Exploring Somatic Therapy – 3 Somatic Exercises To Improve Wellbeing And Mind-Body Connection (2024)

Written by: Laurie Bedard, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Exploring Somatic Therapy – 3 Somatic Exercises To Improve Wellbeing And Mind-Body Connection (1)

In today's modern world, where stress and emotional imbalances are prevalent, the mental health sphere continually seeks innovative approaches to restore wellbeing and achieve a harmonious mind-body connection. One groundbreaking method gaining significant traction is somatic therapy, a holistic therapeutic treatment designed to facilitate mind-body integration. Rooted in the understanding that the body and mind are interconnected and impact each other profoundly, somatic therapy focuses on the embodied experience as a pathway to healing and wellness.

Exploring Somatic Therapy – 3 Somatic Exercises To Improve Wellbeing And Mind-Body Connection (2)

What is somatic therapy?

Somatic therapy emphasizes the critical role of the body in our overall health and well-being. It is based on the principle of the mind-body connection, recognizing that our physical bodies are not separate from our mental and emotional selves. Instead, they are integrally connected, each influencing the other.

The term 'somatic' is derived from the Greek word 'soma,' meaning 'the living body.' Somatic therapy treats the body as a key element in the therapeutic process, placing equal importance on physical sensations and emotional experiences. This therapeutic approach distinguishes it from other forms of therapy that may primarily focus on thoughts, emotions, or behavioral patterns.

At its core, somatic therapy posits that our bodies hold on to past traumas, with these experiences manifesting as physical symptoms such as tension, chronic pain, or discomfort. These physical manifestations are the body's way of communicating that it's still dealing with unresolved issues.

In a typical somatic therapy session, therapists guide individuals to tune into their physical sensations or 'somatic experiences.' This may involve mindful body scanning, breathwork, movement, or other physical techniques. The aim is to cultivate a deep body awareness, helping individuals recognize where trauma or stress is stored in the body and supporting them to release this tension.

By promoting somatic awareness, this therapy helps individuals to reconnect with their bodies, understand its signals, and respond with nurturing and compassionate care. This mind-body integration can result in more effective processing and releasing of trauma, leading to significant improvements in physical and emotional health.

Overall, somatic therapy offers a comprehensive, holistic approach to healing. By recognizing and addressing the physical manifestations of trauma and emotional distress, it enables a profound transformation in individuals' well-being and quality of life.

How somatic therapy helps release trauma

Somatic therapy operates on the understanding that trauma is not just a psychological experience, but also a physical one. Trauma can create changes in the brain and nervous system, leading to physical symptoms such as tension, chronic pain, and various stress responses. These physical manifestations are often the body's way of protecting itself, but over time, they can become chronic and debilitating.

In somatic therapy, therapists guide individuals to tune into these physical sensations and experiences, a process often referred to as 'somatic awareness.' They may use various techniques such as mindful body scanning, movement exercises, touch, breathwork, and voice work to help individuals identify and explore these physical sensations.

By increasing body awareness, individuals can recognize where they're holding trauma in their bodies. The process of carefully and safely exploring these sensations can help to release the stored trauma. Over time, this can lead to reduced physical symptoms, improved emotional well-being, and enhanced self-regulation skills.

Unraveling the science behind somatic therapy

To appreciate the transformative power of somatic therapy, it's important to understand some neurobiology basics. The human nervous system, including the brain and the body, works in a coordinated manner to regulate our responses to the world. This interconnection suggests that physical sensations and movements can affect our mental state, and vice versa.

The key to somatic therapy lies in a process called interoception – our ability to sense and interpret signals within our body. Interoception is the mechanism through which we understand and react to our internal bodily states, from recognizing hunger to interpreting emotions. Studies show that improved interoceptive awareness can lead to better emotional regulation, reduced anxiety, and overall enhanced mental health.

Moreover, somatic therapy taps into our inherent body memory – the way our bodies 'remember' experiences not only at a cognitive level but also in the form of physical patterns or habits. By accessing these patterns and promoting healthier responses, somatic therapy can instigate profound psychological change.

