Somatic meditation is based on the idea that our bodies physically store memories, emotions, and traumas, and that by bringing awareness to these sensations, we can release them and find greater peace of mind.
It’s a form of active meditation, in which our mind and body work together to release stress, pent-up emotion and tension.
In this article, we’ll explore somatic meditation, its benefits, and how it can be used to help with trauma and negative emotions.
What is Somatic Meditation?
Somatic meditation is a form of mindfulness practice that involves paying attention to the sensations in the body.
Somatic meditation involves focusing on the present moment and becoming aware of the sensations in the body without judgment. It can be practiced sitting, standing, or lying down, and involves paying attention to the breath, the body, and the environment.
It is similar to a body scan meditation, where you analyze each part o your body and release tension. The added level of somatic meditation is learning to recognize the correlation between your emotions and that tension.
A basic example of a somatic meditation is when you feel anger. When angry, many humans tend to clench their jaws, stiffen their neck, and ball their hands into fists.
To do a somatic meditation in this instance, the person experiencing anger finds a place where they can focus.
They bring their awareness to their clenched jaw and release these muscles.
They then notice how stiff and tight their neck is, and they relax their neck.
Finally, they slowly uncurl each of their fingers, all the while noticing how each release of tension correlates with a release of anger until the emotion begins to dissipate and eventually disappear.
What are the Benefits of Somatic Meditation?
There are many potential benefits of somatic meditation, including:
- Reducing stress and feelings of anxiety: By bringing awareness to the body and its sensations, somatic meditation can help us to release tension and chronic stress.
- Improving focus and concentration: Focusing on the present moment can help to quiet the mind and improve concentration.
- Promoting relaxation: Somatic meditation can help us relax, use deep breathing, and find a sense of calm, especially for those experiencing anxiety or stress. Tummo breathing meditation is another highly beneficial tool for stress reduction.
- Improving emotional regulation: By bringing awareness to our emotions and the sensations in the body, somatic meditation can help us regulate our emotions and respond to them healthily.
Can Somatic Therapy Help with Trauma?
Somatic therapy can be effective in helping to heal trauma. Trauma is often stored in the body and can manifest as physical sensations or emotional responses.
By bringing awareness to these sensations and emotions, somatic therapy can help individuals to process and release the trauma, leading to greater emotional and physical well-being.
How to Practice Somatic Meditation – A Step-by-Step Guide
While it can be helpful to work with a trained therapist or practitioner to process and release trauma through somatic experiencing, it is also possible to practice somatic meditation on your own, without a meditation teacher. Some tips for practicing somatic meditation on your own include:
- Start with a short period of time: You don’t have to spend hours practicing somatic meditation. Even just a few minutes of focus on the body can be beneficial.
- Find a comfortable position: You can practice somatic meditation sitting, standing, or lying down. Choose a position that is comfortable for you, perhaps using a meditation cushion.
- Close your eyes and focus on the breath: The breath is a great place to start when practicing somatic meditation. Bring your attention to the sensation of deep breaths moving in and out of the body.
- Bring awareness to different body parts: Depending on how you feel, you’ll likely be storing and keeping tension in different parts of your body. If your are sad, notice your tight neck; if you’re angry, notice a clenched jaw; if you’re worried, notice a furrowed brow.
- Be curious: When you notice a physical symptom and bodily sensations, try to be curious about it. What does it feel like? Where is it located in the body? What is its quality (e.g. hot, cold, tingling)?
- As you notice these sensations, try and assign an emotion to them. Identify which emotion is making your body feel this physical sensation, thus linking your emotions with your body.
- Begin to release each part of your body, thus releasing that emotion. Feel the tension slip from your muscles and the emotion slip from your mind.
- Repeat this process for as many body parts as you need, until you feel calm, centered, and peaceful. Enjoy this sensation of inner peace for as long as you wish, until gradually opening your eyes and realizing your new mindset.
What are Somatic Exercises?
