The word somatic is popping up more and more frequently these days in relation to various wellness related practices and therapies. You might be wondering what it means and how somatic practices are different from other things you are already doing.
Simply stated somatic means “of the body”…a pretty basic term that could refer to so many things, right?!
It can also be helpful to know that there is a part of the nervous system called the somatic nervous system. This is the part of the nervous system that allows us to take in all sorts of information through our senses – touch, pressure, temperature, sights, sounds, smells, tastes – the brain interprets all this information and then the somatic nervous system enables the muscles to contract and release in response.
So, for example, if a mosquito lands on your skin – first you feel or possibly hear the mosquito – your brain might then interpret that as a threat and in response signals are sent to respond and swat the mosquito away. This is your somatic nervous system in action.
More subtly our muscles are responding to what our senses are taking in all the time. We have all developed habitual muscular patterns to help us move safely through our world without having to think about it too much…it just happens unconsciously. Sometimes these patterns serve us well, and sometimes we can benefit from bringing the patterns into awareness and creating new patterns. This in large part is what somatic practices are about.
The somatic practices that I integrate into Whole Soul Wellness Yoga are based on the teachings of Thomas Hanna, and a teacher of his work with whom I have studied, Sarah Warren. These practices are intended to help students get to the root of muscular tension and with practice to repattern the nervous system, so that it allows muscles to release and relax.
The practices may seem deceivingly gentle, and yet students often report profound changes in how they feel before and after practice. It is common that people feel more balanced, lighter, less tense, calmer and clearer, especially with regular practice and when they are able to learn to truly listen into what their bodies are telling them.
If this sounds interesting to you, I would be happy to help you explore how somatic exercises can help you. I work with clients one on one integrating somatic exercises into yoga therapy sessions or as a standalone practice. I am also integrating somatic practices into Whole Soul Wellness Yoga classes and retreats.
Lastly, my teacher Sarah Warren, has as fabulous blog and resources available at her website, somaticmovementcenter.com. If you want to dive deep, check out her book The Pain Relief Secret.