What is somatic psychology? is a question I am often asked. My mentors taught me the word soma is derived from Latin, meaning “a lived in, or an experienced body.” Meaning not only are we our physical anatomy, but we are also the experiences we have felt in our bodies. In a sense we are our own thoughts, our memories, our dreams, and physical activities we have engaged in over the course of our lives, our feelings about other people and ourselves, and the interaction of our body with our thoughts and actions. It’s a structure we can use to explore the mind-body connection.
I am a big fan of experiential workshops. This is known as “learning through reflection on doing”. Its an active learning style that is that is meant to teach to the individual’s unique perspective. There is literally no right or wrong way to discover what you feel during an experiential. We can utilize guided meditations, movement, art, or and begin to observe what thoughts, feelings or sensations we are having. This is a really fun way to let our bodies inform us and be our best teachers.
Many of us have heard the term psycho-somatic, which we tend to associate with a exaggerated attention to real, or made up illnesses or injuries a person is experiencing. There is a often a lot of negative tone when we hear psycho-somatic being used, as if it’s all “in the person’s head.” But take that judgemental way of looking at it out of the way, and many of us have heard “he is worrying himself sick,” or “she is a pain in my neck/ass,” “heartbroken,” or one of my favorites “I lost my voice” – like where did it go? These phrases are used to intuitively describe very real experiences we are often having in our day to day lives. This is the profound acknowledgment that not only are we feeling our emotions manifest physically in our bodies, but that our bodies are informing us as well.
This is especially helpful if it’s difficult to find the more obvious source of the dis-comfort. Its fairly easy to pinpoint where you picked up a bug, at the office or school, or from family. But when we have illnesses that seem to come out of nowhere or if we sustain an injury during a stressful period of life, it is easy to ask, “why does everything seem to happen at the same time?” So we must look beyond the physical. A greek pre-fix for the word “beyond” or “among” is meta. The metaphysical can be understood as “beyond the physical”. This gives us a lot of latitude in the search for deeper meanings or answers to our the ailments we sustain. A question I will often ask my clients when they have pain they can’t trace back to an injury or repetitive use, is “what is was happening in your life around the time the injury or pain occurred? More times than not, there was an event or stressful scenario that the person was also dealing or continuing to deal with. A classic example is whiplash from a car accident, often the pain doesn’t resolve until the case is fully settled. We have emotional relationships with our pain, it can make us angry, depressed, or act out. It would follow that if we are emotionally affected by our pain, why wouldn’t our emotional state have an effect on pain manifesting in our bodies?
We can use the diverse array of maps that have been designed throughout history and across cultures as a beginning. As knowledge of anatomy, cellular memory, energetic systems, and pathologies have increased, we can continue to add to the ever growing understanding of humanity. We can fully participate by tracking our own personal journey, for no map can tell us the story of ourselves. One of my favorite ways to facilitate this is The Legend of Your Body workshop.This is an informative, directed experiential workshop where we can discover the depth of our emotions and where they reside in our bodies. Once we can learn the tools to safely and compassionately observe our own stories, it becomes easier to see others with empathy, understanding, and expansive vision. The next one could be hosted by you! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information if you would like to hold the space for this type of workshop. I hope to see you there!
For most, it’s fairly easy to recall moments when our boundaries have been crossed. You may not know why exactly but, you just know. It’s invasive, uncomfortable, maybe it stings—it just doesn’t feel good at all. It can become less clear identifying when we have crossed those of others. And even foggier when attempting to call out our own personal boundaries.
So, what exactly are these elusive boundaries? One of my teachers shared that a personal boundary is that place in relationship where you and I can be without resentment… It’s easier to breathe just thinking about that place, right?
Boundaries can be fluid and flexible, they can grow and they can shrink depending on feelings of trust, familiarity, safety and more.
They are the invisible comfort zone between you and another… and they differ with each person that crosses your paths.
Establishing healthy boundaries can mean saying no, or saying yes. It can be making a request, asking for more information, or… choosing to say nothing. Successfully navigating boundaries is like a dance between two, requiring vulnerability, presence, and communication.
Finding these lines starts with genuinely ask ourselves what we are comfortable with.
Try this four-part practice to help you along the way:
Take time each day to notice your personal space with others. Observe the differences. Let your awareness go to the distinctions between what feels good and not so good, how comfort and space grows with some and shrinks with others. No judgement, just awareness. You know what’s appropriate for you and what’s not—what’s a yes and what’s a no. Begin identifying how you know, we each have internal signals–we just don’t always acknowledge them. Make the choice each day to pay attention. It takes practice.
Listen to your body.
Your body has great wisdom in deciding what you need at any given time. If you have overdone it, there’s a good chance you will fall ill, forcing you to a place of restoration. Before that forced downtime, there are signals. Again, hone your attention to the ways that your body speaks to you. Does your stomach ache when a depleting request comes your way? Perhaps this is a moment for more questions or a “no, not this time.” A sinking heart, accelerated breath, a wave of sadness, physical discomfort—each are possible signals, attempting to keep you on a healthy path. How does your body speak to you?