Somatic exercises are body-based practices that involve a wide range of natural movements, stretching, and bringing internal awareness to the sensations in the body. These exercises can be helpful in releasing tension, improving flexibility and mobility, and increasing body awareness. Some examples of somatic exercises include:
- Yoga: Yoga involves a series of postures and movements that focus on bringing awareness to the breath and the body.
- Tai chi: Tai chi is a form of martial arts that involves slow, graceful movements and is often practiced for its calming effects.
- Feldenkrais Method: The Feldenkrais Method is a form of movement therapy that involves gentle, slow movements to improve mobility and body awareness.
The Takeaway: Somatic Meditation
Somatic meditation has been a powerful tool for me in releasing the sadness that came with my hard breakup. By focusing on the present moment and my physical responses to my pain, I was able to bring awareness to my emotional pain and let it move through me rather than getting caught up in the stories and thoughts in my head.
One particularly memorable experience I had with somatic meditation was when I was lying in bed, feeling overwhelmed with sadness and grief. I closed my eyes and brought my attention to my breath, noticing the rise and fall of my chest. As I focused on my breath and body, I felt a sense of warmth and tingling in my chest. It was as if my body was releasing the sadness, and with each exhale, I felt a little bit lighter.
This experience and others like it have shown me the transformative power of somatic meditation in helping me process and release difficult emotions. I recommend giving it a try for anyone struggling with emotional pain or looking for a deeper connection with their body and emotions in daily life.
Somatic Meditation FAQs
Is somatic meditation related to somatic therapy?
Somatic therapy is a form of therapy that focuses on the connection between the mind and the body. It often involves bringing awareness to the sensations in the body and using them as a way to process and release emotions, memories, and traumas. Somatic meditation is a form of mindfulness practice that involves bringing awareness to the sensations in the body, and it can be used as a tool in somatic therapy to help individuals process and release emotions and traumas.
What does somatic release feel like?
Somatic release is the process of releasing emotions, memories, and traumas that are stored in the body. It can feel different for everyone, but some common sensations associated with somatic release include:
- Tingling or pulsing sensations
- Heat or warmth
- Shaking or trembling
- Tears or crying
- A sense of lightness or relief
It’s important to remember that there is no “right” way to experience somatic release, and it’s important to allow yourself to feel and process whatever comes up for you.
How do you release stored trauma from your body?
There are a few different approaches that can be helpful in releasing stored trauma from the body, including:
- Somatic therapy: Working with a trained somatic therapist can be a helpful way to release stored trauma from the body. A therapist can help you to bring awareness to the sensations in the body and process and release the emotions and memories associated with the trauma.
- Mindfulness practices: Practices such as somatic meditation, yoga, and tai chi can be helpful in bringing awareness to the sensations in the body and releasing stored trauma.
- Bodywork: Practices such as massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic care can be helpful in releasing tension and stored trauma from the body.
Where is sadness stored in the body?
Sadness is often associated with feelings of heaviness or a sense of constriction in the chest or throat. This is where the saying “with a heavy heart” comes from, as the feelings of sadness around the chest can make it feel like the heart and the chest cavity is heavy and constricted.
What part of the body holds trauma?
Trauma can be stored in the body in many different ways, and it’s possible for different people to experience trauma in different parts of the body. Some common areas where people may feel the effects of trauma include:
- The stomach: Some people may experience tension, discomfort, or pain in the stomach when processing trauma.
- The chest: Trauma can often manifest as a sense of tightness or constriction in the chest.
- The head: Headaches, tension, and other physical sensations in the head can be a sign of stored trauma.
- The neck and shoulders: Tension in the neck and shoulders is a common physical manifestation of trauma
Where is anger stored in the body?
Anger is often associated with physical sensations such as tension, heat, or tightness. Some common areas where people may feel the effects of anger in the body include:
- The jaw: Tension in the jaw can be a sign of anger.
- The fists: Clenching the fists or tightening the hands can be a physical manifestation of anger.
- The shoulders: Raised shoulders, with the shoulders coming closer to the ears and neck, is often a sign of frustration and anger.
Bringing your awareness to these particular parts of your body and actively relaxing them can and will reduce these negative emotions – which is the essence of somatic meditation.