Somatic therapy is a form of bodywork that focuses on stress’s physical and emotional manifestations. It is based on the idea that physical symptoms are often caused by emotional distress, which manifests in the body as tension and pain. Somatic therapists believe that our mental, emotional, and physical processes are connected and contribute to our overall well-being.
The therapist uses various somatic therapy exercises to access and process emotions, memories, and trauma stored in a person’s body. These exercises focus on the connection between the mind and body. They can treat various mental health concerns, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and addiction. This blog aims to highlight what somatic therapy is all about, what it can help with, and how it works.
Somatic Therapy Exercises for Grounding and Relaxation
Deep breathing is a natural way to relax, and it’s easy to do. Breathing exercises can help you feel better both physically and mentally. Deep breathing helps you relax your body and mind by increasing the amount of oxygen in your blood. It also brings more fresh air into your lungs, improving your health by helping you breathe more easily.
Here are some deep breathing exercises that can help you:
- Breathe for five seconds, hold your breath for five seconds, then breathe out for five seconds. Repeat this cycle six times per minute (once every 15 seconds).
- Breathe in through your nose, hold for a count of three, then breathe out through your mouth slowly as far as possible.
- Sit or lie down comfortably with eyes closed and place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach (or use a belt around the waist). When breathing in through the nose, push out gently against the hand placed on the chest; when breathing out through the mouth slowly as far as possible, push out gently against the hand placed on the stomach area.
Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a bodily therapy exercise to reduce stress and anxiety. It involves tightening and relaxing major muscle groups in the body one by one, with each contraction held for ten seconds. Each muscle group is then allowed to relax for several seconds before moving on to the next muscle group.
Here’s how progressive muscle relaxation can be done:
- Lie down or sit comfortably with your back straight but not stiff. Close your eyes if this feels more comfortable for you.
- Tense each muscle group for 10 seconds, then release it for about 20 seconds before moving on to the next.
- Start with your feet, toes, and ankles, then move up through each set of muscles until you reach your face and jaw.
The body scan is a meditation practice in which you focus on the physical sensations in your body. It’s an excellent way to relax and become more aware of the present moment. To do a body scan:
- Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for at least 15 minutes. Sit on the floor with your legs crossed, or lie down flat. If you’re sitting up, place a pillow under your head so that it feels comfortable.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to relax before starting the exercise. Focus on one part of your body at a time, paying attention to sensations such as warmth, coldness, or pain in each region separately.
- Try not to judge the sensations — observe them without reacting negatively if they seem uncomfortable. Start at your toes and work up through all parts of your body until you reach your head.
- When you reach an area where you feel tension or discomfort, try massaging it gently but firmly with both hands until it feels better (or until it’s time to move on).
Grounding exercises can be helpful for individuals who are feeling disconnected from their bodies or surroundings. These exercises involve bringing attention to the present moment and the physical sensations in the body.
One example of a grounding exercise is the “5-4-3-2-1” exercise. It is a simple grounding technique that can be helpful for individuals who are feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or disconnected from their body or surroundings. This exercise involves identifying and naming five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
Here’s how to do the “5-4-3-2-1” exercise:
- Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or stand.
- Begin by taking a few deep breaths to center yourself and bring your attention to the present moment.
- Look around and identify five things you can see. Name each item to yourself or out loud, and try to be as specific as possible. For example, you might say, “I see a green plant on the windowsill,” or “I see a red car parked outside.”
- Next, identify four things you can touch. Name each item to yourself or out loud, and focus on the physical sensation of touching it. For example, you might say, “I can feel the texture of the carpet beneath my feet,” or “I can feel the smooth surface of the table.”
- Identify three things you can hear. Name each sound to yourself or out loud, and focus on the quality and tone of each sound. For example, you might say, “I can hear the sound of birds chirping outside,” or “I can hear the sound of the clock ticking.”
- Identify two things you can smell. Name each scent to yourself or out loud, and try to be as specific as possible. For example, you might say, “I can smell the aroma of coffee brewing,” or “I can smell the fresh scent of flowers.”
- Finally, identify one thing you can taste. Name the taste to yourself or out loud, and focus on the sensation of the taste in your mouth. For example, you might say, “I can taste the sweetness of the mint gum I’m chewing,” or “I can taste the bitterness of the coffee I just drank.”
Yoga or stretching
Yoga and stretching exercises are a form of body therapy often used to help people relax and recover from stress. The movements and poses stretch the body and improve flexibility, balance, strength, and endurance. Here are a few examples of yoga and stretching exercises that can be used as bodily therapy exercises:
1. Child’s Pose:
Child’s Pose can help to release tension in the lower back, hips, and thighs. To do this, Pose on your hands and knees, then lower your hips toward your heels and stretch your arms forward. Rest your forehead on the floor and breathe deeply, focusing on the sensation of your breath in your body.
2. Forward Fold:
Forward Fold helps release neck, shoulders, and back tension. To do this pose, stand with your feet hip-width apart, bend forward, and let your head and arms hang down toward the floor. Breathe deeply and focus on the sensation of stretching in your hamstrings and back.
3. Cat-Cow Stretch:
Cat-Cow Stretch can help to release tension in the spine and improve flexibility. To do this stretch, start on your hands and knees, arch your back, drop your head down (Cat Pose), and then round your spine and lift your head (Cow Pose). Repeat this movement slowly and smoothly, focusing on the sensation of your spine moving.
