Somatic Exercises: The Ultimate Guide to Enhancing Your Well-Being (2024)

Somatic exercises are powerful tools for improving physical, emotional, and mental well-being. By focusing on internal physical perceptions and experiences, these exercises help individuals reconnect with their bodies, release tension, and address various challenges in physical and mental health.

This guide will delve into the world of somatic exercises, providing insights into their benefits and offering practical exercises for pain, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, and more.

Re-origin is a science-backed neuroplasticity and brain retraining program that helps you implement new thoughts and behaviors to reduce the frequency of chronic illness and improve your overall health. If you are interested in learning more, book a free info call.

Introduction to Somatic Exercise

Somatic exercise, also known as "somatic movement", is a type of movement therapy that emphasizes internal physical perception and experience. Somatic exercises are designed to enhance body awareness and improve physical function through mindful movement. These exercises stem from the field of somatics, which focuses on the internal experience of the body ("soma") and the mind-body connection.

The exercises are grounded in the principle that mental and emotional factors can result in physical tension and vice versa. By focusing on the felt sense of movement, individuals can release tension, improve mobility, and foster a deeper sense of connection with their bodies.1

When to Use Somatic Exercise

Somatic exercises can be practiced anytime, anywhere, and at any activity level. They are particularly useful in situations of high stress or anxiety, after long periods of sitting or inactivity, or when experiencing chronic pain. Regular practice can also be a preventive measure, helping to maintain physical and mental health.

Neuroplasticity and Somatic Exercises

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. This capability allows the brain to adjust in response to new information, sensory experiences, development, damage, or dysfunction. Somatic exercises leverage this principle by encouraging new patterns of movement and awareness, which can help rewire the brain's perception of the body and its sensations. When individuals repeatedly practice somatic exercises, they essentially teach their brains to recognize and adopt new, pain-free ways of moving and sensing stimuli.

Mind-Body Connection

The mind-body connection refers to the understanding that mental and physical processes are deeply intertwined. Somatic exercise fosters an acute awareness of physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions, helping individuals to recognize and modify the ways in which their mental states affect their physical bodies. This conscious awareness and integration of mind and body can lead to improved motor, cognitive, and emotional function, as the brain becomes better attuned to the body's needs and potential.

By paying close attention to the body's signals, individuals can learn to identify and correct dysfunctional movement patterns or tensions that may be contributing to pain or reduced function. This mindful engagement helps bridge the gap between mental intention and physical action, leading to more coordinated and efficient movement, and improved emotional awareness.4

Benefits of Somatic Exercise

Somatic movement is designed to enhance bodily awareness and improve physical function through mindful movement. Here are several key objectives of somatic practices:

  1. Increase Bodily Awareness: Somatic exercises help individuals become more aware of their bodily sensations, movements, and positions. This heightened awareness can lead to a better understanding of one's own body, how it functions, and how it responds to stress, tension, and relaxation.4
  2. Release Muscle Tension: Through gentle, controlled movements, somatic exercises aim to release chronic muscle tension that may be contributing to pain, discomfort, or limited mobility. This is often achieved by re-educating the nervous system to stop sending signals that keep muscles tight, allowing for relaxation and ease of movement.4
  3. Improve Movement Efficiency: By focusing on the quality of movement rather than the quantity, somatic exercises encourage more efficient, fluid, and graceful movements. This can lead to improved performance in physical activities, reduced effort in daily tasks, and a decreased risk of injury.4
  4. Enhance Mind-Body Integration: Somatic exercises promote a deeper connection between the mind and the body, helping individuals to integrate their mental and physical experiences and connect more deeply with their internal self. This improved integration can enhance overall health, reduce stress levels, and increase resilience to physical and emotional challenges.3
  5. Facilitate Healing and Recovery: For those recovering from injury or dealing with chronic pain, somatic exercises offer a gentle and effective approach to facilitate healing. By focusing on gentle movements that respect the body's limits, these exercises can help restore function and reduce pain without causing further harm.5
  6. Promote Relaxation and Stress Reduction: The mindful and introspective nature of somatic exercises can have a calming effect on the nervous system. By helping you become more aware of and at peace with your own emotions, it promotes relaxation and a decrease in stress on the body and mind.1 The mental benefits are just as valuable as the physical.5

re-origin's 11 Favorite Free Somatic Exercises

1. The 1-Minute Stress Reliever

This quick stress-busting exercise demonstrated by Katie offers an immediate solution to reduce stress and reconnect with your body. It involves taking deep breaths, internal awareness, and relaxation techniques that can be performed in just 60 seconds, making it perfect for a quick break during a busy day.

2. Eye Yoga for Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Join Ben in this video as he introduces simple eye movements designed to stimulate the vagus nerve, which plays a crucial role in regulating stress responses. This practice not only helps reduce stress but also combats the negative effects of prolonged screen time.

