Movement Matters


How somatic movement stirs imagination and helps us to trust our own intuition

One of the first things that happens as we move into the new year is we start to get bombarded by emails and images about ways we can improve and live our best lives, lose weight, get fitter, faster, more productive, up-level, increase our vibration etc.

I want to offer up an alternative approach: the opportunity to view things through a different lens as we ease ourselves gently into the new year.

What is true in life, we need movement for our health and wellbeing; when we’re moving change is happening, life is flowing. Movement matters.

But we don’t have to push ourselves to do it, we don’t have to make it a chore, another thing on the to do list . . . what might happen if in fact it could be really, really pleasurable to move, if your body loved how you moved and even told you what it needed . . . and what if your movement could change and adapt to your own energy levels at different times in your monthly cycle and at different times in your life? Well it can, and in my humble opinion our movement practice works best when it does evolve over time, adapting and changing as we do.

This for me is where somatic movement comes in, how it helps to stir our imagination, invites us to trust our intuition and awakens our inner witness, enabling us to be guided by our innate body wisdom.

What is somatic movement?

The word somatic dates from 1775, from the French word somatique and the Greek sōmatikos “of the body,” from sōma “the body”.

The word somatic therefore means “of or relating to or affecting the body,” and it has long been used in medical terminology with the use of such terms as somatic cell, somatic nervous system, somatic disorder and somatic pain.

Somatic movement and practice is grounded in “soma”, in our bodies, and it is a practice that brings our focus inside, to our internal felt sense experience that we connect with through the sensations that we receive and experience within the body. The subtle internal messengers that let us know where we are in relation to space and ground and how we might want to move to create more space in the body, more softness, more fluidity and interconnectedness.

More wholeness, inner harmony and balance, more ease of movement, more pleasure. It is a practice of gentle ongoing inquiry . . . How could we feel more but do less? How little could we do and yet how much could we feel in the process?

The focus within somatic practice is to allow ourselves to be guided by the body’s innate wisdom to feel and sense into the internal, often very subtle experience of the different movements and shapes rather than to be overly concerned with the outward appearance or results of movements. It is a very sensorial practice that requires deep focus and awareness, being present to the subtle messages coming through from the body in a myriad of ways. Through breath and blood, through our bones, how we move and how we might yield into the earth beneath us, or how we might not do that too.

Although somatic movement can also be a very soft and still practice too, there is often lots of internal movement to be found in this stillness. And there is much somatic sensory feedback to be found in practices like Restorative Yoga where you relax, supported into gestures for a long time, resting on bolsters.

And the stillness that emerges at the end of a practice always yields lots of information, the residue or imprint left behind from the practice itself. This can lead to a creative practice, to journal or draw our insights, get them out of the body and onto paper for us to make some cognitive sense of them.

You might also have noticed how the term somatic has become quite trendy over the last few years; it’s a bit of a buzzword in the health and wellness industry right now.

The term somatic can be used to describe many different forms of movement and healing modalities. Here are some you may have heard of:

  • Somatic yoga or somatic inspired yoga
  • Somatic experiencing
  • Somatic psychology
  • Somatic therapy or somatic dance therapy
  • Somatic education

The term somatic education came from Thomas Hanna, a student of Moshe Feldenkrais. Hanna used the term to describe methods of sensory-motor education that improve bodily function by increasing motor control and sensation and changing learned muscular patterns.

I am a big fan of Feldenkrais and Hanna somatic practices myself and bring a lot of these principles into the somatic movement I teach as they are great for relieving chronic pain, improving bodily function and to aid recovery from a variety of muscular skeletal problems. Somatic practices can be used in so many ways and are accessible for everyone, which is what I really like about them. 

How can somatic movement help to stir our imagination and help us trust our own intuition?

In a somatic practice there is no right or wrong goal as such; we might start with a focused practice as a way in but from there it becomes your own and you have the freedom to explore the movement in your own way being guided by your own internal felt sense and sensations, your body’s internal wise messenger leading you to places that require your attention.

In this way, from this place of deep listening trust develops, and we can start to build a deep rooted sense of inner safety and stability within the body, a deeper connection and awareness that is unwavering and we can start to understand for ourselves what it is our body requires at different times in our lives. From there, our own unique and very personal practice can develop and evolve as the changing needs of our bodies evolve.

In this way, the body might open us up to more insights than we might imagine possible. After all, the body holds all of our stories in its bones and flesh and so once you start to be open and receptive, to be guided to move from our inner impulses and desires, you might be surprised to discover what treasures you might find within, what creativity and clarity might arise from this way of connecting with your own body in this way.

As a facilitator of movement, I can open up space for enquiry, endeavour to create a safe and open space that invites the body to feel relaxed, supported and contained, I can make suggestions and sow some initial seeds of intention but from there the real teacher is to be found within you.

And that for me is the ultimate goal of yoga . . . for you not to need me as a teacher, but to become your own teacher, guided by your own unique inner voice and inner rhythms.

If you would like to find our more about somatic movement and the ways in which you can get involved in some somatic practice with me get in touch.

I offer seasonal workshops, one to one support and a monthly community called Shelter where somatic movement principles are key.

In my own somatic movement explorations, which have been a big part of my overall personal practice for many years now, I also practice authentic movement and I am now studying Authentic Movement with IBMT. It is a contemplative movement practice that has evolved within the field of dance movement therapy, and has been influenced by Jungian psychology and meditative practice.

Anyhow more on that in another blog, but as an example of what can arise from a somatic practice here is a poem I wrote after moving:

Time to clean house

Kaleidoscope fortress of flesh and bone
Destination unknown
Tears flood from inside
A dam broken open

A scream, a moan
Purification of body, mind & soul
More of me revealed
Unveiled, reclaimed
More of me known, not numb or unnamed
More of my truth, my stored
hurts unarmoured
More of myself loved and honoured

Inside is a realm that we can’t understand
Inside is an unknown, unclaimed land
My body a vessel for me to explore
It won’t ever end I want to know more
Of myself and the treasures within
The pain, the passion, the love and the grim

Dirty corners that call for me now
It’s time to clean house
My own house
My ongoing vow

Lara Heppell

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