Somatic education definition
It is time to stop separating the mind from the body and look upon it from an external perspective simply as the means to ‘carry our mind’ around. in fact the two are so closely interlinked that it is impossible to tell them apart. Somatic education helps in creating an awareness of oneself as one whole being, experienced from a first-person perspective. Any holistic therapy approaches the body as one whole, where sensations, emotions, thoughts and behaviour are interconnected and mutually reinforce one another. Somatic therapy and education offers exercises and a methodology of working that helps a mindful ‘listening in’ that integrates the mind and the body and gives rise to a sense of wholeness and wellbeing. By practising these one is more able to also sense when something is off balance and health, by quicker noticing muscles tensing up, holding of breath or worrying thoughts that are alarm bells for something being not quite right.
Mindfulness exercises for increased awareness and better health
There are as many somatic awareness exercises as there are movement possibilities. Working somatically helps one become more mindful and aware to each moment. Senses are heightened, the parasympathetic nervous system stimulated that helps us relax and open more to external stimuli around us, and we feel more alive to our body, emotions and thoughts. Here are five mindfulness exercises that are easy to practise at home and integrate into daily life that helps this process of integration and health.
- Belly breathing: Stand, sit or lie down. Place your hands holding your belly and allow your middle fingers to meet in the middle level with the navel. Breathe into the belly, consciously expanding it and feel how your hands glide apart, creating a bit of space between the fingers. On the out breath notice how the belly sinks in and hands connect once again. Repeat this 5-10 times.
- Improving the lung capacity: Place your hands on either side of your trunk now and when breathing in imagine directing the breathe out to each side, meeting your hands that simultaneously are offering gentle pressure to give resistance. Repeat this 5-10 times and feel the full width and capacity of your lungs.
- Relaxing the shoulders and upper body: Exaggerate the tension in your upper body by squeezing your shoulders up to your ears, feel the contracting muscles of your neck, shoulders and chest. Hold for a few seconds and then release fully and feel how the muscles can relax and become heavy. Repeat this 3-5 times and notice the difference in tension.
- Awakening the senses: Simply take a few minutes and begin with your eyes closed to notice the sounds around you. Really focus on listening to the subtleties and layers of the soundscape. Notice any smells that are present. Have you got any lingering taste in your mouth? Gently open your eyes and allow the light to be received gently by your eyes. What colours, shapes and movements can you see as you keep a soft gaze forward?
- Full body scan: Sit down on a chair and eighth close your eyes or keep them open. Bring your awareness to your toes and feet and gradually shift it upwards to your lower legs, upper legs, hips, belly, torso, chest, shoulders, upper arms, lower arms, hands and fingers to then move up to your throat, neck and head (or whatever order) until you have scanned your whole body. Feel the totality of your body for a few moments and breathe deeply.