Somatics seems to be creeping up in the mainstream vocabulary, but what does it mean?
The word itself comes from the Greek terminology soma - meaning relating to the body. That’s it! It’s creating such a buzz because it feels revolutionary, especially coming off of the heels of the digital age where items can arrive upon a press of a button, and our technological advances have propelled us into this universe where one can now consider the possibility of simply being a living head.
It’s almost as though the revolution is unfolding in such a way that the understanding of the connection mind and body (which we’ve lost) is a priority - this is what marketing tells us with the influx of classes called "Somatic xyz".
To be clear, I am so on board! Mind and body connected? Deepening that connection so we get a holistic sense of how we are? Yes please! In my opinion it’s important to gather all pieces of information to make the best decisions for ourselves, and if collecting that information is expanding our sample size and tuning into the body, then I am 100% for it. It’s through this lens that we get to truly expand our knowledge of self, moving closer to homeostasis (everything working as it should). Moving further away from dis-ease.
If we look at how the body stores energy (emotion = energy in motion) and the lack of understanding of mobilizing the energy, then it gets stuck and stored within the body causing dis-ease (this could look like symptoms of fight or flight response - shortened breath, habitual tensing, short on capacity for increased stimuli (quick to react), feeling overwhelmed, narrow focus etc.) and no amount of thinking can get this process going.
“The salient stressors in the lives of most human beings today — at least in the industrialized world — are emotional. Just like laboratory animals unable to escape, people find themselves trapped in lifestyles and emotional patterns inimical to their health. The higher the level of economic development, it seems, the more anaesthetized we have become to our emotional realities. We no longer sense what is happening in our bodies and cannot therefore act in self-preserving ways. The physiology of stress eats away at our bodies not because it has outlived its usefulness but because we may no longer have the competence to recognize its signals.”
― Dr. Gabor Maté, When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress
what does Somatic Embodiment mean?
Embodiment explores the relationship between our physical being and our energy. It involves the interaction of our body, thoughts, and actions. So really, somatic embodiment is the process or being of connection between self and body. Of being in relationship to yourself. We see this in treatment for trauma in a therapeutic setting, but is also used in addressing increased or decreased stimuli(stress or feelings of anxiousness, and/or feelings of lethargy and melancholy) which results in the body. In practice, this looks like many different movement and stillness practices to mobilize emotions caused by external and internal stimuli, focused on the connection between bodily sensations and reactions / thoughts. We explore this relationship in class at The Practice, so that when we are off of our mats we know that connection remains and can come back to it any time we are feeling dis-ease.
Somatic embodiment can feel overwhelming, as it’s really challenging to be in your own body without the narrative of your mind. But when entering into this state of complete self awareness, this can feel like the most expansive experience with space, compassion, ease, and peace. It can also bring up perhaps some unwanted feelings as we become more in relationship with self. Awareness of how you are really feeling in a given moment is not something we practice in this society, and it can feel overwhelming to experience a thing that perhaps may not have been experienced before - this is where consistent practice becomes imperative. With a consistent practice of somatic embodiment (such as a movement practice - yoga based practices are perfect to dip your toe in, you may have also heard of runners moving into a state of complete being), you may experience a moment here, a moment there. And as those blips of time come together, we begin to feel more comfortable with the uncomfortable. We begin to become more wholly in relationship to self.
Why should I foster a somatic practice?
Cultivating your practice to incorporate how you are feeling, inquiring within, and exploring your internal landscape allows for you to recognize any emotions (energy in motion) that have not mobilized in the body. The practice of staying with these feelings, gathering information, and allowing and creating the circumstance in which to process these emotions is the most beneficial and impactful result of regular practice which leads to an existence of your authentic self.
When we feel like there’s an overarching heaviness, dis-ease - that overall feeling that something isn’t quite right - that’s usually an indication that there’s energy to be moved.
Somatic practices also enhance our emotional intelligence - when we give ourselves the time and space to explore how we truly are feeling, and not what we think we should be feeling, then we are inherently increasing our ability to tune in to self. Now, emotional intelligence is a whole other topic, but one can expect to increase connection to self by fostering a somatic practice, which allows you to identify how you are in that exact moment. The key is exploration into what is there through an interoceptive lens, what is going on inside?
So simply by tuning in to self on a regular basis, you become more in relationship with self - removing distraction and ultimately having the ability to tune into your needs which thereby processes emotion through the body.
Reducing dis-ease. Cultivating freedom in the body. Allowing autonomy of being. We get to be our whole selves.
You can explore our somatic practices at The Practice by way of any regularly scheduled class, or you can schedule a private client one on one with Somatic Stress Release practitioner, Laura (now taking clients as of July 2022).