“Somatic therapy” is the new hot word. Mindset coaching is so last decade. Many wellness pros are saying that mindset coaching and talk therapy will be phased out perhaps entirely over the next 10 years.
Because somatic coaching can be so much more effective! I personally did 4 years of talk therapy after college. I achieved more with 1 month of somatic therapy. This is because traditional talk therapy overlooks the fact that trauma is stored in your BODY. Yes, the mind is involved, but you need to feel your pain to truly be free of it. That is why this revolutionary therapy is here.
A somatic therapy session is an ideal practice for yogis. As yogis we already experience emotions releasing on our yoga mat and understand that pain is living in our body. I’m going to walk you through what somatic coaching is, why it works, what to expect if you book a session, and where to train if you love it and want to become a body oriented coach. First, you’re probably wanting a definition.
What is somatic coaching?
Somatic coaching offers a unique approach to personal growth and transformation by helping clients draw connections between the mind, body and emotions. When you focus on physical sensations, movements, and postures through your body and correspond these with the unwanted emotions you are facing, you begin to experience life differently.
Now that we’ve put a definition to the name, let’s understand more of why a somatic session and coaching practice can be so revolutionary for your personal growth.
Understanding Why Somatic Coaching Works
Newsflash: trauma is stored in your body. Even if it happened long ago, for example, birth trauma, childhood abuse, etc. Have you ever noticed yourself being more closed off to certain touches or even gestures? Maybe your friend goes in for a high five and you twitch – that is a sign of the trauma stored in your body.
Modern science reduces us to a bag of chemicals and is focused on the mind. It’s been proven that trauma doesn’t exist in your mind, but as a lived experience in your body and fascia (interconnective tissue). This results in habitual bracing patterns you don’t even know you have.
According to my teacher John Barnes:
“These positions of trauma represent one’s subconscious fear, negative memories and/or pain that have created holding or bracing patterns which have impeded progress of the traditional therapeutic approach. It is these positions in space and the re-experiencing of this painful memory, which is never injurious, that takes the threat out of the system and allows the mind/body complex to let go of these holding or bracing patterns so that healing can commence. “– John Barnes PT
Each of us have “issues in our tissues.” Not just in our mind. In our body.
Bessel Van Der Kolk’s book entitled, “The Body Keeps Score” discusses the ways that trauma hinders and recalibrates the brain, putting the body in a constant state of fight or flight. In his books, he calls out a range of interventions that help the physical body release stored trauma.
“Various forms of trauma processing [are] neurofeedback, theater, meditation, play, and yoga.”
The major take away from his book is that we need to feel to heal. As yogis we know that too much of life is already spent in the intellectual mind. We need to remember that we have a physical body. It’s the same way that your kids have a tantrum and the minutes later, after releasing their anger, they’re totally fine and go back to playing. After witnessing this from my kids, as I’m sure you have as well, I realized that as we grow up in this modern world, we learn to repress our emotions instead of expressing them.
This doesn’t help our bodies. As you learn to repress, disconnect and ‘deal with it later,’ you create pain and tension in your physical system.
Yoga in and of itself is “body and spirit” oriented coaching. In my Yoga Teacher Training courses, I teach you techniques (through breathing and movement) to release anger, stress and recalibrate your nervous system. Somatic coaching goes one step further to get to the root cause of your issues, tackling them head on. Through this style of coaching, you’re not focusing on treating the symptoms to keep them at bay like you would a cold (i.e. using cough syrup and decongestants). This style of coaching allows you to identify the root cause of your feelings and gives you a healthy way to express and release it.
Somatic Coaching Techniques
Somatic coaching techniques involve the use of the body awareness, movement, touch, and breath work to help you connect with your body and become more aware of where your emotions live in your physical system. While working with a somatic coach, they will ask you things like “where does a particular feelings live in your body?”
They may invite you to give those feelings words, sounds, colors and textures and invite you to move in certain ways (hitting a pillow with a wiffle ball bat, for example) to release them so you can be free. This helps you to not just vocally or intellectually release, but to physically and energetically release emotions that aren’t serving you as well. The techniques I’ll share below will help you to let go of your feelings in a positive, healthy way.
Remember: it’s never the feeling itself that is causing you distress. It’s your own internal resistance to feeling the feeling. Underneath all your feelings is simply ENERGY. The moment you accept a feeling and decide to feel it fully (instead of resisting against it), like a child that desperately wants your attention, once you give it attention, it stops making noise. It’s incredible how quickly deciding to acknowledge, witness and fully feel your emotions, without resistance, will shape-shift and change into something beautiful.
Here’s how this works in somatic coaching and what you might experience in a session:
Body awareness involves developing an awareness of the sensations in your body. It can be done through exercises such as the cross mapping method, where you are guided to focus on different parts of your body and notice any sensations or tensions.
If you aren’t yet getting help from a coach, do you ever catch yourself crying out of nowhere? Or feeling the urge to scream or punch a wall or pillow?
These are signs that your inner child or younger self needs love and attention. Body oriented coaching can help you not only become more present in the moment, but release that tension and those emotions. It also helps you to gain a better understanding of your needs moving forward.
During a yoga session, your instructor can guide you to focus on your breath and notice how your body responds to different poses. Does a certain pose make your body feel tight or uncomfortable? Of course, make sure that you consult your instructor about your alignment, but this may be a sign of work needing to be done to release any stored trauma in that area. Yoga is a great way for you to begin to notice your limitations and strengths, leading to you having more confidence in your practice as well as more mindfulness about where you may be holding tension in your body. Read more about somatic yoga to see what this looks like in practice.
