Somatics 1: Beginning the Journey

By now you are learning that bodywork has become much more than relaxation and stress reduction. It is the essence of transformation, an evolution of body structure, self-image, neural networks, emotions, spirit and more. It is emergence of the true self, the God within.

These words, from a flyer I made last year, describe what somatics is to me. As I found out in San Francisco at the 1995 International Somatics Congress, many people have different definitions. The brochure for this event said it this way: "Somatics is an emerging profession concerned with how life takes shape in the human body, a discipline which studies, explores and works with feelings, thoughts and actions as they are expressed and transformed in every dimension of our physical selves."

Somatics, a term coined by Thomas Hanna in the seventies, started with a newsletter of the same name that served as a forum through which practitioners could exchange ideas. Some were counselors and analysts, others bodyworkers and Rolfers®, and still others movement and breath therapists. As these helpers shared the commonality of their experience everyone gained. And so it continues.

In Hanna’s book Somatics (Addison-Wesley, 1988) he talks of "the myth of aging" and "sensory-motor amnesia," concepts that he developed in his work as a Feldenkrais® practitioner. These lines of thought are now being validated by scientific studies*.

If all of this sounds like Greek to you, do not despair. The work is experiential and does not lend itself to verbal description. Even with lengthy descriptions and my own enthusiasm I have not been able to deliver the information to many colleagues, clients, or the Department of Health. So rather than doing this all at once, I will attempt to arouse your curiosity and give you a little more in each article.

If we look at the time period when modern science and medicine were developed, it is not surprising that sensate experience was left out of the five senses. The religious dogma that dominated those times labeled the flesh as evil and accordingly any body sensation was not considered "scientific fact." Unfortunately this idea has been passed down through generations of scientists and doctors.

For now it is enough to know that all you need is willingness to embark on the journey that lasts a lifetime. Thank you for reading.

*information available from NORA, Nature’s Own Research Association, PO Box 5101, Dover NH 03821-5100, 603-742-3789