Now, how do these techniques help in releasing trauma? Trauma often leads to disconnection from the body, as the body's sensations can become associated with painful or distressing experiences. Somatic therapy techniques aim to gently and safely re-establish this connection, helping individuals become more attuned to their physical sensations and responses.

The spectrum of benefits offered by somatic therapy

By bridging the mind-body gap, somatic therapy provides an array of benefits. It promotes self-awareness, helping individuals understand their emotions and responses more clearly. This heightened self-awareness can lead to better emotional regulation, improved coping mechanisms, and enhanced resilience.

Somatic therapy is also an effective tool in stress management. Through techniques like grounding and resourcing, it helps shift the body from a state of stress or hyperarousal to a state of relaxation and safety. This shift not only reduces immediate feelings of anxiety or discomfort but also helps rewire the nervous system over time for better stress response. By gently and gradually guiding awareness to body sensations related to past distress, somatic therapy facilitates the processing and release of these 'stuck' experiences, fostering healing and personal growth.

Key somatic therapy exercises for wellbeing

Somatic therapy encompasses a broad range of techniques and exercises. Here are 3 of the most common somatic exercises that you can practice for improved wellbeing:

Body Scanning: This involves bringing mindful awareness to different parts of the body, noticing sensations, tensions, or discomfort. It helps individuals connect with their bodies and identify areas where they may be storing trauma.

  • Find a quiet and comfortable space: Choose a quiet environment where you can sit or lie down comfortably without distractions. You may want to dim the lights or play soothing background music if it helps create a relaxing atmosphere.

  • Assume a comfortable posture: Sit or lie down in a position that allows you to be relaxed yet alert. You can choose to close your eyes or keep them gently focused on a specific point in front of you.

  • Take a few deep breaths: Begin by taking a few slow, deep breaths. Inhale deeply through your nose, feeling your abdomen rise, and exhale slowly through your mouth, releasing any tension or stress with each breath.

  • Start with awareness of your feet: Begin directing your attention to your feet. Notice any sensations, such as warmth, tingling, or contact with the floor. Allow your awareness to fully explore the physical sensations in your feet without judgment or trying to change anything.

  • Move up through your body: Gradually shift your attention from your feet to other parts of your body, moving systematically. Progress to your lower legs, knees, thighs, hips, abdomen, chest, back, shoulders, arms, hands, neck, and finally, your head. Take your time with each area, observing any sensations or discomfort that arise.

  • Observe without judgment: As you scan each body part, cultivate an attitude of non-judgmental observation. Notice any sensations, tensions, or areas of comfort. Be curious about what you discover, but refrain from labeling anything as good or bad.

  • Release tension: If you encounter areas of tension or discomfort, bring your awareness to those specific areas and consciously try to soften and release any unnecessary tension. You can imagine your breath flowing into those areas, allowing them to relax and let go.

  • Stay present: Throughout the body scan, it's common for your mind to wander or get caught up in thoughts. When you notice this happening, gently bring your attention back to the body part you were focusing on, without judgment. The key is to stay present and attentive to your physical sensations.

  • Conclude with a full-body awareness: Once you've completed the scan of your entire body, take a few moments to expand your awareness to encompass your body as a whole. Feel the connection between your body and the surface supporting you. Notice the overall sensations and energy in your body.

  • End with gratitude: Take a moment to appreciate the time you've dedicated to this practice and the opportunity to connect with your body. Express gratitude for your body's resilience and ability to support you in your daily life.

Grounding: Grounding techniques, such as focusing on the feeling of your feet on the floor, can help reduce feelings of anxiety and promote a sense of stability and connection with the present moment.

  • Find a comfortable position: Start by finding a comfortable position either sitting or standing. If sitting, ensure your feet are flat on the ground and your back is straight. If standing, keep your feet shoulder-width apart and relax your shoulders.

  • Notice your breath: Begin by taking a few deep breaths, inhaling slowly through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Pay attention to the sensation of the breath entering and leaving your body. Allow each breath to help you relax and become present in the moment.

  • Connect with your body: Shift your attention to your body. Feel the weight of your body on the chair or the sensation of your feet touching the ground. Become aware of any physical sensations, such as the pressure of the floor against your feet or the warmth in your hands.

