Soma is Greek for ‘body.’ We all have one, but how conscious are we of our mind’s relationship with our body and our body’s relationship with our mind and our spirit? Strengthening the mind-body connection is the primary objective of somatic-oriented mental health practices in the U.S. including Somatic Experiencing and somatic psychotherapy. Though somatic-based mental health treatment is relatively new in the settler-colonial U.S., body-oriented healing and mental health practices are a global wisdom practiced across cultures in some way, shape and form. These may include ritual song, drum and dances like the Ndeup ceremony seen in Senegal West Africa, meant to cleanse and heal a community member of mental and/or physical illness, the Pow Wow of the Indigenous people of Turtle Island (North America), that serves to strengthen a sense of community, connection to Earth, Spirit and mental health, or Pranayama and intentional breathing practice found in South Asia, meant to cleanse the mind-body-spirit and provide clarity.
During a session, a somatically-oriented practitioner in the U.S. might ask questions like, “where do you feel that in your body?” or instruct you to take on a posture that mirrors how you feel inside. Interventions like these recognize our body’s ability to hold emotions, memories and trauma as well as orient to our body’s wisdom to help process and transform trauma. Have you ever had the experience of your eye twitching or feeling uneasy in your stomach without knowing why and later realizing you were uncomfortable with what was happening at the time? This is because, sometimes, our body can give us feedback about our experience before our mind is conscious of what is going on. These signals are often unconscious and are connected to our intuition. When we strengthen our mind’s ability to listen to our body, we strengthen our awareness of our experience in the present moment, as well as how past experiences continue to impact us, and how to heal ourselves.