A Detailed Guide To Somatic Therapy And Best Exercises For Trauma Recovery

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Published on: 03-Apr-2024

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Anvesha Chowdhury

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A Detailed Guide To Somatic Therapy And Best Exercises For Trauma Recovery

A Detailed Guide To Somatic Therapy And Best Exercises For Trauma Recovery

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Trauma can leave its mark not only on our minds but also on our bodies. Flashbacks, nightmares, and anxiety are just a few of the ways emotional wounds can manifest. But what if there was a way to heal by talking about our experiences and feeling our way through them? 

Somatic therapy, a robust and growing field within mental health, offers a unique approach to trauma recovery. Rooted in the mind-body connection, It involves breathing, intentional movement, and focusing on different areas to become aware of these sensations. Somatic therapy differs significantly from cognitive behavioural therapy, which forces you to analyse your thoughts. 

This journey of healing isn't limited to the therapy room. Movement is crucial in bodily therapy, offering a safe and empowering way to reconnect with your body and rebuild a sense of agency. In this article, we'll understand somatic therapy, explore its history, the science behind somatic psychotherapy, and the various techniques for somatic trauma therapy. We'll also unveil the somatic exercises for trauma recovery to empower your quality of life. To know more, continue reading 

Table Of Contents 

1. What Is Somatic Therapy? 

2. Trauma And Somatic Trauma Therapy 

3. What Are Some Somatic Exercises For Trauma? 

4. Somatic Therapy Exercises To Increase Body Awareness 

5. What Is Somatic Psychotherapy? 

6. Expert’s Advice 

7. The Final Say 

8. FAQs 

9. References 

What Is Somatic Therapy? 

It is a form of body-centred therapy that examines the connection between the mind and the body. It utilises both psychotherapy and physical therapy to heal the whole person. Somatic therapy is a type of alternative mental health treatment designed to treat trauma and stress-related disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), by examining how the body affects the mind. Somatic therapists use mind-body exercises and other somatic techniques to release pent-up tension that negatively impacts a patient's physical and emotional well-being.   

Unlike other mind-body approaches, such as mindfulness meditation, mind-body stress reduction (MBSR), and mindfulness and self-compassion (MSC), which continue to grow in use, somatic therapy has not become mainstream. Somatic therapy holds that our bodies store and express experiences and emotions and that traumatic events or unresolved emotional issues can become "stuck" inside. 

Somatic Experiencing Therapy 

An alternative therapy that aims to help people heal from trauma. This therapy is based on the principle that trauma becomes trapped in the body, resulting in some of the symptoms that people with PTSD or those who have experienced trauma may experience. Using this method, practitioners work to free the body from stress.   

Many trauma survivors, especially those who have experienced grave physical trauma such as domestic violence or sexual assault, may become detached or detached from their bodies. Somatic experiences help increase awareness of internal experiences (interceptive, proprioceptive, and kinesthetic).   

Somatic experiencing therapy can help people by focusing on how stress and trauma affect the body. It can help people find relief by increasing body awareness, developing ways to release trauma, and relaxing the body. To learn more about how it works and whether it's right for you, let's examine how it works, what it can treat, and what the research says about its effectiveness. 

Trauma And Somatic Trauma Therapy 


The trauma response is a usual, natural way of responding to severely stressful and life-threatening situations. In a split second, your brain and body recognise potential danger and react life-savingly.  

1. Increases Blood Pressure And Heart Rate 

Trauma triggers a natural response in the body to swiftly address threatening situations. This includes heightened blood pressure and heart rate, improving blood flow and focus while diminishing non-essential functions like digestion and reproduction. 

2. Response Mechanism 

This response is popularly recognised as the flight, fight, or freeze response. The brain reacts in one of three ways: it causes us to flee (escape) through avoidance or withdrawal, physically resist our anger, or freeze as a defence against potential danger. The body then automatically returns to its natural steady state, called homeostasis 

3. Response To Stress 

Sometimes, the brain perceives a threat even when no major one exists. Neurotransmitters (such as adrenaline) and other systems (such as the amygdala or prefrontal cortex) continue to respond to stress. This is how post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and its associated physical and mental symptoms develop. 

4. Adaptation To Physical Changes  

The main goal of somatic trauma therapy is to teach people to adapt to these physical changes through focus and awareness. They become aware of their body's response to emotional experiences, such as traumatic or highly stressful situations. 

What Are Some Somatic Exercises For Trauma? 

