / unlearning / relearning
- It is exploratory in nature, based on the premise that the body is shaped by the mind, and that the mind can be reshaped through the body
- It is focused on the internal experience of the movement rather than on the end result.
A Body-Sensing Approach
- It is calming & restorative. It regulates our nervous system from the constant Fight – Flight – Freeze mode, to a Rest – Digest – Engage mode.
- It brings together somatic, mindfulness & movement principles to guide better movements.
- It is an embodied learning approach based on neuroplasticity (the brain can be rewired, i.e unhealthy, deep conditioning patterns can be shifted)
- It helps us to develop kinesthetics and spatial intelligence by working through the whole body’s myofascial connections.
- It helps us embody how the various systems (e.g circulatory, digestive, endocrine systems) of the body work in unison to achieve balance and homeostasis.
- It is based on how moods & language influence physiology
- It improves fascia health, immunity, and overall body and mind integrity
So how are we shaped?
- Via communication – the exchange of information between body and mind, through the nervous system – central, autonomic, enteric (gut).
- It influences how we breathe, our digestion, body chemistry, and energy levels
- Our moods & emotions lie at the heart of this communication as it shapes our physical body, i.e stress & anxiety can lead to poor posture, pain, inflammation, dis-eases.
- How we feel, think and behave is a biological process that is embodied through fascia health and body chemistry
- Interoception – how we are being informed by our body – is linked to the myofascial system.
- To understand / label the emotion(s)
- To become aware of emotional state > the difference between sensing, feeling & being
- It is not about “What” movements but “How” to move.
- Sensory feedback provides input for Proprioception (body) & Interoception (mind)
- Engage Limbic System via Somatosensory pathways to regulate nervous system
- Feelings & attitudes are influenced by proprioceptive input, i.e movement, posture, contractions, releases
Developmental Patterns: Remembering Who We Are
- “Yoga is the technology of arriving in this present moment. It is a means of waking up from our spiritual amnesia, so that we can remember all that we already know” – Donna Farhi
- Our volitional movement is built on a foundation of automatic movement responses that begin developing in the womb, and continue appearing through the fist year of life
- The emergence & integration of these responses have an enormous effect on our movement, on how we relate to ourselves, others, and the world.
- It also has an effect on how we organize and process information
- An experiential study of developmental movement allows us to consciously access and utilize these fundamental patterns
- It provides a path to understand and embody the developmental basis of all movement forms
- The use of spatial intelligence through proprioception can lead to ease and efficiency in not just movement, but also emotional and thought patterns
- It is an embodiment of body-mind-spirit
Somatics and Embodiment are buzzwords in the yoga and movement community
The word “Soma” comes from a Greek origin which translates to “The Living Body”, it’s the cosmic biological intelligence of our life force to self-organise, self regulate through the relational being of our body-mind the moment we are conceived.
Through inquiring into our soma, we begin to explore relationships between the microcosm and the macrocosm we inhabit through processes and body systems. We uncover our self image and gain insights into our habits and neurological patterning to create more choices in our responses to elements and people around us. The practice of embodying our soma calls upon our curiosity to sense and feel and be guided through what is arising from moment to moment.
Working with movement, breathwork, visualisation, touch and sound, this practice helps to regulate the nervous system, boost our immune system, and rewire our brain to move with greater ease and grace through life.
Is there a difference between Somatics and Embodiment?
Somatics is an embodiment practice and to become embodied means we are attuned to our soma. I guess they are inter-related but not exactly synonymous. Meaning that it’s both contextual and conceptual, i.e The embodiment process requires a somatic perspective so that our actions are guided by an authentic, relational intent.
In somatic sensing practices, we learn to hold attention both within and without. Through interoception we inquire into our biological processes and how we are showing up in the world. The embodiment of this dual awareness in somatic practices helps us cultivate resilience in our nervous system, and create equanimity through relationships with self and others.