Somatic Bodywork is an integral part of somatic coaching. Describing how it feels is as difficult as relating the experience of swimming. Unless you’ve done it, you really can’t even imagine it! So I’ll continue with explanations as best I can:
Purpose: to explore how tension is held in the body and begin to loosen the grip it holds throughout. This is for the sake of being as present, open and connected as possible.
Outcome: to function optimally in the world, we need to be present, open and connected. A tense body influences how we interact on every level – our self-development becomes limited, as does the way we appear both in the environment and in relationship. Wherever you go, your body goes with you and has a direct influence on how you show up. For example, someone who walks around with their shoulders up around their ears and claims to be an expert in teaching relaxation is not compelling. They don’t walk their talk. They’re inauthentic. Another example: someone who is stressed out is likely to have less patience with children, family members, co-workers, even the barista who is seemingly making their latte slowly. Not good. The tension causing stress spills over in to their presentation in the world, deeply affecting who they are and their capabilities.
Body awareness and shape: we each hold our body in a particular way, completely unique to each human being. This is under our awareness, unless something aches or hurts, and then we become acutely aware of the tightness across the shoulders, the tension in the lower back. How we hold our body comes from the shaping experiences we’ve had over the course of a lifetime. For example, someone who needed to keep one eye over their shoulder for incoming abuse is likely to hold their head very slightly in that direction, that shoulder tense and potentially immobile in some way. This will be completely sub-conscious. By bringing awareness to that holding, processing some of its origins, that fundamental shape may become more spacious and relaxed.
Logistics: somatic bodywork involves the client lying on a massage table (or mat on the floor), fully clothed (belts, cuffs, collars loosened and without shoes). They are invited to notice how they feel and begin to experiment with different breathing patterns suggested by the bodyworker. There may also be some physical interaction where the practitioner touches trigger points in the body, over clothes, with varying pressure. Not like a massage, but with a similar intention – to locate particular tension and holding, encouraging it to loosen. A session is usually an hour, of which some time is spent in dialog before and after the lying down part.
Afterwards: some people report feeling relaxed and relieved, slower paced, better mood, able to sigh with a deep long breath out of satisfaction. Bodywork often works long after the session ends, the body adjusting and re-adjusting. It’s therefore optimal to have some clear free time afterwards to perhaps take a few notes or simply sense in to how the body feels different.
Thanks to Kira auf der Heide for the photo, found on unsplash.