  • Focus on your senses: Engage your senses to ground yourself in the present moment. Notice what you see around you, the colors, shapes, and textures. Listen to the sounds in your environment, whether it's the hum of appliances or the chirping of birds outside. Feel the textures of objects around you, such as the fabric of your clothes or the smoothness of a nearby surface. Take a moment to smell any scents in the air and taste any lingering flavors in your mouth.

  • Explore the sensations in your body: Shift your attention inward and scan your body for any sensations. Notice any areas of tension or relaxation. Observe the physical sensations without judgment, simply acknowledging them.

  • Grounding through the senses: Choose one or more senses to focus on as an anchor for grounding. For example, you can concentrate on the feeling of your feet on the ground or the sensation of your breath entering and leaving your body. Use these sensations as a point of reference to bring your attention back to the present whenever your mind starts to wander.

  • Engage in physical grounding: Engaging in physical movements can further enhance grounding. For instance, you can gently tap your thighs or arms, stomp your feet on the ground, or give yourself a gentle hug. These actions help bring your awareness to your body and create a sense of stability and connection.

  • Affirmations or mantras: Repeat positive affirmations or mantras to yourself that promote a sense of groundedness and stability. For example, you can silently say, "I am rooted and secure in this present moment" or "I am connected to the earth and grounded in my body."

  • Take your time: Allow yourself to stay in this grounded state for as long as you need. There is no rush. If at any point you feel overwhelmed, take a break, and return to the exercise when you're ready.

  • Practice regularly: Incorporate grounding exercises into your daily routine to build a strong foundation of connection with your body and the present moment. The more you practice, the easier it becomes to access a grounded state when you need it most.

Breathing Exercises: Controlled breathing exercises can have a direct calming effect on the nervous system, reducing feelings of stress and anxiety.

  • Find a comfortable position: Sit in a comfortable and upright position. You can sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground or cross-legged on a cushion, whichever is most comfortable for you. Rest your hands on your thighs or place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest.

  • Relax your body: Close your eyes or keep them softly focused on a point in front of you. Take a moment to relax your body and release any tension you may be holding. Let your shoulders drop and soften your facial muscles.

  • Deep belly breathing: Begin by taking a slow, deep breath in through your nose. As you inhale, allow your abdomen to expand fully. Feel your diaphragm descending, filling your lungs with air. Let your breath flow naturally and effortlessly, without forcing it.

  • Exhale fully: Gently exhale through your nose, allowing your abdomen to naturally contract as you release the breath. Focus on the sensation of letting go and releasing any tension or stress with each exhalation.

  • Establish a rhythm: Continue this deep belly breathing pattern, inhaling deeply and exhaling fully. Establish a comfortable rhythm that feels natural to you. You can count to yourself, inhaling for a count of four and exhaling for a count of four, or adjust the timing based on what feels most comfortable.

  • Notice the sensations: As you continue the breathwork, bring your attention to the sensations in your body. Notice the rise and fall of your abdomen with each breath. Be present with the feeling of the air entering and leaving your body. Pay attention to any subtle shifts or changes in your body as you breathe.

  • Grounding through the breath: Use your breath as an anchor to the present moment. Whenever your mind begins to wander or thoughts arise, gently guide your focus back to the sensation of the breath. Allow the breath to ground you and bring you back to the present.

  • Explore variations: Once you feel comfortable with the basic deep belly breathing, you can explore variations. For instance, you can experiment with extending the length of your exhales, making them longer than your inhales. This can help activate the relaxation response in your nervous system and promote further relaxation.

  • Gradual transition: After practicing breathwork for a desired duration, begin to transition back to regular breathing. Take a few natural, gentle breaths, allowing your breath to return to its normal rhythm. Notice any changes in your body and how you feel after the practice.

  • Reflect and integrate: Take a moment to reflect on your breathwork experience. Notice any shifts in your body, emotions, or mental state. Consider how this practice can support you in managing stress, promoting relaxation, and connecting with your body in your daily life.

Embracing somatic therapy can be a transformative journey towards improved mental health and wellbeing. By tuning into our bodies, we not only foster self-understanding and healing but also rediscover the joy of a harmonious mind-body connection that promotes overall wellness.

