Legendary musician James Brown once said, ‘’The one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing’’. Whether it be dance, pilates, yoga, or even simply going for a walk, moving one’s body entails becoming alive again. It means your spirit feels lighter, more stimulated and grounded.
Somatic practices are performed with a focus on one’s inner experience to learn something about their spirit, their body and its movements. Engaging in somatic movement can help us regulate our nervous systems and expand emotional awareness amid exciting and transitional periods, and therefore can be of particular aid to students who are going through the unfamiliar and potentially nerve-wracking process of leaving home to settle at university.
Many somatic exercises stem from ancient Eastern philosophy and healing practices, such as ta chi and qi gong, and have since inspired people worldwide to engage in the practice. Luckily, the Student Union hosts an array of opportunities to get involved with somatic exercises that can help maximise one’s overall wellness. Below are focused examples of the key benefits and how to perform them in a healthy manner.
To ensure that we push through our exercise in a physically and emotionally optimal way, it’s important to recognise how the mind and body respond to various movements. This could mean being present, blocking out distractions and grounding oneself to be ‘in the moment’. One way to do this is by closing your eyes to focus on your inner experience instead of your physical surroundings. You could also try cultivating breathing awareness, for instance, by being more intentional with the length and intensity of your breaths.
Mindfulness is also important from a safety standpoint. If an area of your body feels tense and unreceptive to what you’re trying to achieve, it’s in your best interest to listen to your body’s signals. Adding onto this, it can be helpful to express curiosity in regard to areas of tension or discomfort. For example, while meditating, some people find that sitting in silence feels uncomfortable. In this case, one could later question why this is; one possibility is that there is unfamiliarity in being ‘bored’ or unstimulated in contrast to our busy schedules.
Your practice can be even more restorative if led with a specific intention. This could range from feeling more grounded, releasing certain emotions, or even further tuning into them. You could try to implement this by visualising your intention as a physical entity. For example, if you intend to practise emotional release, picture strings of emotion flow through and eventually out of your body. Closing your eyes may help with this.
Often with somatic movement, the goal is not to solve a problem or to brainstorm practical solutions to achieve the intention, but rather, to be present in our practice and to use intentional movement-fueled energy as a way to focus on our inner being.
- Liberation: moving intuitively and indulging in the experience
Cultivating authentic and intuitive movement is a precious aspect of somatic exercise that nurtures our practice even further by enabling us to become one with our bodies. Allowing your body to surrender to the music with not a care in the world as to whether your movements look pretty and polished, is a vulnerable yet rewarding act because it’s authentic and intuitive. Therefore, as opposed to intellectualising or being hyper-critical of your movements, try moving in a manner that feels intuitive and really soak up the experience.
Feel the ground beneath you. Feel the emotions that come up and embrace or release them if you wish. Lastly, throughout our somatic practices, we must ensure that we work in harmony with our bodies, give ourselves patience and tenderness to move through our practice, and apply this level of compassion and intentionality throughout our day-to-day lives.