Somatics

reset your nervous system, rewire your brain, experience aliveness

how Somatics can help you 

Somatics gives power back to the individual, where we can get behind the steering wheel and have control over our lives. Somatic Awareness and Embodiment can improve posture, enhance co-ordination, overcome pain and command authenticity. Using specific Somatic techniques such as focus, informed intention, experiential anatomy, mindful movement and breathwork we can increase our bodies efficiency, support homeostasis, enhance the neuroplasticity of our brains and enliven our whole being. By being embodied we can take cues from our bodies to bring clarity to our thoughts, help with decision making, trust our intuition and regulate our emotions.

 

As I try to define the concept of Somatics through words and language the irony does not escape me. Through its active experiencing we can change how we ‘show up’ in the world; how we function, perform, achieve, live and flow. Our genetic disposition does not have to keep us stuck in a reality that does not serve us. With a shift in perspective, deeper change and transformation for the better is possible in all spheres of your life.

definition

The term Somatics seems both familiar yet exudes an element of mystique. From ‘psychosomatic’ we recognise the ‘psycho’ in reference to our mind, and the corresponding ‘somatic’ to refer to our bodies. In the Oxford Dictionary the word ‘soma’ is defined:

‘The body as distinct from the soul, mind, or psyche.’

Psychosomatic illness can be very real in the body, and we have now the scientific evidence. For instance neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh have identified the neural networks that connect the cerebral cortex to the adrenal medulla (which produce our stress hormones) and shed new light on how stress, depression and other mental states can alter the function of our organs. They also found that areas in our brain involved with axial (head and the trunk) body movement and posture also influences our stress hormones, which in part explains why practices that involve alignment, coordination and flexibility such as yoga, tai chi and dancing are so good for our stress.[1]

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Somatics, however, with the significant plural ending elevates our soma beyond our visceral flesh, blood and bone to a much more sophisticated body - a Whole body that senses, feels and even thinks.

 

And in the last fifty years or so, there has been an explosion of research and evidence to document this realisation - that our bodies have an innate intelligence, not only in its ability to self-regulate - eg when we begin to involuntarily sweat as we overheat, but with Somatic awareness we can actively initiate our body to heal.

‘There is no real division between mind and body because of networks of communication that exist between the brain and neurological, endocrine and immune systems,’

 

Oakley Ray, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Psychiatry and Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN, USA) [2]

Increasingly US universities have departments devoted to Mind Body Research including Harvard, Columbia, California and Pittsburg, and the UK has its own flourishing Somatics departments in Universities such as Chichester, Coventry, Edinburgh and Lancashire. And recent research shows how our mental functions, emotions, and bodily processes are not separate – but linked by mutually interactive neurochemical processes.

Candace Pert, former Chief of Brain Biochemistry at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has explored through her research how the mind links the body and brain and how our emotions are the biochemical messengers that carry information to link the major body systems into one unit we call the ‘bodymind’.

‘The body and mind are not separate, and we cannot treat one without the other. My research has shown me that the body can and must be healed through the mind, and the mind can and must be healed through the body.’    

                  

                     Pert (1997:274) [3]

This Western contemporary thought affirms the belief in Chinese medicine, as in other ancient healing systems of Asia, Africa, Native America and some parts of Ancient Europe and other Indigenous cultures that our bodies have a Holistic Intelligence. [4]

brief history

The word Somatics was coined by Thomas Hanna (1928 - 1990), who founded the Novato Institute for Somatic Research in 1975, which refers to our whole body that encompasses our psyche, mind and even soul or spirit.  The ‘practice’ has evolved and adopted its own identity from a 

disparate group of people with injuries who could not find help through traditional medicine, exercise and psychology. These were the early pioneers in the Somatic world.

For example Leo Kofler (1837-1908) healed himself from tuberculosis through the study of the breath.

 

FM Alexander (1869 – 1955) had chronic laryngitis, which led him to develop his pioneering ‘Alexander Technique’.

 

Moshe Feldenkrais (1904 – 1984) was a professor of engineering who developed his own ‘Feldenkrais Method’ after he healed his debilitating knee injury without surgery.

Anna Halprin (1920 - ) developed ‘Life Art Therapy’ with her daughter Daria Halprin after enabling the remission of her cancer through dance and art.

And the list goes on...

mindfulness

Somatic Awareness and Mindfulness complement and enhance each other. And on one level Somatics is a kind of Embodied Mindfulness or BodyMindfulness. There are times when the practice of Mindfulness may not be appropriate, for example with certain cases of deep depression and anxiety, or for people suffering from severe trauma. Our thoughts and feelings are not only in our heads, but have corresponding sensations in the body, and Somatic Awareness can help us to process and ground difficult thoughts and feelings. For those of us who have very busy minds, diffusing the cerebral activity and recognising its corresponding reaction in the body can be very helpful.aragraph. 

references

[1]    http://thescienceexplorer.com/brain-and-body/mind-body-connection-new-evidence-how-mental-states-alter-organ-function  

           

[2]    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1456909/pdf/7400671.pdf 

 

[3]   Pert, C (1997) Molecules of Emotion: Why You Feel the Way You Feel, London, UK : Simon and Schuster

4]   For Key Studies on the Mind-Body Connection, Life Science Foundation/University of Minnesota:

https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/sites/default/files/downloads/Key%20Studies%20on%20Mind%20Body%20Connection_0.pdf

© Vital Body Vital Mind 2020. All rights reserved. Copyright Helene Su