There are a number of therapies which fall under the umbrella of Somatics.
We might think of Massage and Physical Therapy, since we tend to want negative feelings to move to more positive ones and these health professionals can provide some relief.
Practices such as Acupuncture, Chiropractic, and many forms of bodywork such as Rolfing, Myofascial Release, Soma Therapy, etc. are practices which help us process our feelings and sense perceptions.
Subtle practices such Cranial Sacral, Reiki, etc. are also forms of a Somatics practice.
Even the marital arts such as Aikido, Chi Kung (Qigong), Tai Chi, etc. are different forms of Somatics.
Dance therapies and all sorts of movement therapies such the Alexander Technique, Continuum, Feldenkrais and Hanna Somatic Education may have either movement or both hands-on and movement components.
Psychotherapy, Counseling, Somatic Experiencing and now even Life Coaching where you feel or check into your feelings are areas where we process our felt sense of ourself and how we relate to the world and how the world relates back to us and in us.
Last I checked, there were some 38 professional Somatic Practices delving into the brain-mind-body field which includes practices such as Trager, Sensory Awareness, etc.
Over the past 100 years modern day Somatics practices have derived from the Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais and associated Sensory-Motor Awareness movement trainings and traditions.
In my case, I practice what is formerly known as Hanna Somatic Education and is the basis for Clinical Somatics (which is also our professional cousin).
A Hanna Somatic Educator® is a trained bodyworkers and movement educator where people are taught the system of somatics exercises which are a specialized set of movement patterns unlike regular exercise since it has to do with targeting the brain’s motor cortex to affect change.
Many people will simply refer these exercises as “doing my somatics”.
Hanna Somatic Education is a system made up of the two parts that work together or independently.
One part is hands-on bodywork. The other part is the specialized movement practice.
The movement practice is to help us get back in touch with our sensory-motor system through our feel and sensitivity using the brain and body to make the necessary changes to restore control and comfort.
As a professionally trained Hanna Somatic Educator, my take is this - if you have have pain, I believe you first and foremost.
Your internal somatic experience is what is highly meaningful since you’re the one who knows how, when and if those painful signals actually change.
We take into account any diagnosis and any or all associated sense perceptions and feelings, both good and bad and even neutral too.
This system is a combination of motor control exercises (MCE), mindful based stress reduction (MBSR) and progressive relaxation all rolled into one where you learn how to change negative feelings into more neutral, positive states so those gremlins and negative feelings or stiffness, leave the area.
We are excited since the American College of Physicians has recently said “this is the first to do to relieve pain” especially when you “work with a trained professional”.
What People Discover When They Do Somatics (our version)
Since somatics is an inside out game, you learn:
- how to teach yourself to heal,
- regulate your bodily discomforts back to comfort,
- and you learn how to tap into the brain anytime you need as you learn what to do for yourself 24/7.
This way you can handle discomfort since it is built into our living system to self-correct back to our birthright to feel good and move well.
It’s a matter of knowing what tools, how to apply them and what specific movement combinations that will wake up the brain and body to its more pleasant sense of itself.
This way you feel your well-being is in your own hands or body to re-awaken and maintain lifelong comfort.
The Somatics (Un-Exercise) Difference
The missing element in many exercise or movement approaches is simply how fundamental brain based or cortical movement isn’t brought into the dialogue. I'll often refer to this as un-exercise since it can un-lock tension, un-do stress and un-pain us through focused, small, gentle movements which sets us up to exercise or enjoy physical activity at higher levels of comfort. (Which even allows us to recover more quickly too).
This is where we come in with a neurophysiological approach since the ACP recognizes motor control exercises.
Our viewpoint is quite different since we take into account how the nervous system processes our self sense of information and how the brain can change that.
In other words, you get to feel your way and learn or re-discover how to get back to the more pleasurable feelings and sense perceptions via certain feedback loops.
Certain bodily experiences, feelings or sense perceptions arise when you practice changing how your body responds.
When do what appears as a simple somatics exercise movement, one of the most prevalent and most useful experiences is that of sensory-motor amnesia.
You learn either how to feel or discover when or where there is a loss of motor control.
This is huge!
When the loss of motor control becomes evident, this eye opening or ah-ha moment gives insight into the very nature of how self-correction and restoration is built into our living system.
By not knowing about it, we may have a type of amnesia around a specific or general area in our body.
This highly useful information lets us regain control as well.
What is interesting is that it doesn’t take much of a movement to know whether we have control or not.
This isn’t knowledge you think you have or don’t, you have to feel it, experience it or sense it to know whether this exists or not. You can try this SMA test.
Another form of amnesia shows itself when we can’t quite feel either the actions or connections that are involved in what appears from the outside as a simple movement.
This somatics opening event unlocks a pathway (in the nervous system) eventually leading to greater and more cohesive internal connections.
More ah-ha moments and a regaining of comfortable control.
Other Somatic Events
Another event happens say when you see a deer twitch in the woods or when you see someone writhing after taking a shock to the body.
When you see a deer twitch in the woods, it’s most likely that an internal event took place such as this. The deer thought or sensed a high level of danger, then it simply vibrated the negative feelings or sense perceptions out of itself.
Such neurogenic tremors can be induced or they can spontaneously happen as we release high levels of tension from a present trauma or an accumulation that we’ve been unconsciously holding onto.
Releasing Held Tension
In the same manner that some people simply cannot let their shoulders drop and release held tension in the neck and shoulders, stored or programmed high tension levels, fear, trauma and other personal negative events preclude us from simply letting things drop.
The body can be reprogrammed at a certain brain level and then remember to let go.
How it does this is a somatic event which can vibrate us to our core or be as subtle as the most faint sensations that you can be aware of.
Subtle feelings and a felt sense of energy surging in us can defy descriptions or are beyond words as the chemicals within us are aroused.
These somatic events are one’s you can tap into as your nervous system shifts more readily to more relaxed and unencumbered states all via a simple, gentle, mindful movement practice.