Somatic Healing Meets Corrective Movement

Somatic Healing Meets Corrective Movement

Soma – The word soma describes the everlasting constantly flowing array of sensory feedback and actions that are occurring within the experience of each of us. A somatic experience is when we viscerally feel connected usually brought on by movement. Even in meditation and states of rest our body and internal experience is always moving. It is an internal representation of our energy force.

Movement – Movement is the language that the nervous system understands very well. Gently guiding a client through a series of small movements allows the body to highlight muscular and systems integration on the voluntary level. It is a communication portal that showcases integration from the muscles, fascia and bone to the client – when the client is open to listening.

Lineage of Somatic Education:

Somatic education emerged during the twentieth century, but has been practiced in Eastern traditions for centuries. Western science classifys somatic healing and somatic education; a term used interchangeably, as an internalized learning process which is initiated by a teacher who guides the client or student through a sensory-motor process of physiological change.

When we speak of self-teaching, self-learning, self-healing, and self-regulation, we know that this is a somatic process, and as coaches and teachers we must guide our clients to the understanding that these are genetically-given capacities intrinsic to all human beings. As practitioners our roles are to merely offer the means to help “turn on” the ability to self manage somatic healing on and off the mat. In essence the client actually teaches themselves, we merely aid in offering the verbal and sequential tools.

Somatic healing is much like corrective movement in this way. When there is a break down in movement or movement patterning; much like in an athletic injury, there can be trauma and compensation patterns that take over proper and once efficient patterns. When this happens the client feels as if they do not have control over their body’s responses, contraction and control over that particular area of their body, muscle group and to an extent this is true because the body’s protective response is to contract and quite frankly.. protect. In somatic medical terms we call this somatic trauma and/or SMA (sensory motor amnesia; which is the worst case scenario.

This somatic trauma can pull the body into what we call somatic reflex. It is the reflex of pain avoidance. Cringing, for example, is the overt manifestation of this reflex. For instance, in boxing when blows occur to one side of the rib cage, the muscles traumatized will go into chronic contraction. Prolonged pain can attribute to chronic contraction, which we see in runner knee and a myriad of load responsive micro trauma. This alters the body’s ability to recover and to properly manage movement.

The internal compensation process is to selectively dis-engage that sensory input and motor control of muscle function and then establish a compensation pattern.

“Pain is impressively humbling. Your regular ambitions and thought processes come to a grinding halt. Emotional factors creep in and generally exacerbate matters. It can even become difficult, if not impossible, to make decisions in your own regard. Yet in this human community, we are never truly alone. Family, friends and professionals come to our aid. And, short of that, or in addition, in my system of belief, we are constantly ministered to by intelligences and forces of orders beyond our normal frames of recognition. Lean into these resources no matter how bad it gets. Relief will come.” ~ Gil Hedley (Integral Anatomy Series)


Primitive Patterning and Somatic Healing:

We know that somatic trauma can occur from injury or prolonged discomfort, but somatically we can also harbor emotions within the tissue well after the injury has healed. Depending on the nature of the injury and the emotional context from which the injury was viscerally felt can still be present at the soma level. Sometimes these somatic reactions are linked to our childhood many years or decades earlier. These visceral triggers can creep up over time and continue to cause bio mechanical breakdowns in the future.  This is one fundamental reason why somatic healing and corrective movement are so closely linked.

When we talk about corrective movement there are two pillars that FMS coaches will focus on (1) Primitive Movement Patterns and (2) Foundation Movement Patterns.

Primitive movement patterns are used to describe those movements most humans explore during growth and development. When we look at pediatric development this includes movements that are supine, prone and hand and knees (all fours).  As we begin to learn how to crawl, then squat and stand and then walk we form foundation movements. The development of fundamental movement is the foundation that leads to effective functional movement.

Somatic education can include taking the client back to these primitive and foundational movements to better break through somatic trauma and or related visceral connections that still hold negative movement and reactionary patterns.

Gray Cook, co-founder of the Functional Movement Systems, looks at corrective movement is very similar way; which is much like describing somatic re patterning and healing. They are very closely related in the foundational thought and intention process …

“Patterns and sequences remain the preferred mode of operation in biological organisms. Patterns are groups of singular movements linked in the brain like a single chunk of information. This chunk essentially resembles a mental motor program, the software that governs movement patterns. A pattern represents multiple single movements used together for specific function. Storage of a pattern creates efficiency and reduces processing time in the brain, much as a computer stores multiple documents of related content in one file to better organize and manage information. Common strengthening programs applied to muscles with the stabilization role will likely increase concentric strength but have little effect on timing and recruitment, which are the essence of stabilization.” ~ Gray Cook, FMS

In order for the client to regain pattern control it is an internal process; where new sensory information is introduced into the sensory-motor feedback loop through specific movement sequencing and pattern re training, allowing the motor neurons of the voluntary cortex once again to control the musculature fully and to achieve voluntary relaxation and contraction properties.

