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What does that mean?



“Somatic” is a term derived from ancient greek and at its simplest interpretation means "of or related to the body and it's systems”. “Psyche”, often a misnomer for intellect and thought is actually the ancient word for "that which animates the body”, this is also known by some as ether (think ethereal) or life-force, or even spirit. The term "somatics" can be confusing due to how it is used, by whom, and for what purposes. It has been popularized by the mental health industry yet it is not clinical mental health work. The term has long been utilized when describing the therapeutic benefits of dance, yoga, and other expressive movement disciplines, but it is not necessarily a movement based practice. The term has it’s roots in the sensorial experience, which is the domain of bodywork. When understood in that context, it indicates an experiential healing process where the intelligence of the body takes precedence over that of the intellectual mind. Somatic practices utilize the physical body as a means of accessing the sensory body.  The boundaries of the sensory body transcend the conditioned limitations of the physical body through the integration of therapeutic stimuli and the result is often an improvement of the ecological function of the whole. The "whole" is you and the "improvement of function" is your sense of well-being and quality/capacity of your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.

    “Somatic” indicates an understanding by the practitioner that the body is a complex sense making system and is more than the sum of its parts. We cannot separate mind from living tissue any more than we can separate it from emotion, thought or soul. With this thinking, what we call a body is not an object of fixed matter as much as it is an ecology of movement and information. Somatics are systems that seek to restore us to our nature by leading us to encounter some essential aspect of inner freedom that is embodied yet blocked by extraneous distraction. To understand what this means, we must first understand that muscular tensions are non-voluntary yet self imposed compensatory responses to inner and outer stimuli. These responses are the programs running in our nervous systems that are produced via body memory recall, emotional impressions, and/or repetitive movements and postures. Disfunction begins to emerge when we are in holding patterns for too long without expressing movement, sensation, and feeling outside of our fortified routines. The innate ability to explore, challenge, and expand our sensorial boundaries becomes impeded. We lose the restorative aspect of full volitional motion within our anatomically appropriate range. Our way of dealing with life’s stressors begins as a solution to something needing to be met in the present moment but over time that present moment becomes the past and the solution is now a behavior pattern that has become an impediment. We might not be consciously choosing these patterns, yet we find ourselves on a sort of “auto-pilot” whether or not we are aware it is so. We are engaging in protective behaviors long after the need to do so has passed, or in some cases because the ability to experience ourselves differently feels inaccessible to us. This has us limited to whatever cycle of experience is most developed. This means we are relying almost soley on what is most familiar with the ways we move (or don’t move), the ways we think, the ways we feel, and the ways we react (rather than respond). In short, we default to the ways we are conditioned. The body tends to compensate for this conditioning which creates physical imbalances. This results in stress patterns that limit full function and can eventually lead to symptomatic pathology thus creating a negative feed back loop that seeks to validate itself.

    These patterns develop as a means for safety, survival, or support when an experience or environment we are exposed to is interpreted as a threat by our nervous system. Often in such situations we learn to suppress body values such as instinctual need, pleasure, recuperation, and expression. Instead what is promoted are identity values of prestige, possession, sacrifice, judgement, limitation, and repression. These are often accompanied by archetypal characterizations of a victim/martyr, an aggressor/initiator, or a hero/aggrandizer. All these things, with their accompanying pain, belief, and story converge to become the language of the body. This language can be understood through posture, gesture, breathing, motility, expression, temperature, and sensation.

These muscular tensions and their associated systemic patterns are understood to be indicators of defense. The goal of a somatacist is to work with the body in ways that invite the client’s natural process of releasing these defensive holding patterns. We begin to suffer when aspects of our experience become too static and/or too repetitive. Many people go through life unaware or un-acknowledging of the energetic deficit to which they have become accustomed. Their habitual way of being in the world impedes access their optimal states of energy, flow, and well being due to the survival mode that has been conditioned as their nervous system’s baseline response to stimuli. In such states we forget to embrace the respiratory quality of our existence, which is to allow both compressive and expansive experiences. Instead we become stuck in a compression and often fear or avoid an expansion as time goes on. Somatics take all this into account when working to increase one's capacity to "open" in their own unique way during or after the process of focused bodywork.

 Bodywork reminds us of our vastness while cultivating opportunities to explore and restore our relationship to wholeness. At Soulfire Somatics, it is bodywork that is being offered, yet within that offering is safe and sacred space to allow yourself to feel and express whatever may come up for you. Bodywork is a powerful aspect of self care and well being when offered with the understandings outlined in this writing. The term “somatic” was chosen to indicate that whoever you are and whatever your unique expression is, whatever you are navigating in your life, it is never too much or too little to welcome in some healing, recovery, or self care.

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