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What is Somatic Movement Therapy?

If you had asked me this question half a decade ago, I wouldn’t have had a clue. All these years later, I’m still amazed at how much somatic movement therapies and modalities have impacted and changed my life. Increasingly, I am seeing somatic movement therapy gaining more prominence as a holistic approach to healing; and much like yoga, it is an area that emphasises the profound connection between the mind and the body.


But what exactly is somatic movement therapy? And how can it benefit those who seek it?


Understanding Somatic Movement Therapy


Somatic Movement Therapy is a form of body-centred therapy that focuses on the somatic experiences of the individual. The term "somatic" comes from the Greek word "soma," which means "body." This therapy acknowledges the intricate relationship between the mind and body, recognising that physical sensations and movements can reflect and influence emotional states.


Unlike traditional talk therapies that primarily address cognitive and emotional aspects, somatic movement therapy works with the body's inherent ability to heal and self-regulate. Practitioners of somatic movement therapy (like me) believe that trauma and stress is stored in the body, manifesting as physical symptoms such as tension, pain, or restricted movement. By addressing these physical manifestations, somatic movement therapy aims to promote holistic healing.


Core Techniques in Somatic Movement Therapy


Somatic Movement

Somatic Movement is a central component of somatic therapy more generally. It involves engaging in specific movements and exercises designed to increase bodily awareness and release stored tension. This approach can help individuals reconnect with their bodies, improve posture, and enhance overall wellbeing.


One of favourite quotes which sums up somatic movement:


A somatic movement is a movement that’s practiced consciously with the intention of focusing on the internal experience of the movement rather than the external appearance or the end result of the movement.


So often I see my students in yoga classes, or even clients during 1:1 TRE® sessions seeking external validation: Am I doing this right? Does it look right?


I put this down to our culture being so focused on aesthetic value and appearances – but I am less concerned with how a movement, pose or exercises looks and more interested in asking clients: How does it feel?


Somatic Movement is not about achieving perfection in movement but about becoming more aware of how the body moves and feels. It encourages mindfulness and helps individuals recognise and release patterns of tension and restriction. Through gentle, mindful movements, individuals can experience a greater sense of freedom and ease in their bodies.


Two areas of Somatic Movement Therapy (in which I am trained and focused on) are TRE® and Continuum Movement.


TRE® (Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises)

TRE®, or Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises, is another vital technique in somatic therapy. Developed by Dr. David Berceli, TRE® consists of a series of exercises that induce tremors or shaking in the body. This shaking mechanism is the body's natural way of releasing deep muscular patterns of stress, tension, and trauma.


The tremors typically begin in the legs and often spread throughout the body, creating a gentle shaking or vibrating sensation. This process helps to calm the nervous system, release stored stress, and promote a sense of relaxation and well-being. TRE® can be practiced independently once learned, making it a valuable self-help tool.


Continuum Movement

Continuum Movement is a unique and innovative approach within somatic therapy that focuses on fluid, wave-like movements. Developed by Emilie Conrad, Continuum Movement emphasises the body's natural fluidity and encourages individuals to explore movement in a non-linear, organic way.


This practice involves slow, undulating movements, breathwork, and sound to enhance bodily awareness and facilitate deep, transformative experiences. Continuum Movement helps individuals release chronic tension, improve flexibility, and cultivate a profound sense of connection to their bodies.


Other key somatic movement therapies I must mention and am aware of include:

Feldenkrais Method:

Created by Moshe Feldenkrais, this method emphasises awareness through movement. It helps people reconnect with their natural abilities to move, think, and feel. Feldenkrais believed that, “Movement is life; without movement life is unthinkable.” I have practiced this on multiple occasions and have enjoyed it and felt a lot of opening, particularly in my spine, after sessions.


Alexander Technique:

Developed by F. M. Alexander, this technique focuses on improving posture and movement patterns. It teaches individuals how to use their bodies more efficiently, helping to alleviate chronic pain and improve overall wellbeing. (I have not tried this).


Body-Mind Centring:

Developed by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, this approach explores the relationship between the body and mind through experiential anatomy, movement, touch, and voice. (I have not tried this).


Laban Movement Analysis (LMA):

Created by Rudolf Laban, LMA provides a framework for observing, describing, and notating all forms of movement. It helps individuals understand and improve their movement patterns. (I have not tried this).


Benefits of Somatic Movement Therapy


Somatic Movement Therapy offers a wide range of benefits, addressing both physical and emotional aspects of wellbeing. Some of the key benefits include:


Emotional Healing

By addressing the physical manifestations of trauma and stress, somatic movement therapies can help individuals process and release unresolved emotions. This can lead to a greater sense of emotional balance and resilience.

Improved Physical Health

Somatic Movement Therapy can alleviate chronic pain, tension, and other physical symptoms by promoting better posture, flexibility, and bodily awareness. It can also enhance the body's natural ability to heal and self-regulate.


Enhanced Mind-Body Connection

Somatic Movement Therapy fosters a deeper connection between the mind and body, helping individuals become more attuned to their physical sensations and emotions. This increased awareness can lead to more mindful living and improved overall wellbeing.


Stress Reduction

Techniques such as TRE® and Continuum Movement can significantly reduce stress by calming the nervous system and releasing stored tension. This can result in a greater sense of relaxation and inner peace.


Influence of Ancient Tantric Lineages and Eastern Philosophies


It is important for me to mention that Somatic Movement Therapy also draws heavily from ancient practices and Eastern philosophies. Tantric lineages, with their emphasis on the interconnectedness of all aspects of existence, have profoundly influenced modern somatic practices. Tantra, at its core, teaches that embodiment and the body is a sacred vessel through which we can achieve spiritual growth, transformation and enlightenment or awakening. This perspective aligns seamlessly with the principles of Somatic Movement Therapy, which views the body not just as a physical entity but as a gateway to deeper psychological and spiritual states.


Moreover, other Eastern practices such as asana-based yoga and qigong, which incorporates mindful movement, breathwork, and meditation, have significantly shaped Somatic Movement Therapy. These practices emphasise the balance and flow of energy within the body, echoing the somatic approach of addressing physical and emotional wellbeing as a unified whole.


Somatic Movement Therapy is a powerful and holistic approach to healing that emphasises the deep connection between the mind and body. Through techniques such as somatic movement, TRE®, Continuum Movement and other movement modalities, individuals can experience profound physical and emotional healing. By addressing the body's inherent capacity to store and release tension and trauma, somatic movement therapy offers a path to greater wellbeing and self-awareness.


If you are seeking a therapeutic approach that honours the wisdom of your body and fosters holistic healing, somatic movement therapy may be the perfect fit for you. Explore this transformative practice and discover the profound benefits it can bring to your life.


To find out more, please get in touch.

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