We see forms of this somatic trauma in today’s corporate world, but it is masked by “stiff muscles”. 80% of those over the age of forty have pain and stiffness from spines that are chronically contracted from the pelvis to the neck and naturally have spent decades in this compensation pattern.

Therefore, understanding the connection between somatic healing and corrective movement can greatly affect your health and wellness and longevity of your chosen sport – even if you classify yourself as just a weekend warrior.




Embody awareness and break boundaries, this is the result of somatic movement therapy, and it is all the coming rage with the structural integration trend we have been embarking on over the past decade.

In Life and movement; boundaries define our personal space.  This space is called the intersubjective field. Spatial, behavioral, verbal and energetic boundaries are the most commonly considered characteristics of boundary formation. Energetic boundaries are more somatically based and less commonly described.

In yoga the experience of realizing your awareness is called “witnessing,” which is the beginning of creating a great space from which you can grow. Clarity of awareness can bring emotional autonomy, stability, balance, power and the feeling of being more grounded.

Moreover, the somatic function of movement connects the mind with the body to produce a positive understanding of our defenses through the use of linguistic language (by the teacher) and movement (by the student). Another interesting topic of conversation with regards to the “somatic anthropology” of this connection is the “Somatic Ego;” which, viscerally the tissue starts to function like. A reaction or a state-specific emotional trauma that gets housed in the tissue and thus begins to establish boundaries, protective boundaries, and most often these boundaries start to no longer serve us as we grow and develop; but continue to surface when we feel that same visceral response, even to different stimuli. We will touch more on this in just a moment, but doesn’t this sound familiar? Therefore, it makes sense to see the linkage bewteen our emotions, our tissue and the conenction between body and mind. If we can work on establishing new patterns of grounding, and centering are all fundamental to boundary formation; which bridges the gaps between somatic psychology and personality development and we can then start to detatch from old patterns.

The key to unlocking those repressed emotions is to get the individual “into their body” and the energy in their body moving. Activating the flow of physical energy activates the flow of emotional energy. It may also release “body memories,” which bring to consciousness any repressed memories of experience contained in them.

The body, not only the brain, contains the unconscious mind. The body physically encodes its learned symptoms, neurotic coping mechanisms, and decisions in the limbic-hypothalamic systems. Healing occurs by accessing the encoded learned responses, following the affect or somatic bridge back to the state in which they were learned, and healing them through activating psychophysiological (physical and emotional) resources in the body that had been previously repressed or immobilized.

This can help support development of self-worth, self-formation, and transformation. Corrective movement and the art of body work creates an environment that changes the physical alignment (physical well-being).

Gentle yoga involving slow moving meditations, pranayama and meditation. Reawaken inherent agility and strength that allows you to expand the possibilities for moving and thus living in general. Chronic tension patterns change and can inhibit growth and development, both physically and emotionally/mentally. The nervous system slows down and  as the body releases and re gains it’s innate ability to self-correct, re balance and re gain efficiency in movement (which we call neuro-muscular re-patterning). The sensory-motor learning process encourages the muscles and fascia to release from involuntary, habitual contraction, as well as limiting movement patterns that inhibit progress, both athletically and in daily life. Somatic movement is a process of re-educating the body systems for improved well being.

Somatic yoga can be experienced in the form of Hatha, Yin and Restorative styles that allow the body to passively express and release with ease. The somatic exploration process introduces the student to be able to evoke core awareness and core movement, dynamic balance, integrity of movement, and harmony with gravity. Most postures include breath work, mat work in the supine or seated positions and many with the use of props. Slow progressive yoga movements, can allow you to focus on somatic awareness, full body breathing, and grounding and when combined with specific sequencing for your specific mechanics the witnessing of your own potential is so great. How amazing is that!

The best way to start this transition is to either seek out a yoga teacher or class that is gentle (as in slow movement), but still challenging enough to engage you in thought and movement. A warm Yin class or Hatha class are always me favorite. If you are coming off of an injury or have corrective concerns then perhaps a warm Yin or a Restorative class would be best to start with.

Next week we will take a look at building on this topic of somatic movement and introduce movement therapy with neuromuscular re patterning (RNT), both reactive and dynamic; which will include all styles of yoga and the benefits that can come from a sound practice.


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