Here are some examples of physical exercise techniques you can do anywhere to improve your body awareness and mental health: 

1. Grounding Exercises   

Grounding exercises help people connect with the present moment. They are an effective coping mechanism for people experiencing flashbacks, anxiety, or other symptoms related to trauma. A straightforward grounding technique is to move your body, remembering that you should move comfortably and naturally. This may mean stretching, dancing, or even jumping up and down. Think about how each part of your body feels as you move, from your toes to your head 

Here is another approach to grounding somatic therapy techniques: Pour water on one's hands and focus on feeling the temperature of your fingertips, palms, and back. Start with cold water and switch to warm water after 1-2 minutes. Think about how your sensations change from cold to warm water The most important thing is to focus on the steps and think about the rhythm of your steps, distinguishing how your thoughts are aligned in your mind.  


2. Body Scan   

Body scans improve body awareness and help us understand what is happening in our bodies and where we may be experiencing tension or pain. Find a comfortable position (you can sit, stand, or lie down) and think about how each part of your body feels. Start with your feet and work your way up, taking as much time as you need. 

3. Breathing   

Somatic healing involves understanding the body, including its ability to control breathing. Breathing exercises bring sensory awareness to your neck, diaphragm, chin, shoulders, abdomen and chest as you exhale. Here are some simple physical breath awareness exercises you can try at home: Sit comfortably, close your eyes, breathe, and notice how your body moves. You can feel this breath in your nostrils, chest, and stomach. Notice how it feels to feel your breath moving through your body. 


5. Posture Exercises   

In somatic therapy, posture exercises play a crucial role in addressing the physical manifestations of stress and negative emotions. These exercises help individuals understand the connection between their mental state and physical posture, allowing them to release tension, improve alignment, and cultivate greater body awareness.  


6. Yoga   

Yoga may suit you if you want physical exercise that allows you to relax and unwind. There are many different types of yoga, but most of them involve a variety of physical postures, deep breathing, and relaxation techniques that may help improve overall well-being. Today's most common types of yoga include Hatha, Kundalini, and Vinyasa. 

Somatic Therapy Exercises To Increase Body Awareness 

Here are some unique physical exercises you can incorporate into your daily routine- 

Exercises 

Instructions 

Benefits 

Diaphragmatic  

breathing 

  • Lie down or sit comfortably. 

  • Place one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest.  

  • Take a slow, deep breath through your nose. Fill your lungs with air and allow your stomach to rise. The hand on your chest should be as still as possible. 

  • Slowly exhale through your mouth or nose and let your stomach sink in. 

  • Repeat for a few minutes. 

  • It helps initiate your body's response. 

 

  • It involves deep breathing from the diaphragm instead of chest breathing 

Grounding 

 

  • Stand upright and feel your feet firmly on the ground. You will feel better when you do this exercise by taking off your shoes. 

  • Take a few deep breaths and focus on the feeling of your feet connecting to the ground. 

  • Imagine the roots coming from your feet, connecting you to the ground. Once you feel connected to the earth, shift your weight from left to right, swaying like a tree. 

  • Shift your weight from front to back. When you shift your weight, be aware of your centre of gravity in the upper pelvic area and below your belly button. 

  • Place your hand on your belly and feel your place. 

 

  • Continue to rock sideways, forward and back, keeping your hands on your stomach. 

  • These techniques can be helpful in making you feel more connected to your place in the world. 

 

Body Scan 

 

  • Lie down, or you may sit comfortably, whichever makes you feel at ease. 

  • Mentally scan your body from your toes to your heels. Pay attention to the area of the head where tension or discomfort is present. 

  • Take time to focus on each area. When you feel tension, take a deep breath and exhale to relax that area.  

  • When you feel your body relaxed, you can move to another area.  

  • Follow this process until you reach the header. 

  • This mechanism increases body awareness and helps identify areas of stress or where you feel even a tad bit of discomfort. 

Somatic Yoga 

 

  • Opt for a yoga pose that is comfortable for you.  

  • Notice how each part of your body feels when you get into the pose.  

  • Stay in this position for a few breaths and continue to be aware of the sensations in your body. 

 

  • It involves performing yoga poses that focus on the inner body. A somatic yoga teacher should practice it. 

  • This approach allows people to release tension, relax, and become physically aware, helping them better understand their bodies and emotions. 

Walking Meditation 

 

  • Start walking slowly and comfortably.  

  • Pay attention to your feet's contact with the ground, the movements of your legs and arms, and your breathing. 

