The word somatic comes from the Ancient Greek sōmatikós, which means “bodily” — and from the word sôma, which means “body”. Nowadays, the most common use of somatic is in the meaning of “part of, or relating to the body of an organism.”
Somatic Breathwork then simply means “breathing related to the body” and is a general term for those Breathwork modalities that specifically focus on the relationship i.e. connection between breath (or breathing) and our body, how they affect one another, and how they influence or — by contrast — are influenced by our emotional and mental condition.
One of the core principles underlying Somatic Breathwork is that psychological wounding and emotional scars can get “embedded” or “crystallized” in the body (or soma), and if not properly released or digested stay there indefinitely.
Not only will these emotional wounds and trauma affect us negatively on a subconscious level (often surfacing as a state of constant and unexplained stress and anxiety), they also cause the body (or body parts) to become tensed and contracted, as such inhibiting its normal, healthy function and an uninhibited flow of life energy.
Typically, the effect of bodily embedded trauma also affects the way we breathe, that is, we often don’t breathe fully and in an unlabored way, but rather breathe shallow and too fast, which more often than not brings additional health issues.
Somatic Breathwork then uses several breathing techniques — notably Deep Breathing, Circular Breathing, Conscious Connected Breathing, and Abdominal Breathing techniques — that aim at bringing intentional and conscious awareness to the places where our body is tensed and has reacted to trauma that has still not been digested.
Deep, conscious, and deliberate breathing in combination with focus on “what comes up” on a physical (somatic) and interconnected psychological level can allow us to become calm, relax, understand, digest, and release unnecessary emotional ballast, and with that also the restrictions imposed on our body or body parts. As such, Somatic Breathwork is also considered Transformational Breathwork.
Through it we can learn to again live in a relaxed state in which our breathing becomes normal and unlabored, with all the physical and emotional health benefits attached to that.