This involves using physical movements to help you release emotions from what’s bothering you right now or what bothered you during your childhood years. You might do things like punch a pillow, thrash yourself on the bed, kick a pillow etc. In some cases you may be trying to heal your inner child by hugging a pillow. You might play on a repressed or difficult memory with the aid of your therapist, and move the way you wished you could have moved, saying the things you wish you could have said in that moment.
Using touch can help you become more aware of your body and releases tension. This can include techniques such as massage or myofascial release. Touch is particularly effective for those who struggle with physical pain or tension.
Breathing techniques help clients become more aware of their breath and release tension. Deep breathing, pranayama, or breath-focused meditation are just some of the techniques that you might use.
To help relieve and express tension or deep seated emotions you may do things like listen to loud music, shout or scream. If you’ve ever been angry, stressed, or frustrated, screaming is a great outlet because it is a quick way to release emotion. (Chanting works really well too!)
Now that you know what somatic coaching is and what you might experience from it, if you love it like most yogis do, you may be interested in learning how to facilitate this for others.
Somatic School: Training and Certification
Are you interested in becoming a somatic coach or adding this certification to allow you to help more people? AMAZING! Proper Training and certification are crucial for somatic coaches to ensure they have the necessary knowledge, skills, internal experience, and ethical standards to effectively work with clients and improve their physical and emotional well-being.
Somatic Coaching certification programs typically provide comprehensive training in areas like body awareness, movement, touch, and breathing techniques as well as the theoretical foundation of somatic coaching. There are several coaching programs and certification processes available.
Let’s take a look at a few.
- The Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute offers a comprehensive 3 year program in Somatic Experiencing, a body oriented coaching approach to healing trauma. The program includes both online and live training as well as supervision and certification opportunities.
- The Hakomi Institute somatic coaching academy offers a training program using the Hakomi method, a body centered approach to psychotherapy. The program includes experiential learning, supervision, and certification opportunities.
- The Strozzi Institute offers training programs in somatic coaching and leadership skills, which combine principles from Aikido, Zen, and somatic psychology. The program includes both online and live training, as well as the ability to get certified.
- The RadixInstitute is a non-profit organization that offers somatic coaching training and certification programs. The Radix approach is based on the belief that our emotions and physical sensations are intertwined, and that our bodies hold the key to healing and growth. It combines elements of body psychotherapy, somatic experiencing, and mindfulness to help clients develop greater self awareness, emotional regulation, and body-mind integration. The therapist I personally work with is certified through Radix.
Becoming certified in life coaching can benefit yoga teachers, personal trainers, and other professionals by providing them with a deeper understanding of how the mind and body are interconnected, and how to effectively integrate somatic coaching techniques into their existing practice.
As an example, you as a yoga teacher that is certified can enhance your ability to guide your students through poses and help them develop a deeper awareness of their bodies. A personal trainer can better understand how to help clients release tension and prevent injury through movement and touch. Additionally, somatic coaching certification can provide a competitive advantage to your resume and increase credibility with your clients.
Incorporating Somatic Coaching into Your Practice
Incorporating somatic coaching into your business and existing services can be a powerful way to enhance the effectiveness of your practice and support clients in achieving their physical and emotional well-being. I’ve got some tips for you on how to introduce somatic coaching to clients and integrate it into what you already offer!
- As always, start with education! Educate your clients about somatic coaching and how it can benefit them in their healing journey. Explain how it can help to develop greater body awareness, emotion regulation, and resilience. Encourage them to ask any and all questions as well as being open to the process. Invite them to remember that you’re a team and together they can create a safe space within themselves.
- Being with simple techniques. Start by introducing simple somatic practices like breathing exercises or cross mapping methods. These techniques can be incorporated into existing practices like yoga, leading to the development of greater awareness of your students body and their emotions.
- Offer personalized sessions. A personalized somatic session should be tailored to the clients specific needs. This can include identifying areas of tension or trauma in the body and developing practices to release them.
- Integrate somatic coaching into existing practices. In coaching sessions, you should integrate some techniques from the somatic approach. As a yoga teacher you can incorporate some of the somatic perspective into your classes by emphasizing body awareness and breath work. A personal trainer can use touch and movement to help clients release tension.
- Monitor progress. Monitoring the progress of your students and clients allows you to make simple adjustments to your coaching abilities as needed. Encourage your students to be open to the adjustments to meet their needs.
Somatic coaching may seem intimidating to incorporate into what you already offer, but you already are! If you’re a yoga teacher who has been through my trainings, you know you set the stage for this work by doing exactly what you’re already doing- helping people remember that they have a physical body by teaching yoga. When you teach meditation and talk about chakras, this gives students more awareness and helps prepare them for somatic work. You routinely remind students to be paying attention to what’s going on in their body – you cue them to tune inward in yoga class.
Somatic coaching is a holistic approach to wellness that focuses on the integration of the body and mind. It involves developing greater awareness of physical sensations and emotional intelligence to support clients in achieving greater physical and emotional well-being. Techniques include body awareness, movement, touch, and breathwork. As a healer and leader, you can integrate this into your existing practices like yoga, personal training and physical therapy.
Proper training and certification are essential for coaches to ensure they have the necessary knowledge and skills to support clients effectively. Incorporating this style of coaching into your existing services can enhance the effectiveness of a practice and support your client in achieving lasting transformation, motivation and change.
If you are interested in learning more about somatic coaching, I recommend these books “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk and “Waking the Tiger” by Peter Levine, as well as all the information about “body reading” and the fascia in the Uplifted 200 and 300-Hour Yoga Teacher Trainings.
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