How Mindful Somatic Movement influences your Nervous System

I have received lovely emails and feedback recently from readers around the world about my blogs. They have loved hearing about the brain and how somatics supports various areas of their Central Nervous System. So today we are going to look at an area I have often referred to in previous blogs, The Limbic System.

The Limbic system is the part of the brain involved with behavioural and emotional responses. It is involved with survival such as feeding, reproducing, caring and the well known fight or flight response I often mention in my blogs. The Limbic System is buried deep within your brain. It sits underneath your cerebral cortex and just above your Brainstem. Today I am going to discuss a few areas which are involved with the actions of the Limbic System and notice how they help with our somatic movement practice.

Your Amazing Brain!

The more I learn about the brain and see how it can constantly change and adapt with what I teach clients, all I can say is, it is truly amazing! Today I am going to give you an insight into some areas of your brain which are affected by somatic movement. You will see how malleable your brain is, thirsty to learn new information, trends, movements and sensations all the time.

The region of your brain we are going to discover is highlighted below.

Movement and Learning

Within this area there is a portion known as the Basal Ganglia. This area is very important with somatic movement because it is associated with voluntary or conscious motor movements, procedural learning, habit formation, eye movements, the process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience and senses. This area is also heavily influenced by emotion.

The Basal Ganglia receives input from the cortex and provides output back to the motor areas of the cortex via the thalamus. The Basal Ganglia helps to initiate and stop movements of the body. It is within this area that we can suppress unwanted movements and regulate muscle tone. As a Clinical Somatic Educator, I am also mindful of how this area works when I am working with clients either in person or within my online program. It is a really important area because my cues, manner of speech and tone to educate a client are considered here.

Mood and Memory

A primary structure with your Limbic System is the Cingulate Gyrus. This area helps with mood regulation. It also dictates how we respond to stimuli. It is crucial for enabling us to decide how to move in order to react appropriately to external events and objects. The rear portion is involved in autobiographical memory. At times a client may have an emotional release during their movement session. This area will often be involved as it combines the response of stored emotion or trauma in their soma with their personal history or recollection of events. Bearing this in mind, as a practitioner and educator, I always work slowly and mindfully with clients so they can notice changes in their emotional and physical health.

It’s in your Eyes!

The thalamus sits behind the cingulate gyrus. This area is made up of grey matter which allows the brain to process input from sensory organs. It is the final site for messages from the sense organs - the eyes, ears, tongue and receptors found within the skin. Once the relevant nerve cells have relayed their messages to the thalamus, it transmits this information to various areas within the cerebral cortex. Eye movement sequences will influence activity in this area. When a clients starts to move their eyes in different directions, they realise how much they can truly allow their eyes to travel. Stress, anxiety and trauma can create a ‘frozen in time’ effect on a client’s eyes and the eye muscles develop Sensory Motor Amnesia.

To learn more about Sensory Motor Amnesia and Internal Awareness click HERE.

When eye movements are incorporated into somatic movement it creates additional changes to how our brain to body connection operates. Hypervigilance is really common to see with ones who have suffered trauma. Their nervous system is on high alert all the time, which as you can imagine is very exhausting for them. Signs of hypervigilance within the eyes are when they continue to dart around the room, resembling that hypervigilance or fight or flight stress response, expecting imminent danger. Not only do their eyes dart around but their pupils dilate and peripheral vision is pronounced. When I teach somatic eye movements I encourage clients to allow this gentle, slow, small movement of their eye muscles to act as a circuit breaker to the stress response loop. It becomes a practice which reassures the person that if this movement is being performed slowing, gently, with a nurturing approach, the person knows they are safe to slow down everything.

Somatic, Specific, Sensitive

I often referred to “the 3 S” approach. When we practice somatics, it is not a structured one movement fits all approach, performed X amount of times; its is very different to that. Firstly it is Somatic. Somatic means it is an internalised process which is initiated and felt by yourself. Only you can make the changes because only you can sense and feel what is happening from within. The feedback you sense and feel from how you perform your soma scans, to how you feel the 3 phases of a pandiculation, to how you sense and feel with your soma scans throughout your practice, can only be absorbed by you. This information allows for changes to occur with your actions, behaviours, movements and posture.

The second “S” is Specific. When you become somatic, you become familiar with how you feel from within. As your personal practise grows, you become specific. You notice certain movements and releases work effectively, so becoming specific and exploring these movements and how they correlate with how you feel internally before and after particular pandiculations, helps you to gain greater insight into your internal terrain or environment.

Finally when you become somatic and specific, you also notice that the smaller and slower you make the movements, the more Sensitive you become to your personal practise. Becoming sensitive would also involve allowing for full integration to happen with your somatic movements. This integration period is equally as important as the contraction and lengthening phase within the pandiculation. It allows your brain to say “ahhh and completely relax. Let everything go!” Due to hypervigilance or your personality make up, you may always thrive on being busy and full of lots of tasks and challenges. However if you live like this, you never fully appreciate and allow your nervous system to completely relax. By becoming sensitive to experience and feel what is it like to truly relax is a huge step towards becoming somatic and giving yourself permission to stop and rest.

Would you like to learn these skills so you can sense and feel what it is like to truly relax your nervous system? Would you like to allow your muscles to soften and reduce pain, improve posture, increase mobility and develop mindfulness skills to complement you on a daily basis? Let me help you learn how to create a somatic lifestyle and improve your understanding of your internal environment and how you can facilitate your health and wellness to a level which will support your life.

To learn more, check out my FREE eBook by clicking HERE.

I look forward to teaching you these amazing skills.

Take care,
Heidi Hadley xx

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