Introduction: What Is Somatic Movement And How It Can Help Ease Your Pain

by | Apr 19, 2022 | Mindfulness, Muscles, Prevention and Wellness Care

Somatic movements are slow intentional physical movements designed to bring the body back to its natural state of buoyancy and ease. Somatic movements also dissolve chronic tightness, shortened connective tissue, and scar tissue. Through gentle micro movements, hydration of the fascia, and pandiculations, connective tissue returns to its natural length and activation, thereby releasing the joints from chronic misalignment and tension.

The word somatic means through the senses.. When we engage in somatic movement we are allowing our minds to travel under our skin and sense what is happening while we move. We are increasing the kinesthetic sensing ability of the brain. We are not engaged in the frontal thinking brain cortex, we instead return to the primitive back brain of the sensory motor cortex. By practicing the activation of the sensory motor cortex, in essence we are remembering our mammal instincts and what it means to be a human “being” instead of a human “doing”.

Somatic movements will increase your awareness of the mind/body connection, by increasing your proprioception of how your body is moving. Increased proprioception not only allows us to be more aware of our surroundings which reduces our chances of falling or injury, it also gives us choice in the moment. With choice we have the opportunity to shift the way we are moving, which ultimately gives us freedom from chronic pain.

Somatic movements will bring the body back to its natural state of buoyancy and functional movement patterns without stretching, pulling or tugging on the body. It is gentle, relaxing and best of all does not require prior movement experience. I often say to my students and clients, “You do not have to do a lot to get a lot”.

As we age we often think it is a degenerative process of wearing out the joints, drying up and losing our sense of vitality. We feel we have to live with chronic pain because we are “getting old”. The world of somatic movement has truly changed this reality. Over the last ten to fifteen years science has expanded its knowledge of neuroscience and the fascial system of the connective tissue. With this revolutionary information it is now possible to not only move better and with more ease, it is increasing the lifespan of competitive athletes, healing chronic pain without drugs, and allows us to feel more alive at any age.

Like all mind/body modalities, what is needed is the student’s willingness to participate in their own healing journey. The practices in this book are not difficult, they are extremely simple, however, one is required to slow down in order to practice. We often think that if we slow down or if we are not engaging in a form of vigorous movement then we are wasting our time. The “rigorous” part of this work is disciplining your own mind to stay focused while in the process of the movement. As a lifelong dancer, I have learned many times that movement patterns will only change while in motion, in contrast to performing the movement and fixing it in a static position.

Conscious movement regenerates the body.

By now we have all heard that some form of meditation is extremely beneficial to our wellness. It increases creativity, allows us to become more resilient and dissolves stress and tension in the mind. Somatic movement requires the same inner posture as meditation, only we have the tangible physical body as the vehicle for which to use to change the brain. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize neural connections, and to form new neural pathways. Simply put, brains can change, up-level, and expand over time. Somatic movements use movement patterns designed to re-pattern the brain and increase our neuroplasticity.

The brain learns through sensing a contrast, therefore as we go through the movement patterns the “pause” in the instructions is the most powerful aspect of the practice. It is also the most tempting to skip over.

Therefore somatic movement is not just exercise like most of us are used to relating to performing movement. With the use of awareness, pandiculations and hydration of the fascial system we are dissolving chronic pain and tension in the body and the mind..

For these reasons somatic movement is challenging not to our physical bodies but to our nervous system; however, it also offers the biggest gift of all; embodied peace and a sense of ease.