Somatic Therapy

What is Somatic Integration Therapy?

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This Gestalt principle holds true for somatic integration therapy and Somatic Psychology. It can appear contradictory to differentiate and separate the various parts and aspects of the body when speaking of holistic therapy. However, by singling out body parts and discover their structure, qualities and characteristics we are made aware what parts are more dominant and outspoken in the ‘body community’ and what parts are more quiet. Somatic integration therapy offers these more quiet and needy parts support and gives them a stronger voice whilst reassuring the more dominant voices that they are heard. The differentiation process is about getting to know each of the diverse parts of the body community not in isolation but through their relationship to the other parts of the body. The somatic work facilitates a consultative process between a range of diverse voices and ‘minds’ in the body to enable them to find unity of vision from which action naturally flows with ease and joy. Training the conscious mind in this way forces us to slow down and attend to the less desirable parts and voices of ourselves, which is the only way to find true integration and inner harmony. Another name for Somatic Integration Therapy is Somatic Movement Therapy and Education.

Somatic Repatterning of Postural and Behavioural Patterns

People are habitual beings. We are conditioned from a very young age and learn behaviours as we grow up in a particular cultural and social context. These patterns stay with us on an unconscious level until we bring conscious awareness of them and reassess them. This is true for psychological and emotional patterns as well as the way we use our body and hold it in different postural patterns. Take the simple act of sitting. Seldom do we pay a conscious thought of what might be the most resourceful and energy efficient way of using our back and front muscles to sit comfortable upright. Henceforth we develop poor postural habits that contracts muscle groups unnecessarily giving us back pain or collapsed posture. Somatic integration therapy help the client become aware of their current way of moving and acting in the world, whilst gradually supporting them in experiencing how they can do this in a more relaxed and supportive way in line with their body’s structure. The client moves from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence to conscious competence and finally unconscious competence. The somatic therapist gives more input in the start of the re-patterning process but gradually hand it over to the client that becomes more able to move in a way that serves them. Any blockages of emotional or psychological nature are acknowledged and allowed to move through. Moving through this repatterning process with patience and compassion for oneself in is crucial and an attitude of curiosity and willingness to grow is nurtured.

Somatic Meditation and Moving with Mindfulness

It is difficult to simply direct our mind towards a particular area of our body in stillness, but when we move it gets easier to single out specific parts and understand their function in the body. Awareness through movement means being engaged in a process of acting, sensing/perceiving and reflecting. Whatever we learn along the way feeds into our choices and guides our actions. When moving we awaken to sensations of flow, lightness, heaviness, friction, rigidity and expansion in the body. Mindful motion helps us discover areas of the body that are more difficult where we experience lack of mobility, pain or being stuck. Instead of addressing these with frustration and numbing the unease somatic movement integration explores this blockage with curiosity, interested in what it is trying to communicate. Going back to and experiencing an infant movement development pattern in a mindful way can give us new insights, opportunities for further integration and give us new resources for support in our current life. If we explore a specific body part or system somatically through movement it is important to understand its qualities and ‘characteristics’ to fully integrate it with the whole. With the help of attentive touch and bodywork we help the sensations and emotions experienced to guide the process of discovery and moving forward. 

Somatic Therapy Exercises

The aim of somatic exercises is to become mindful of our proprioceptors, the sensory nerves that respond to muscles, tendons and joints stretching, pulling and compressing in the body. They are also sensitive to the head’s position in relation to gravity. Together these sensory nerves make up our kinaesthetic sense, essential for movement coordination and balance, which works in conjunction with the cerebellum (major feature of our hindbrain). By increasing our awareness of areas that previously have been involuntary or unconscious to us we notice more quickly when they become tense or painful. By regaining voluntary control over certain muscle groups through somatic exercises that bring this awareness, we can actively release and relax them when needed. We begin to learn new and more comfortable ways of using our body, naturally finding alignment based on the body’s structure and anatomy. The somatic exercises are many and diverse, yet what they all have in common is the slow mindful manner in which they are carried out to give rise to heightened awareness. For somatic exercises for back pain click here.