What is Somatics?

Somatics Even Keel Maine

Somatics is generally understood as being an approach that addresses mind-body integration. Pioneers in the area of Somatics were Moshe Feldenkrais and Thomas Hanna. The term Somatics was coined by Thomas Hanna in the 1970s.

I was first introduced to Somatics during my Physical Therapy training as part of our exposure to “alternative” therapeutic techniques. Since then, I have attended Feldenkrais continuing education courses, and Hanna Somatic techniques have been an integral part of my Yoga Therapy training. Over the years, I have enjoyed using these techniques with Physical Therapy and Yoga Therapy clients, in Therapeutic yoga classes, and for myself when I have suffered from restrictive tightness or discomfort.

The term Somatics is derived from the word somatic, which pertains to awareness of the living body as it is experienced and regulated from the internal environment. Somatics techniques strive to strengthen integration between the mind and body and to decrease restrictions within the mind and / or body.

So, you may be saying to yourself, “That all sounds great, Katey, but I’m still not sure that I understand what Somatics techniques are.” Essentially, Somatics are movement sequences designed to support natural patterns of the body and mind. These movement sequences can be performed as independent exercises or as guided movements with the supportive touch of a Somatics practitioner. Each movement of the sequence is repeated a number of times using small, subtle motions while bringing your attention to any sensations that may arise in your body, breath, or thought patterns. Between each movement in the sequence, you rest quietly. Many of these sequences you can complete in 5-10 minutes. I always encourage individuals to practice these techniques in a quiet, relaxing setting free of distractions and when they are not in a hurry to rush off to something else—this way, the full benefits of these techniques can be experienced.

Frequently people share that they are amazed how doing so little can make such a big difference.  Truly an exercise in the concept of less is more.  

Benefits from Somatics can be many and varied, including:

  • Control of acute and chronic pain
  • Improved flexibility and strength
  • Increased voluntary control over habitually tight muscles
  • Enhanced mobility and coordination
  • Improved posture
  • Re-established normal breathing patterns
  • Improved balance and awareness of the position of one’s body
  • Stress relief and relaxation

Through the practice of Somatics, you can support your mind in becoming more in tune with your body and experience growth, change, and transformation regardless of your health status or age. If you are interested in learning more about Somatics or experiencing Somatics, I encourage you to visit the Hanna and Feldenkrais websites. Find a trained Somatics practitioner or a Physical Therapist or Yoga Therapist in your area who has training in Somatics.

Less is more.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

By Katey Hawes, feature photo licensed from © Can Stock Photo / Elisanth.