Follow your gut, and your heart.
Learning to listen to “gut” feelings is imperative to establishing good boundaries. It’s so important to cultivate an ongoing dialogue with our inner wisdom or instincts. You know those times that you just know. How many times have you “known” but chose another direction? How did that work out for you? For most of us, our intuition is spot on. If you feel you have no intuition, fear not, you can cultivate this inner muscle with practice. Follow your heart, it knows the way.
Speak your truth.
Give others the gift of your words. Authentic communication lets others know how to interact with—its kind and fuels healthy relationships. When we give too much of ourselves without filling our cups back up, we run into illness and injury. Practicing how to compassionately tell people what you are available for and what is beyond your healthy capacity is you managing your relationships with respect.
The clarity that comes with identifying our boundaries is liberating.
The path toward healthy interactions with others is a practice, one that can be very challenging, especially to those who define themselves as people pleasers. Yet, you hold the key to creating the type of relationships that are energizing and bring you happiness.
You will find a balance and ease when you share your truth with others.
And when you get off track, because we all do, it’s important to remember that you are HUMAN. You don’t have an infinite supply of energy, wisdom, or money for everyone around you. You are a better agent of a greater good when you come from a place abundance, rather than depletion.
Breathe deep and take good care of you, always.
The stress and tightness in your body must go… it’s time for a massage!
Make the most of your precious time on the massage table with these no fail strategies that will extend your relief and relaxation.
1. Schedule carefully.
Choose a time when you can relax after your massage is over. Your body and mind continue to integrate the experience for hours after the session. And, you’re not going to want to go back to work!
2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
Drink plenty of water before and after your session. A well hydrated body allows the tissue to be softer and more flexible. Water is life!
3. Start with a clean palette.
Take a warm bath or hot shower before your session. The hydrotherapy will soften your tissue and, a clean body allows a clear space for the practitioner to work.
4. Plan your meals around the session.
It can be uncomfortable to have a full belly on the massage table, eating light is recommended. Massage relaxes your body so it functions more efficiently, you may be hungry after your session. Eat healthy, nourishing food.
5. Think about your goals.
Do you need to relax from stress you are experiencing or, do you have a specific issue you would like addressed? Thinking about what your needs are before your session will help you communicate them clearly, this helps the practitioner make an effective game plan.
6. Speak up.
Giving feedback during the massage is important. If you have the urge to grin and bear it, don’t! Your therapist is counting on you to speak up if something needs to change during your session. Everyone is unique, what feels good to one, may not to another. You may need more, or less, pressure. A blanket or a fan. Different music, a sound level adjustment, or even no music. Your individual needs are paramount to having a fantastic bodywork session.
7. Give yourself quiet time.
Take 30-60 minutes for yourself before diving back into life. It’s like having a meal, even when you are done eating your body is still processing the nutrients. Let your body and mind integrate the session, this extends its benefits.
8. Be aware of your environment.
Releasing tension is amazing and, it may leave you feeling very open and free which can create a vulnerability to external sources. Take care when you interact with others right after your massage. If you can, limit your time with large groups of people after your session.
9. Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings.
Bodywork can accelerate the process of releasing pain, emotion, and even trauma that your body has been holding for you. Take note of any different thought processes, feelings, memories or dreams during the days following the massage. This type of healthy movement can lead to deeper release and healing and can be helpful to discuss at your next session.
10. Reschedule in a timely manner.
Bodywork is cumulative. It may have taken you years to get to the point when you decided you needed to take better care of yourself. It may take more than one session to address years of stress and tension built into your body. The more you regularly receive bodywork, the more “trained” your body will become in relaxing. Just like any physical practice, like dance or sport, the longer you train the better you get. The more you practice relaxation, the easier it will be for you to call upon when you need it most!
Visit Rebecca Schulman’s website to learn more about the benefits of massage and bodywork>
Craving a massage yet find yourself continually putting off this type of ‘luxury’ expense? This is a common perception. Truth is, consistent bodywork delivers benefits that can transform your health and uplift your daily life experience.
Looks like a massage-a-month* is the new apple-a-day… check out the benefits according to research complied by the American Massage Therapy Association:
– Relieves stress.
– Reduces anxiety, increases relaxation.
– Helps fibromyalgia pain.
– Decreases migraine and tension headaches.
– Enhances exercise and athletic performance.
– Pain management.
– Improves cardiovascular health.
– Better sleep.
– Boosts immunity.
– Eases depression.
– Lowers blood pressure.
– Decreases symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
– Boosts mental health and wellness.
– Increases range of motion.
– Decreases muscle stiffness and soreness.
That is quite a list, worthy of a second read! Seriously, the scope of benefits makes massage an investment that gives incredible bang for your buck. Your body likely tells you this is true, it sure is nice to have scientific confirmation..
Regular massage can improve your health and happiness. You’ve got one life, so what are you waiting for… take care of you today!
*Frequency for maximum results is best determined with your professional massage therapist.