As individuals learn to tune into their bodies, they can start to recognize areas of tension or discomfort that may be related to stored trauma. Techniques like mindful body scanning, touch, or movement can help release this tension and the associated emotional distress.

Breathwork can be especially helpful in regulating the nervous system, shifting the body out of a state of 'fight, flight, or freeze' – common responses to trauma – and into a state of rest and recovery.

Ultimately, by promoting body awareness, releasing physical tension, and fostering a greater sense of embodiment, somatic therapy techniques can play a powerful role in healing from trauma.

Unleashing the power of somatic therapy for wellbeing

If you are considering somatic therapy, it's essential to find a qualified practitioner who aligns with your needs and goals. Somatic therapists can have different backgrounds and certifications, including somatic experiencing practitioners, body-oriented psychotherapists, or professionals trained in specific somatic modalities.

Take the time to research and seek recommendations from trusted sources to find a therapist who resonates with you. A good therapist will create a safe and supportive environment for your somatic therapy journey, guiding you through the process of self-discovery and healing.

Somatic therapy offers a holistic and effective approach to address a wide range of mental health concerns. By acknowledging the intricate relationship between the body and mind, somatic therapy allows individuals to tap into their innate capacity for healing and growth.

Whether you are seeking relief from stress, healing from trauma, or a deeper connection with your body, somatic therapy can provide a transformative path towards improved mental health and overall wellbeing. Through various exercises and techniques, somatic therapy empowers individuals to develop self-awareness, regulate emotions, and foster a harmonious mind-body connection.

If this has piqued your interest, consider joining our upcoming healing retreat in Tulum, Mexico, from January 7 to January 14, 2024. Registration is now open and early bird prices are available! This retreat offers a transformative experience, combining therapeutic practices including somatic exercises, self-reflection, and a stunning natural environment for an immersive healing journey. Visit here.

Those who are looking for online one on one or group therapy for a variety of mental health issues including; anxiety, depression, trauma, symptoms manifesting from childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault and live in Canada can book an appointment here.

For those interested in booking a 1, 2, or 3-hour workshop covering a variety of mental health topics can write to me here for more information.

Follow LJB and Associates Counseling Services and Laurie on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Youtube, and visit her website for more info!

Read more from Laurie!

Exploring Somatic Therapy – 3 Somatic Exercises To Improve Wellbeing And Mind-Body Connection (3)

Laurie Bedard, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Laurie Bedard is an experienced educator, certified clinical counselor, and the founder and director of LJB and Associates Counselling services. LJB and Counseling services is a private practice that offers individual counseling, psychoeducational workshops, and co-facilitates neuroscientific mental health retreats in Mexico and Portugal with Anna Li, CEO of Healing Journey Retreats.

As a survivor or childhood sexual abuse, Laurie suffered with anxiety and depression for most of her young life into adulthood. She has devoted her teaching and counseling career to creating a safe space for her clients and/or students to be who they are.

An introvert and deeply introspective, Laurie connects to her spirit and makes sense of the world through her writing. Apart from being an executive contributor with the online magazine Brainz, she writes The Psych Prof blog, and is a contributing author to the book BROKEN: Women Breaking Ancestral Chains and Generational Cycles to Create a Brighter Future Themselves and Their Families

When she isn’t counseling, teaching or writing, you can find her hanging out with her husband and 5 grown boys, snowboarding or hiking.

Exploring Somatic Therapy – 3 Somatic Exercises To Improve Wellbeing And Mind-Body Connection (2024)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Merrill Bechtelar CPA

Last Updated:

Views: 6624

Rating: 5 / 5 (50 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Merrill Bechtelar CPA

Birthday: 1996-05-19

Address: Apt. 114 873 White Lodge, Libbyfurt, CA 93006

Phone: +5983010455207

Job: Legacy Representative

Hobby: Blacksmithing, Urban exploration, Sudoku, Slacklining, Creative writing, Community, Letterboxing

Introduction: My name is Merrill Bechtelar CPA, I am a clean, agreeable, glorious, magnificent, witty, enchanting, comfortable person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.