• Clare Myatt, somatic, coaching, somatic coaching, psychotherapy, embodied, Strozzi, London, addiction, highly sensitive person, somatic bodywork, body

    The purpose of somatic bodywork is to change the basic shape and structure we have adopted over time, based on our response to experiences, both internal and external. I offer somatic bodywork as an integral part of somatic coaching.

    Let's look at an example of where and why it is useful. Suppose a child, one who has a sensitive disposition, is consistently disciplined by a stern, critical and judgmental parent. Over time, that child is likely to become keenly aware of the location of that parent in relation to themselves, hoping to anticipate when they may be subject to either verbal or physical abuse. This often develops a "deer in the headlights" look around the eyes. In addition, the child may try to make themselves smaller in an effort to disappear and avoid punishment. Their body becomes constricted internally, their shoulders rounded, their chest concave, head forward and down ... the body adapts to accommodate a way of being in the world to survive the best way they know how. As humans, we are conditioned in our very genes to seek love and avoid pain.

    While this response to the environment was potentially useful in childhood, by adulthood, this person is likely to suffer headaches, shoulder, neck and back problems, and generally have poor self-esteem, low self-confidence and other challenges. At some stage they may seek help to have a more fulfilling life.

    This is where somatic bodywork becomes powerful. Here's why.

    Try this: raise your shoulders up around your ears and try convincing someone you are an expert in stress management and will teach them how to be relaxed. Or frown, pull a sad face, allow your shoulders to droop and try convincing someone you are an expert in happiness and how to have a great life. Holding these examples momentarily may be about body language. But living this way is about body structure.

    The most effective way to work with shifting body structure to move from depressed to possibilities for happiness; from trauma victim to trauma survivor; from poor self-esteem to good self-confidence is to shift that structure working from the outside in. We do this by gradually expanding the capacity to tolerate more and more sensation in the body and therefore a more diverse range of emotions and moods. Somatic bodywork encourages the body to experience sensation, energy and different breathing patterns and has evolved over many years. My teacher, Richard Strozzi-Heckler, Ph.D., has integrated the teachings of Dr. Randolph Stone, Moshe Feldenkrais and Dr. Ida Rolfe to name a few.

    Somatic bodywork clients are fully clothed and lie on a massage table for sessions lasting from an hour to ninety minutes, depending on what we've agreed in advance. I am happy to answer any other questions or concerns you may have when we set up your appointments.

    **Croft Edwards has written about his participation in Strozzi Institute's Embodied Leadership programme, including his experience of bodywork, so this may well be a useful resource for those with further questions about receiving bodywork as client (although let's be clear I have not been the provider for Croft). Thanks to Croft Edwards for his permission to provide a Croft + Company link on Leadership.**