3. Get Rid of Nervous Energy With Body Shaking

Katie guides viewers through a body-shaking exercise to release nervous energy and tension. This technique, inspired by natural responses found in animals, is an effective way to connect with the present moment by making a mind-body connection before or after stressful situations.

4. Get "Unstuck" With This Brain-Based Movement

Ben demonstrates circular brain-based movements designed to break through mental stagnation and boost energy levels. This exercise encourages gentle movement patterns with fluidity and motion, countering feelings of being stuck or overwhelmed.

5. Burn Off Excess Cortisol & Decrease Anxiety

This video with Katie showcases four large body movements that help to burn off cortisol, the stress hormone, and decrease anxiety levels. It's a quick and accessible way to achieve a sense of calm and stress relief.

6. 2 Minute Body Scan To Enhance Brain-Body Connection

Katie introduces a two-minute body scan exercise aimed at strengthening the brain-body connection by bringing awareness to various bodily sensations without judgement.

7. Quickly Calm Your Nervous System with Lymphatic Stimulation

In this video, Ben explores lymphatic stimulation techniques for immediate relaxation and anxiety relief, offering a practical approach to calming the nervous system and improving mental health.

8. Decrease Anxiety in 90 Seconds With Grounding

Join Katie as she demonstrates a quick and effective grounding exercise to alleviate anxiety and overwhelm, providing an express route to tranquility in just 90 seconds.

9. Release Tension & Stress with Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Explore the art of Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) with Katie, a technique aimed at improving body awareness and releasing deep-seated stress by progressively tensing then relaxing a specific muscle group.

10. 3 Gentle Yoga Poses to Decrease Anxiety

Katie shares three gentle yoga poses specifically selected to combat anxiety and foster a sense of calm and grounding. All forms of yoga is considered somatic movement, so this is a great tool to introduce yourself to specific somatic techniques.

11. Reset Your Nervous System With Bilateral Stimulation

Join Ben as he demonstrates bilateral stimulation techniques to balance the brain's hemispheres and achieve a calm, focused state, suitable for moments of stress or when needing to find flow.

More Somatic Movement for Anxiety or Trauma

Both anxiety and trauma can be stored in the body, leading to physical and emotional discomfort. Somatic exercises for trauma focus on gently releasing this stored tension and aiding the healing process. These exercises should be approached with care, and professional guidance is highly recommended for individuals with severe trauma or unresolved emotional issues.

  • Diaphragmatic Breaths: Focus on deep, slow breaths that engage the diaphragm, promoting relaxation and reducing the fight-or-flight response. Intentionally slow your exhales to be longer than your inhales. Try a 4-count inhale paired with a 6-count exhale.
  • Body Scans: Lie down and mentally scan your body, gradually bringing your awareness to each part. Notice any sensations you are experiencing without judgment, and consciously release physical tension you may feel.5
  • Somatic Stretches: Perform slow, mindful stretches, paying attention to how each physical sensation feels in your body without judgment.
  • Grounding Exercises: Techniques such as standing barefoot on the ground, focusing on the sensation of the earth beneath you, can help restore a sense of safety, stability, and presence.5
  • Pendulation: This involves gently moving between states of tension and relaxation in various body parts, allowing the body to gradually release trauma-related energy.5
  • Resourcing: Aimed at helping individuals remember sources of calm and safety in their lives, such as significant people and places.5

Titration: This involves navigating through a traumatic memory and observing any physical reactions, addressing these sensations as they occur.5

Implementing Somatic Exercise into Your Routine

Incorporating somatic exercise into your daily routine doesn't require extensive time commitments or special equipment. Start with a few minutes each day, focusing on exercises that resonate with your body's needs. Pay attention to how different movements affect your physical and emotional state. As you improve self awareness around your physical and emotional needs, adjust your routine accordingly.

Seeking Professional Guidance with Somatic Therapy

While somatic exercises can be beneficial for many, those with severe trauma or a tendency towards dissociation should seek professional guidance from a qualified somatic therapist or somatic experiencing practitioner.6 A trained somatic therapist can offer personalized support and ensure that exercises are performed safely and effectively based on how your mind and body feels.

Somatic therapy combines talk therapy with somatic movement, offering a holistic approach to healing. A somatic therapist assists individuals in releasing harmful, accumulated emotions stored in their bodies through a variety of mind-body practices. These practices encompass a broad spectrum, including acupressure, hypnosis, breathwork, and dance.6

Discover the Transformative Power of Somatic Exercises with Re-Origin

Somatic exercises offer a path toward healing and well-being that honors the intricate connection between mind and body. Whether you're seeking relief from chronic pain, healing from trauma, or simply aiming to enhance your overall health, these exercises provide valuable tools for nurturing yourself.

If you are looking for more ways to better manage chronic stress, illness, or mental health, re-origin offers a science backed neuroplasticity and brain retraining program designed to help you shift your thoughts and behaviors to improve your overall health. Book a free info call to learn more.

Somatic Exercises: The Ultimate Guide to Enhancing Your Well-Being (2024)


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