What is Somatics? The difference between breathwork and movement...and why I'm so inspired.
Updated: Feb 15, 2020
"A body is a field of moving energy and a system of information...we tend to gather attachments, burdens and sorrows. We hold them so tightly that they become embedded in the body, causing blockages and disruptions in the flow of our system, which can limit access to the best possible versions of ourselves." - inward -by yung pueblo.
Somatics comes from the latin word Soma' which means 'the body as perceived from within'.
Straight from Wikipedia, 'Somatics is a field within bodywork and movement studies which emphasizes internal physical perception and experience. In dance, the term refers to techniques based on the dancer's internal sensations in contrast with 'performative techniques. Somatic techniques may be used in bodywork, psychotherapy, dance and spiritual practices.'
There are many ways that people and practitioners use somatic practices to enhance their lives or work. In reality, we engage with this everyday in life, sensing when we are hungry or tired, knowing we need to go to the bathroom, feeling butterflies or a knot in our stomachs, sensing tension, pain or pleasure....the list goes on and on. You can fold your laundry in a 'somatic way' and you can also do yoga with hardly any felt inner sense (perhaps focusing on how things look while getting a workout or figuring out how to get into some fun, challenging postures). It's really about how you attend while doing things, not what you do.
And most of us are unconscious to the majority of it.
For those that are stressed and running through life, there's little time to pause and feel. People who have suffered certain types of trauma may feel numb to many sensations in their bodies as a way of protecting themselves (nervous system freeze response). Perhaps we've just never taken the time to pay much attention, occupied with all that life has to present.
Why am I so interested in Somatics? So much so that I re-branded my 10 yr business?
The more I know about myself (my tendencies, unconscious beliefs, my triggers and intentions, the wiser human being (parent, wife, teacher, community person, friend, daughter...) I am able to keep becoming.
I believe that the amount of freedom and ease in my life is directly proportional to my ability to be self aware.
A gross level example is if I feel pain while jogging, I stop and walk and stretch or move things until they feel 'right' and try again. If the pain persists, I'm fine with walking. If the discomfort persists, I might do some Bodymind Ballwork, rest or seek out some therapy. On a subtler level, if I sense the knot in my stomach that signals I'm not ok with what that someone just said. I choose to (key word is 'choose', not 'unconsciously') disengage, or perhaps (if I'm brave), I speak up about how I'm feeling. And if I'm aware of my own triggers, social conditioning and beliefs and biases, I might even speak up with some wisdom.
So what is Somatic or Numa Breathwork?
There are numerous methods of conscious connected or circular breathwork all with varying approaches and techniques. In 2018, I started studying Numa Breathwork with Trevor Yelich of Numa Somatics Integrated Breathwork Therapy. According to Trevor, 'Numa Breathwork is is a tranformational practice that strategically weaves together the power of Conscious Breathwork, somatic movement explorations, mindful somatic inquiry, and sound vibration. It is a psychosomatic therapeutic process, an insightful dive into non-ordinary states of consciousness and a catalyst to resolve suffering.'
What that means to me is through conscious connected breathwork and felt sense, it's possible to release stored tension, access suppressed and repressed memories, finish and integrate incomplete events in our lives that create unease, and perhaps experience what we never thought was possible. It's an opportunity to get to know yourself and some of the subconscious directors of your actions and inactions.
'By honoring these experiences, owning them, and feeling them, we can detoxify them. They lose their ability to overpower, hurt or overwhelm. We can come to feel more complete, more alive, more empathetic and more generous with those who have similarly suffered'. - Alan Fogel, Body Sense, The Science and Practice of Embodied Self Awareness.
In a somatic breathwork session, a client lies down (on foam pad or massage table) and is coached to breath in a particular pattern that facilitates entering a state of consciousness whereby they sense stored tension, gain insight and ideally, integrate or release past events. As a facilitator, I guide and hold space for the various experiences that arise for different people. More info about this practice.
And what is somatic movement? (Hint...we move!)
In somatic movement, participants are guided within and invited to both sense as they move and move from felt sense. It is sometimes described as mindfulness in motion. Similar to breathwork, different methods have different intentions, techniques and cues.
Out of a desire to learn more, in May 2019 I began studying SomaSensing Intuitive Somatic Therapy with Yasmin Lambat. As a somatic educator, her method is based on decades of personal movement practice, current fascia research, and trauma physiology (polyvagal theory). It arose from helping people with their chronic pain and health conditions, along with her own wellness journey.
We now know that so many diseases are made worse (if not caused by) stress and nervous system dysregulation. Chronic and acute stress, trauma (of all kinds, which there are many) are now being linked to from symptoms like insomnia and irritable bowel to fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, cancer and heart disease. I'm not providing a bunch of research links for this statement, but feel free to check out some books I referenced in my last blog titled 'Interoception, Agency and Asking for What You Need.'
'Awareness also means learning what the signs of stress are in our own bodies, how are bodies telegraph us when our minds have missed the cues.'- Gabor Mate, When The Body Says No. The Cost of hidden stress.
A keystone practice in SomaSensing is pandiculation (spontaneous expansion and release that mimics a body yawn), which rejuvenates fascia (connective tissue), tones the vagus nerve (which stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system and moves us out of fight/flight and into rest and digest mode) and spontaneously releases the diaphragm. Ah......and now we are breathing better.
'The ability to become normally absorbed in or own experience -far from being selfish and insular - is an act of love.' - Alan Fogel , Body Sense