Amidst the chaos of modern life, we often neglect ourselves and overlook the importance of maintaining a strong mind-body connection. As such, our bodies become impacted by stress, becoming tense and stiff over time.
One way to address this problem and establish an effective mind-body connection is to partake in somatic movement.
What Is Somatic Movement?
Somatic is used to describe any practice that strengthens your mind-body connection, as movement and emotional health are intrinsically linked. For example, you tend to move slower when you’re sad, while you may move restlessly when stressed or anxious. As such, somatic movement seeks to deliberately engage areas of your brain that communicate to various body systems and organs.
Movement therapist Thomas Hanna introduced the term “somatic education” in the 1970s. Somatic education was used to describe techniques that help individuals increase bodily awareness and gain a better understanding of their internal self through movement and relaxation. These techniques draw from ancient Eastern philosophy and practices, such as tai chi and qi gong.
As somatic is an umbrella term for healing techniques, it is associated with various practices, such as somatic Yoga, somatic Pilates, and somatic therapy.
Somatic Movement vs. Traditional Exercise
Traditional exercises focus on external movement; you typically exercise to achieve desired physical outcomes like muscle gain or weight loss.
On the other hand, somatic movement focuses on the internal. When you perform each exercise, you should be learning something about your body. All movements should be performed as slowly as possible because the human nervous system learns new things very slowly; if you perform them too quickly, you are likely reinforcing existing patterns instead of learning new ones.
As somatic movement is primarily exploratory in nature, the priority is not the result (as it is in traditional exercise—for example, you may have to complete a certain number of sit-ups or pull-ups in a workout session), but the experience and process itself.
Increased Emotional Awareness
Your experiences are often repressed and stored in the body. Somatic movement is an effective way to acknowledge these emotions and trauma, leading to greater emotional awareness.
For example, in a 2017 study, researchers found that somatic movement can foster emotional resiliency through Laban Movement Analysis, a somatic movement approach that focuses on the relationship between movement and emotion (Tsachor & Shafir, 2017). By increasing your awareness of your posture and movements, you can adjust your body language to reduce unwanted feelings.
Many individuals focus on the external aspect of their body and neglect their internal cues, which can cause them to feel exhausted and drained.
When performing somatic movement, you can better sense and feel what is happening in your body. You can also better understand where your pain originates and how to change your movements to alleviate the discomfort.
Somatic practices may be beneficial in improving your coordination and increasing your range of motion.
Unlike traditional exercises, somatic movements encourage you to focus on your inner experience and expand your internal awareness. Whether you’re seeking to alleviate emotional or physical aches, somatic movement can be beneficial to you.
Tsachor, R. P., & Shafir, T. (2017) A Somatic Movement Approach to Fostering Emotional Resiliency through Laban Movement Analysis. Front. Hum. Neurosci., 11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00410