Reconnecting through Somatic Wisdom: An Introduction

Navigate the world of mind-body therapies and determine the best course of action for your health and well-being.

| July/August 2019

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The field of mind-body therapies is large and complex, filled with many wonderful and effective options for healing and personal growth. Since the early 1980s, various techniques and approaches have developed. The staggering array of options — yoga, tai chi, Rolfing, the Feldenkrais Method, etc. — may leave you overwhelmed when choosing the best path to healing. The goal of this feature, and its companion articles in the next several issues, is to introduce fundamental mind-body therapies, provide an overview of these modalities and their efficacy for various health conditions, and discuss how to make wise decisions when choosing a practitioner and rationing your health care budget.

Mary Ann Foster has been a massage therapist, educator, and writer in this field since 1981. She specializes in anatomically-based posture and movement efficiency lessons, using a synergy of somatic patterning and therapeutic kinesiology. In 2004, she self-published Somatic Patterning, which gathers various theories, concepts, and principles about practices that address human movement and the combined neurological, physiological, psychological, and emotional components that inform bodily patterning, awareness, and change. This is the first of multiple articles about the wisdom of the body. Throughout this series, we hope you discover a practice to help you feel healthy and whole. — Jean Denney

Over the years, I’ve worked with clients recovering from injuries or dealing with chronic musculoskeletal pain. Though these are both physical health issues, it takes a strong and focused inner connection with the body to heal these problems. Since the early 1980s, mind-body therapies have paved the way to help patients fully understand and overcome the roots of their physical obstacles.

Defining the Terms

“Somatic” has a biological definition, although it’s used here in a different context. The term “somatic” comes from the Greek root soma, which means “the living body in its wholeness.” Here, I use the terms “mind-body” and “somatics” interchangeably.

Somatics unifies the mind-body concept into a single word. The late philosopher and Feldenkrais teacher Thomas Hanna coined the term “somatics” in 1970 to describe an emerging field of mind-body therapies that employ directive touch and movement explorations as primary tools to improve posture and cultivate ease of movement. Hanna felt that most people have little body awareness and lack the ability to sense subtle movements within their bodies. He described this condition as “sensorimotor amnesia.” If left unattended, sensorimotor amnesia results in muscular imbalances, which become habituated responses that cause additional stress, pain, or injury. For most people, discomfort signals acute awareness, which then makes them pay attention to how their bodies are — or aren’t — moving.

6/16/2019 4:20:26 PM

Great article, would like to read more like this!

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