Soma, Somatics, and Somatic Therapy

Published: Mar 18, 2024 | Revised: Mar 31, 2024
Edited by: Marce Ferreira

Vitruvian Man by Leonardo Da Vinci

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The word somatic, derived from the Greek word soma (meaning body), is usually defined as “affecting or characteristic of the body as opposed to the mind or spirit.”

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However, the term Somatics was coined by the philosophy professor and movement theorist Thomas Hanna (1928 –1990), and today spans a very large field that, in a general sense, covers all studies, therapies, and exercises that focus on the combination and integration of bodywork, movement, and conscious body awareness (mindfulness).

In the context of therapeutic healing, it’s thought that through education, mindfulness, touch, exercises, bodywork, and intentional movements people can become better aware of the sensory experiences of their body (internally and externally), reestablish or enhance their mind-body connection, change movement patterns and posture, and subsequently relieve a variety of discomforts and illnesses on the physical, but also emotional/mental and spiritual level.

To give an example: through somatic exercises people can become more aware of postural or movement habits that create unnecessary tension in their bodies and which may result in chronic physical pains or even emotional discomfort. Hence, cultivating conscious body awareness is thought to be an important prerequisite to be able to “re-program” or “re-pattern” oneself.

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Some examples of modalities that are included in the realm of Somatics are Yoga, Qigong, Pilates, releasing techniques, Dance Therapy, the Alexander Technique, Rolfing, the Feldenkrais Method, Hanna Somatics, Hellerwork, and the Trager Approach.

In addition, modalities such as Somatic Experiencing, breathwork, mindfulness, meditation, the Hakomi Method, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Body-Oriented Psychotherapy, and certain dance forms are also considered part of Somatics.

In fact, when we talk about Somatics in relation to therapeutic applications we use the term with a meaning that has become largely synonymous with what today is called Mind-Body Therapy or Somatic Therapy.

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