Somatic Movement Therapy and Education 

Somatic Movement Therapy & Education (SMTE) is a fusion of integrative bodywork, movement practices, and psychology and counselling theory from the disciplines of Body-Mind Centering®, Authentic Movement and Somatic Psychology. As soma refers to the experience of the body from within, the types of somatic therapy focus on enhancing our kinaesthetic sense, also known as proprioception. These somatic educational disciplines affirm that the body holds a natural intelligence which is far vaster than our conscious mind. Commonly used phrases such as ‘gut feeling’, intuition, ‘sixth sense’ and ‘inner perception’ point to this bodily intelligence. We now know that the small intestine is the body’s largest producer of serotonin (neurotransmitter that brings feelings of happiness and wellbeing), that the electromagnetic waves originating from the heart far outnumber those of the brain and that the nervous system is engaged in a complex correspondence between the peripheral nerves and the brain. As the concept of ‘embodied cognition’ is becoming more recognised within the field of Psychology the somatic awareness definition is also expanding in meaning and reach.

What is movement therapy?

We continually change and move as human beings. Movement, in any form, is not only an expression of life but also a requisite for life. When we move we feel alive and become aware of who we are. One of the aims of somatic movement is to find mindfulness in moving and living. When movements don’t flow as freely or integrable as they could, whether in gross whole-body movements, in the autonomous functioning of body systems, in micro-movements on a cellular level or related to our thoughts, there is a disruption of health. It is often when we get stuck in a normally smooth and subconscious functioning that we gain somatic awareness of what is going on inside of us. As humans we have a tendency to create habitual patterns of moving, thinking and living which are influenced by our relationships and conditioned self-image. Somatic movement therapy uses the same methodology as somatic experiencing therapy in that it accesses our authentic responses to external stimuli by facilitating speaking out from a moment to moment awareness. This process also makes us aware of more functional ways of moving that can replace our adopted sub-conscious patterns and previous ways of being, leaving us with a sense of who we may truly be.

How exactly does somatic therapy work?

There is not just one somatic therapy definition but they all share the common aim of increasing self-awareness through different forms of touch and movement exercises. Somatic movement therapy helps to increase somatic knowledge by enabling a client to sense into their subtle body sensations, emotions, thoughts and images that arise in any specific moment. These various experiences provide them with clues for better understanding themselves. Somatic movement therapy aims to accompany the client on a journey of more sensitively listening in to this inherent intelligence and wisdom, and awaken the body’s own healing capacity and ability to find balance and health. Whatever illness or difficult life experiences a client has been exposed to this body based trauma therapy helps bring to the surface what the body is holding on to. Movement in the body creates movement in the mind and vice versa. The work can be likened to a process of learning to trust the body’s healing capacity and find inner resources to be used in future difficult situations, some that are likely to trigger a past trauma, small or large.

“The only thing that is constant is change”

— Heraclitus

What is somatic education?

Somatic education is a form of body-mind politics, a bringing together of a community of diverse elements and individual sub-personalities in which touch and movement help to shed light in dark and conflicted spaces. There is a body of medical and biological research that is engaged in mapping the anatomy and physiological process of human beings. At the same time each body is known to be uniquely different and more so is the experience each person has of their body. Sensorimotor education therefore has to be partly objective and partly subjective, a balance to be struck by the educator/therapist and receiver collaboratively. The somatic learning process enables a continual interplay between thoughts, sensations, feelings and actions. Somatic education is a highly interactive, exploratory and creative self-learning process. Rather than listening to messages of how our bodies are supposed to be or look like from an external perspective, somatic education helps to experience what the body feels like from within and simultaneously feeding self-acceptance and compassion. Our somatic experiences are often difficult to translate into words straight away so other means of poetry, writing, drawing, sculpting or music can help process them and capture their meaning and significance.

A global perspective of the somatic learning definition 

Somatic movement therapy & education is not only a form of self-education, but also an education about relationships in the world around us. Patterns in the body mirrors those of the natural and social world. The cell structure resembles the human body in its organisation of different macromolecules and organelles (organs) which together create something greater than the component parts (organic life and inherent intelligence). The body is characterised by collaboration and reciprocity between the specialised cells, each carrying out a particular and unique task for the functioning of the whole. Similarly the world of humanity can be likened to the human body in which each human being has a unique privilege and responsibility to contribute to the whole. Through somatic learning we find out about the inner workings of our body and how to create a form of unity between all aspects of us. Simultaneously we gain more insight into how unity of diverse people can be established by not seeing others as isolated individuals but as unique parts of an integrated and complex whole (the world) working together. This awareness starts from the immediate relationships around us, which makes somatic learning highly relational.