Developing Mindfulness in your Somatics PracticeHeidi Hadley
In today’s blog we are going to delve into a particular area of our somatic movement practice and understand the benefits of it.
When I chat with clients I love to hear how their somatic practice is progressing. I often hear wonderful comments, highlighting how they’ve embraced this amazing movement practice to reduce their pain, improve their posture, increase their mobility and enhance their mindfulness skills. From time to time I hear clients say that they are very brief with their soma (body) scan and use it to look for what needs addressing. This attentiveness is great, however there are a few points I would like to discuss in this week's blog regarding these comments.
The Importance of your Soma Scan
The scan at the beginning of your practice is designed to help you develop your mindfulness skills and notice what you sense and feel in specific areas. Training yourself to draw attention to one area and notice how you feel before moving on to another area helps you to reduce the tendency to ‘live in your head.’
In Somatics we refer to our mind and body as a SOMA. A soma is a sensory organism which absorbs all thoughts, cultures, trends, habits, beliefs, movements and other influences which shape us to the person or soma we are today.
Bearing this in mind, the scan is designed to help us sense and feel rather than think. So to approach the scan with the mindset of “what do I need to fix” is moving away from a mindset of education and getting to understand how you feel from the inside out, to a mindset of “skip the laborious detail, its frustrating, what do I need to fix?” This mindset will immediately create a reactiveness or an impulsiveness and as a result, your brain switches off from learning and your practice can become mechanical, purely going through the motions, with your central nervous system still hypervigilant. As a result you are still held captive in your stress reflex postures.
When you spend time noticing various areas of your soma, such as the ‘weightedness’ of your feet on the floor, whether you are loading more weight on to one side of your torso compared to the other, how your shoulders rest on the floor and so on, you engage your sensory cortex fully.When you notice how you feel from the inside out during your scan, you can fully focus on how you walk, stand and hold yourself in relation to the world and events around you, rather than getting caught up in the concepts and in some cases going back to ‘living in your head’ and ‘intellectualizing somatics’, rather than sensing and feeling how you feel in that moment.
Knowing your Personality
Do you know your personality well? Do you know what pushes your buttons? This is really important to know when you consider your somatics practice, in particular your soma scan. If you have the Type A personality, the ‘go, go, go’ person, 'just get on with it' or 'work through your stress' mindset, the soma scan can be a frustrating part of your practice. You may say to yourself ‘just get on with it.’ When this happens, you are going back into your ‘fix it’ and 'go, go, go' mindset, 'living on your adrenals' or nervous anxiety.
By allowing your nervous system to slow down and observe what you are feeling can be uncomfortable, irritating, boring, frustrating, sad or you may comment that you cannot feel anything at all. This is common and so please don’t feel that you cannot overcome this. Your learned behaviour to meeting these sensations is to try and not meet them. Instead it is to push them away with distracting activities and ‘battling on,' a learned pattern of behaviour which has to change to in order to make positive strides. As much as you may want to move on quickly, this scan teaches you to gently introduce a level of discomfort, moving out of your comfort zone of ‘getting on with it’ or ‘let’s find a solution and fix it’ into a mindset of "allow myself to slow down and notice what I feel."
When you develop your mindfulness skills within your scan, you focus on how you feel within each part of your body or soma as you rest on the floor, stand or walk, depending on which scan you are practicing at that moment. You are heightening your somatic (whole being) awareness to this moment rather than a set of philosophical ideas and working ‘mechanically’ with your ‘body.’
Somas exist in time. So every time you perform a scan (even in between somatic movements during your practice), you sense and feel how your muscle tone, movement and mindset are changing. By incorporating a scan between movements, allows your to sense and feel how stress arises and how you can lower its impact on your mind and body (soma) with somatic movement. The more you practice mindfulness with your scan, the more you will feel the positive effects that specific movements have on your muscles. As a result of this, you will have a deeper understanding of how your nervous system is faring and how it translates into your muscles, mindset and physiology.
Main Purpose of a Scan
The following points are to be considered when you are practicing your scan:
- A lying down soma scan is not a relaxation exercise. The main intention for the scan is to hone your mind to the sensory experience within your body.
- To teach yourself to move away from ‘living in your head’ or trying to intellectualise Somatics and understand it as a theoretical and/or mechanical exercise.
- Notice that during the scan your mind may wander, you may feel bored, frustrated, irritated, numb and anxious. If you do, bring your attention back to sensing and feeling without attaching a story or label such as ‘my stiff back’ or ‘my dodgy knee.’ Avoid judgemental labels which will detract from your scan.
- To be curious and notice how your soma is feeling today. Your central nervous system is constantly switching from rest and digest to stressed and alert. In some cases, the central nervous system continues to live in the stressed and alert mode. So heightening your awareness to how your central nervous system is faring is important.
- Following a scan, I always teach my clients a breathing awareness scan to once again notice how their central nervous system is influencing their breathing. After developing a mindful breathing scan, guided rib release techniques help to prepare the clients for mindful somatic movement to allow full use of their diaphragm and muscles in and around their ribs.
To purchase the Rib Release audio, CLICK HERE.
Focus and Breathing
When you focus your attention on your breathing during your scan, you begin to notice a connection between your emotions and your body. Maybe this could be that you feel anxious and frustrated. Maybe you notice your reactiveness or irritation immediately tightens muscles, alters your breath rate and you revert to a ‘fix it’ or ‘solutions’ orientated mindset. When you notice a connection to how you feel in relation to your personality and response or reaction, you begin to foster emotional regulation and it stops you from trying to ignore what is going on inside of you.
I always say to clients, “let’s be curious. Notice ……. What would happen if we do…..” Once we start approaching our soma with curiosity rather than fear or the need to control every aspect of our health in that moment, everything shifts.
The more you develop your soma scans by noticing areas individually and then as a whole, you begin to feel comfortable with this practice. Remember you are accessing your amazing brain and the process of neuroplasticity. When we develop a detailed internal sensory awareness to various areas of our body, we can change old habits and behaviours for new ones.
Thomas Hanna (the creator of the modality Somatics) said,
“If you can sense it and feel it, you can change it.”
So by skipping the scan, making it brief or using it to think “what do I need to fix,’ it is important to recognize you have moved away from sensing and feeling to being mechanical and fixing the problem. By slowing down your central nervous system to actually sense and feel, you make your brain conducive to learning new patterns of movement and sensation.
To experience Somatics, check out my online program. It is self paced and can be performed in the comfort and privacy of your own home.
I am available on Skype, Zoom or via email if you have any questions and queries during your time with The Total Somatics Approach to Health & Wellness Online Program at www.TotalSomatics.com.
I look forward to introducing you to this wonderful mind and body practice.
Heidi Hadley xx