The idea of a concise, compelling description of ‘Somatics’ that can be communicated in the short span of an elevator ride makes good sense.
It makes good sense because, as a Somatics educator, I am often asked:
“What exactly do you do?” or,
“What is Somatics?” and “How does it work?”
So often, I am met by that bewildered gaze whenever I dare mention the “word”.
As a longtime yoga instructor, the elevator pitch has been much easier, if even necessary. Most people have at least some general understanding of what’s involved in the practice of yoga. Somatics, however, is different.
Although, like yoga, Somatics is a body-centered practice that incorporates slow deliberate movements and conscious attention, that is where the similarity ends. Where most styles of yoga place emphasis primarily on postures, Somatics is more focused on movement, placing function over form.
My elevator pitch needs to explain who this practice is for and why someone would choose to do it. I could start by explaining that Somatics is for anyone who wants to feel the freedom of a body that is pain-free, moves well and ages gracefully.
I teach Somatics to individuals and groups – from youth to seniors – so they can regain voluntary control over their own neuromuscular system. Since most conditions, including muscle and joint pain, limited mobility and poor posture, have been learned and habituated, they can be un-learned and corrected.
What this means is that anyone can take charge of their bodies, their health and their wellbeing – for themselves! It means that Somatics, unlike many other practices and therapies, can create long-term lasting change. I’m sure I can blurt that much out on a short elevator ride.
Somatics movements and exercises are gentle enough for most body types to do without risk of injury. It does not require intense stretching to try to release muscle tension. Instead, Somatics involves the brain and nervous system to lengthen and re-educate muscles that have become involuntarily contracted.
As you can see, the elevator ride is getting longer and I still haven’t really explained what Somatics is. I haven’t said anything about how the sensory cortex of the brain is awakened through slow intentional movements that enhance somatic awareness. Nor have I described how the motor cortex responds accordingly to correct, improve and refine function.
There is more to say and the elevator is still rising.
I must mention how, with Somatics, we can identify and resolve particular muscle reflex patterns that our bodies may be locked in. Patterns that cause misalignment resulting in functional limitations and pain. I need to explain how this method of neuromuscular re-education will increase mobility, range of motion and allow the body to function more efficiently. The natural outcome of this is more energy and increased vitality.
I want to go on about how using minimal effort is encouraged, rather than pushing or striving. I might even start in about all of the conditions Somatics is effective in resolving, from back pain to sciatica to shoulder issues to TMJ.
By now the elevator is filling up and I can’t contain my enthusiasm for Somatics. Every curious ear in that car will be listening and wondering about their own aches, pains and other complaints. Why have they not heard about this before now? And can Somatics really help them with that achy hip, sore neck and cranky knee?
My answer is a resounding YES!
It is no surprise that Somatics cannot be adequately described during the short span of an elevator ride. The elevator pitch is an ironic metaphor for the expansive, relaxed nature of Somatics. The very essence of this practice is learning to slow down, create space to feel and experience sensation that has been diminished or lost. Rushing or abbreviating that process is counterproductive and will only inhibit the results.
The way to really know Somatics is to take the ride. Have the experience to see and feel for yourself. Like the slow steady climb of the elevator car, or the safe smooth descent, Somatics is a journey worth taking that will surely move you and your precious body to a new and healthier place.