4. Shoulder Rolls:
Shoulder Rolls help to release tension in the shoulders and neck. To do this exercise, stand with your arms at your sides and roll your shoulders forward and up, then back and down in a circular motion. Repeat this movement slowly and smoothly, focusing on the sensation of your shoulder blades moving.
5. Sun Salutation:
Sun Salutation is a series of yoga poses that helps to promote relaxation and increase flexibility. To do this sequence, start in Mountain Pose, raise your arms overhead, and stretch your whole body upward (Upward Salute).
Fold forward and touch the ground (Forward Fold), then step back into a plank pose, lower yourself to the ground (Chaturanga), then raise your head and chest off the ground (Cobra). Push up into Downward-Facing Dog, and hold the Pose for several breaths. Repeat the sequence several times, focusing on the sensation of stretching and breathing deeply.
Somatic Therapy Exercises for Releasing Tension and Emotions
Emotional Release Movement
Emotional Release Movement is a gentle somatic therapy that focuses on the body as a whole system. It is based on the understanding that the physical body and its movements are connected to the emotional and mental aspects of our being. The exercise combines movement, breath, and intention to create an experience that brings up emotions and memories. Through this process, an individual can release stuck energy and access more of their potential.
Follow the below steps to do this exercise:
- Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart. Then, close your eyes and focus on your breath.
- Start to move your body in any way that feels natural to you, allowing any emotions that arise to be expressed through your movement.
Shaking is a somatic therapy technique that can be used to treat trauma. It involves shaking the body for a few minutes to release emotional energy and stimulate circulation. The idea behind shaking is that it helps release emotional energy stored in the body by stimulating circulation (blood flow). It also helps us become aware of our bodies, so we can learn how they respond to different situations. To do this,
- Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart.
- Close your eyes and start shaking your body from your feet up through your head, allowing any tension or emotions to be released.
Somatic Therapy Exercises for Body Awareness and Mindfulness
Body mapping is a technique that helps individuals become more aware of their bodily sensations and emotions and how these sensations relate to past experiences and trauma. It involves creating a visual map of the body and using it to explore and understand physical sensations and emotions. Through this process, individuals can learn to regulate their emotions better and improve their overall well-being.
Body mapping typically involves several steps, which may include:
- Creating a visual map of the body: The therapist or individual creates a visual representation of the body, often using a large piece of paper or other art materials.
- Identifying bodily sensations: The individual is encouraged to explore bodily sensations and identify areas of the body where they feel tension, discomfort, or other physical sensations.
- Identifying emotions: The individual is also encouraged to identify and name emotions that arise in connection with specific bodily sensations.
- Exploring connections: The therapist and individual work together to explore the connections between bodily sensations, emotions, and past experiences or trauma.
- Developing self-awareness: Through body mapping and exploration, individuals can develop greater self-awareness and learn to regulate their emotions better.
- Building coping skills: The therapist may also work with the individual to develop coping skills and strategies for managing difficult emotions or physical sensations that arise in the future.
Sensory awareness is used to help people become aware of their sensory functioning and how this influences their feelings, thoughts, and behavior. It can be helpful for people who struggle with anxiety and depression and those who have experienced trauma or abuse. It can also be helpful for people who are seeking greater self-understanding or are interested in exploring body-mind work.
The steps in sensory awareness somatic exercise are:
- Take deep breaths and relax your shoulders, neck, and jaw muscles.
- Focus on your feet and feel the floor under them. Please pay attention to where they are in space and how they feel against the floor or ground.
- Now focus on your legs, arms, and hands. Notice where they are in space and how they feel against each other or against any other objects they may be resting on.
- Bring your attention up through your torso until you reach your head; notice where it is in space and how it feels against anything it may be resting on (e.g., a pillow).
How to Get Started With Somatic Therapy Exercises?
Somatic therapy exercises are designed to improve the relationship between your body, mind, and emotions. Here are some tips to get started.
- Find a therapist or somatic coach to teach you the basics. Somatic therapy is a specialized form of therapy, so it’s essential to find a therapist who is trained in somatic techniques. You can search online for somatic therapists in your area or ask for referrals from your healthcare provider, friends, and family.
- Make sure they have a good reputation and experience working with clients. You can also ask them about their training and certification process — this is especially important if they’re not licensed therapists.
- Ask questions and ensure you understand what’s being taught before moving on to new exercises and techniques. This will help ensure you get the most out of the sessions and don’t waste time doing something wrong or ineffective.
- Listen to your body responding to each exercise, paying attention to what feels good or bad at any given moment (e.g., pain, discomfort, or pleasure). If something hurts, stop doing it immediately — there’s no point in continuing if it causes pain!
- Be open and honest. Somatic therapy can involve exploring emotions and past experiences that may be uncomfortable or difficult to discuss. It’s essential to be open and honest with your therapist so that they can provide you with the support and guidance you need.
It can be difficult to adequately address past traumas, especially if you have no idea where to start. If you’re curious about somatic therapy and the types of exercises used in this practice, consider this your starting point. Somatic therapists recognize that trauma doesn’t stay in mind; it also finds its way into the body.
By working with your body’s responses to past stressors and traumas, these specialists can help break these cycles. By trying out these exercises yourself, you can also get a feel for how somatic therapy can work to heal your mind and body with just a little bit of effort.
- Brom, D., Stokar, Y. N., Lawi, C., Nuriel-Porat, V., Ziv, Y., Lerner, K., & Ross, G. (2017). Somatic Experiencing for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Outcome Study. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 30(3), 304–312. https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.22189
No Comment! Be the first one.