“Movement is the message, and the messenger.”
– EMILY CONRAD D’AOUD, FOUNDER OF CONTINUUM MOVEMENT
Somatics is the living body, experienced from within
“Soma” is the Greek word for the living body, which Thomas Hanna re-defined as “the body experienced from within.” Through our direct experience of the body – noticing thoughts, movement, anatomical structure, emotions, and mind-states – we gain access to innate intelligence. We gain a literal body of knowledge. The result is long-lasting improvements in physical function, health, self-understanding, connectedness and self-sufficiency.
“A soma isn’t a body and it isn’t a mind; it’s the living process…Everything whatsoever is movement: reality is movement. Life is a movement process, and the soma is a process of unified movement…We are never permanently structured in any sense.” (Thomas Hanna, interview, Somatics: Magazine-Journal of the Bodily Arts and Sciences, 1991)
In the emerging discipline of somatics, we use the term somatic to mean the wholeness of your lived experience, which allows for an integration of body, mind, spirit and emotions and leaves you in charge of your own sense of meaning and story.
All somatic practices have a “mindfulness” component, as well as a body-work and a movement component. Here are some prominent somatic practices:
- Authentic Movement
- Body-Mind Centering
- Body-Mind Integration
- Contact Improvisation
- Continuum Movement
- Somatic Experiencing
- Voice-Movement Integration
For more information on these and other forms, explore the website of the International Somatic Movement Education and Therapy Association (ISMETA).
What is somatic therapy?
A somatic therapy practice is one where the notion of “patterning,” and of re-patterning are woven into the explorations.
We don’t have to be stuck in our lives when we get an experience of how we can transform. How we move, how we think, emotional struggles, relationship dynamics, are all subject to change if we understand the principles underlying how we organize ourselves in the world.
There are reasons that we hold ourselves in a particular posture, reasons that we protect ourselves from failure, or even, success. Those reasons are found in the deeper patterns that underlie our conscious mind. When we dive into somatic experience we are swimming in the unconscious.
Any somatic discipline will help you to learn to navigate the deep waters of your unconscious. This is theraputic, but also richly creative. Some somatic practices incorporate expressive arts as tools to process what arises from the depths of the “skinesphere,” or world underneath your skin.
Some teachers and therapists are more oriented towards therapy whereas others specialize in the arts or movement education. If you are interested in somatics, take the time to explore the various disciples and find a practitioner that feels right to you.
Where do somatics apply?
Somatic practices are applied to performance and expressive arts, trauma healing, sport performance, psychotherapy, infant movement development, pregnancy, post-partum care, parenting, brain and neurological injury recovery, other kinds of injury recovery, mobility issues, aging, chronic pain, eating disorders, relationship issues etc
Anyone who is curious or who needs help with a difficult issue can benefit from somatic practices. It’s important to find the right practitioner for what you are wanting to explore and to be sure that you feel safe with them.
What are the benefits of somatics?
Somatic practices facilitate self-awareness, mindfulness, and communication with your inner self. You gain access to deeply-held physical, emotional, and psychological information.
Once you “meet” and establish communication with these different aspects of yourself, change is natural and effortless. These practices are empowering. They teach you to know yourself better and have direct access to the means by which we learn and cultivate profound lifelong change.