How to Do Somatic Exercises

 

Somatic Exercises are the most important part of a clinical Somatics lesson. These simple movement patterns help reinforce the often dramatic changes people are able to make in their muscles and movement during the session. They literally reawaken the nervous system and the brain’s awareness of what it feels like to be in one’s body and how to control muscles and movement. In addition, they enhance immune function, improve breathing, mental focus, reduce muscle tension and stress and improve proprioception and sensory motor function. In order to get these results, it is essential to A) do the self-care homework (Somatic Exercises) and B) do it with awareness and intention.

One of my students, Ales Ernst from Slovenia, had a client who wasn’t enjoying a particular Somatic Exercise. She was rushing through the exercise as if she were at the gym: fast, at maximum strength and without fully relaxing. His advice made all the difference in her experience and awareness:

Imagine that someone is watching you do this movement and they don’t know what you were doing. You would want them to be thinking, “Wow, I think I want to do that as well. It looks really pleasant and enjoyable.” It’s like watching a young child play; you may not know what game they’re playing or what’s going on in their head; you just know they’re having fun. It shows in their body and movement. If you approach your Somatic Exercises in this manner you cannot hurt yourself or over-exert yourself. See if you can make the movement as pleasant as possible.You’ll only learn more about yourself, and the more you learn about yourself the better your life can be.

He gets right to the heart of how to do Somatic Exercises. We understandwhy a Somatic Exercise routine will help us stay flexible and ready for action, but it is the way in which we do our Somatic Movements (ourintention) that makes all the difference. Do we do them because we want to or because we “have to?” Most of us spend a lot of time doing what is expected of us and very little time doing what we want to do.

Stress research has proven that when people feel forced to do something their stress response is heightened. Glucocorticoids (stress hormones) flood the body. When people do something they enjoy (what they want to do) their stress response is low. The more pleasurable something is, the more we want to do it. The more we do it, the better we feel.

Your Somatic Movement practice is a gesture of kindness you make towards yourself. It’s a time to slow down, be mindful, explore, play and, in a sense, return to yourself. Engage with your Somatics practice - whether you do Somatics on the floor or explore fun movements while seated or standing - with an eye towards making it as pleasant as possible.

You just might find yourself doing more of what you want to do in your life instead of only doing what you think you “should” be doing. Ultimately, the choice, as well as the process is yours.

 

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