  • If your mind wanders, slowly return to the physical sensation of walking and get your thoughts to the present moment. 

  • This meditation combines physical movement with kindness. 

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) 

 

  • Start at one end of the body (like the toes).  

  • Tighten the muscles as much as you can for about 5 seconds.  

  • Feel your muscles and feel the feeling of release.  

  • Continue to work the next muscle (like the legs) and repeat the process. 

  • This technique requires the mind to relax and then relax different muscles in the body. 

Sensory Awareness 

 

  • Choose a quiet place to sit or sleep.  

  • Close your eyes and take a deep breath 

  • Enter your mind individually and take time (close your eyes) to focus on what you can sense, feel, hear, feel, taste and see. 

  • This exercise makes you aware of your sensory awareness. 

Voo Breathing 

 

  • Find a comfortable place and sit in a relaxed position, such as in a chair or on the floor.  

  • Focus on your body and the present moment. Pay attention to your breathing. 

  • Take a deep breathAs you exhale, make a "voo" sound, making the sound as long as possible. You will feel the sound echoing in your stomach and chest.  

  • Do this several times. 

  • This vocal exercise can help your nervous system revitalize and relax the mind. 

Self Hugging 

 

  • Cross your right arm across your chest to feel your heartbeat, and place your hand on your right side. 

  • Extremely slow and swaying from side to side. 

  • Take a deep breath and stay calm while hugging yourself. 

  • This relaxing practice helps relieve pain. 

Get Rid of Stress 

 

  • Find a place where you feel comfortable. 

  • Stand up and start moving your body, starting with your hands and gradually including your hands, body and legs. Imagine shaking off dirt or sand. 

  • Shake for a few minutes and relax slowly. Allow your body to return to balance. 

  • See how your body feels after stopping. 

  • Stress is constantly present in our lives, and taking time to process your thoughts, relieve stress and get into a good mood is very important. 

  • This exercise can help reduce stress in the body and release a lot of the energy that stress can produce. 

What Is Somatic Psychotherapy? 

Somatic psychotherapy is the largest field of somatic psychology based on the mind-body connection. Modern somatic therapy practitioners believe that holistically viewing the mind and body is essential to healing. When given the right environment, this mind/body essence will move toward healing and growth on its own, and interpersonal interactions can positively impact and help regulate the mind/body if done safely and respectfully.    

According to somatic therapy theory, sensations associated with past trauma may remain within the body and be reflected in facial expressions, posture, muscle pain, or other forms of body language. Talk therapy can help resolve these traumas, but depending on the needs of the person receiving treatment, body-based therapy may complement more traditional approaches (e.g. talk therapy) to provide holistic healing.   

Somatic psychotherapy (also called body psychotherapy or body-centred psychotherapy) is different from somatic therapy. Although body-based psychotherapy can often lead to increased self-awareness, resolution of psychological problems, and positive behavioural changes, body-based psychotherapy does not aim to solve deep-rooted mental health problems or provide psychological insight. In contrast, bodywork typically uses therapeutic, non-therapeutic, and cosmetic skin treatments to reduce stress and improve long-term health. 

Expert’s Advice 

Incorporating bodily exercise into your daily routine can be an innovative way to release pent-up emotions, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being. Through different techniques or movements, tension and anxiety can be revealed so that the patient can not only heal from the experience but also learn more effective ways to deal with these feelings. Ultimately, people can use this body-centered approach to better understand the physical signs that arise from difficult memories or experiences. 

Health Expert  

Lavina Chauhan 

The Final Say 

Somatic therapy is an alternative therapeutic approach designed to help people heal from traumatic and painful events and restore the mind-body connection. Remember, healing is a journey, not a destination. Be patient with yourself, celebrate your progress, and trust in your body's innate capacity to heal. With the guidance of a therapist and the power of mindful movement, you can rewrite your story and step into a future filled with resilience and joy. 

FAQs 

1. What is the meaning of somatic therapy? 

The somatic therapy is roots in the form of body-centred therapy that examines the connection between the mind and the body. Somatic therapy is a type of alternative mental health treatment designed to treat trauma and stress-related disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), by examining how the body affects the mind. 

2. What are some somatic therapy techniques? 

Here are some well-known somatic therapy techniques:  

  • Grounding 

  • Body scan 

  • Somatic yoga 

  • Walking meditation 

  • Sensory awareness 

  • Voo breathing 

References 

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