Friday, January 15, 2010

Somatics: Living in Our Bodies

Have you ever gotten a glance of yourself in a mirror or photograph and were surprised at what you saw? Or perhaps you were not surprised to see your shoulders slouched forward or your chin jutting out or whatever your idiosyncratic postural habits might be.

We remind ourselves then to sit up straight, pull the shoulders back and resolve to be more mindful about posture. We will it to happen. Only it doesn't. Or at least, it doesn't happen for long. For as soon as we stop thinking about correcting our posture, we slide back into our familiar posture.

We cannot improve our alignment by putting on a "posture suit."

After all, these patterns we have established are our familiar experience- they make us feel at home in our body, even if they are uncomfortable, locked down or painful. For whatever reason, and for a multitude of reasons, we experience our bodies in the way that we do. Perhaps we are holding onto old patterns that once served a good purpose, but are no longer needed. For example, maybe we protected ourselves during adolescence from the hurtful remarks of others by sinking the chest and lowering the gaze. Or perhaps the stress of our present life is causing a chronic stress reaction. Our nervous system is stuck in a "flight" reaction and we are quite literally shrinking into ourselves. Or maybe we are stuck in a "fight" reaction, always ready to assert ourselves. Wouldn't it be better if our nervous system was free to react to given situations rather than be locked in our habits of posture and movement?

If we were able to say goodbye to these habits, living our our own skin would feel very different indeed.

The term somatics comes from the Greek word soma, meaning body, and refers to our experience of our body from the inside.

Simply put, somatics is how we live in our body.

Imagine that you wished to remodel your bathroom. You could move the bathtub and the toilet to new spots, but if you didn't re-do the plumbing your bathroom wouldn't be functional and you would have to put everything back in its old spot to use it. Forcing a change in posture is like moving the fixtures around in your bathroom. It doesn't change the inner structure of the bathroom, so the new arrangement cannot last. In order to make real changes, you have to re-wire and re-plumb.

And that is what somatic therapies and education do. Using movement, breath, imagery and touch, the soma experiences new possibilities- the nervous system is retrained. The body learns healthier and easier ways of being.

Change happens at a deep level and our way of experiencing ourselves, the way that we live in our bodies, cannot help but change.

Wishing you balance,



  1. wow really informative, thanks i enjoyed reading this

  2. Boris- Welcoming change in the body leads to welcoming change in general, so yes.

    Marinik- Thanks. I am glad you found it interesting.

  3. Thanks for this simple, clear and profound reflection on Somatics. I look forward to reading through the rest of your blog.


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