The language of your body always tells the truth.
Body language is often a subconscious yet powerful expression of our real state of mind, emotions, and beliefs. Though incredibly significant in all relationships, it is amazing how unaware most of us are of the non-verbal communication our bodies project.
From a cellular level to full-body posture, our physicality is recording and informing how we are shaped and is being conditioned by every experience we have. This understanding forms the backbone of somatic therapy.
Somatic therapy derives its name from the Greek root “soma”, which means living body. It is a holistic understanding that all aspects of mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health are not only integrated but also indivisible. From a therapeutic standpoint, somatic therapy approaches healing by redirecting awareness from the nonstop chatter of the mind, into the world of physical sensation. By focusing on our breath, muscles, and posture, we may come to recognize certain areas in the body that chronically feel strained, pinched, or bothersome.
Your body communicates both outwardly to the rest of the world, as well as inwardly. It effectively convinces you of its plight, hardships, and drudgery… or conversely, its confidence, radiance, and self-worth. As we begin to recognize these areas of discomfort or stress in which the body is holding on to something, our tendency sometimes is to deny, minimize or move away from this sensation.
From a somatic perspective, these points of holding often reflect the body’s stored memory of past trauma or painful emotional experiences. Parts of our body can easily become contorted or blocked in a self-protective way or as an energetic marker of a life event. Although we can often dig into our stories to understand when and why our body first began holding in an uncomfortable way, we find that this works just as potently in both directions. The body is language; language is the body.
Somatic therapy helps people to observe their own body language, listen to what their body is saying and, to take action to improve their present life condition.
Awareness of one’s own body and bodily sensations may seem overly simplistic but how many of us spend the bulk of our lives consumed by ruminating on the past or worrying about the future – analyzing, criticizing, comparing, and planning? With the body, it is often more important to simply wake up to the sensations at hand.
Struggling to remain present as we confront life is uncomfortable, but these are moments from which growth and healing stem. Somatic therapy helps us recognize, sit with, and approach shifting the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of ourselves. The somatic learner does not view the body and mind as a duality. Body and mind are inseparable.
Having studied somatic coaching in the United States, it has been fascinating for me to recognize the similar wisdom embedded in two of the principal philosophies underpinning Balinese socio-religious culture:
1. Tri Kaya Parisudha (alignment in thought, speech, and action). Similar to the Western notion of “walking the talk”, this Balinese philosophical tenet goes a step further to include walking and talking one’s thought. From a somatic standpoint, if there is misalignment between these three aspects of the self, the discord creates a holding within your body. If you are false or hypocritical in the relationship between your thoughts, speech and actions, the language of your body will eventually counter-testify.
2. Tri Hita Karana (alignment in relationships: human-to-god, human-to-human, human-to-nature). This tripartite understanding of one’s spiritual, social and ambient relationships is akin to the somatic process of ‘centering’. A method of accessing awareness of your body’s language, centering focuses on the physical alignment of your posture. The vertical axis represents your relationship to a higher power; the horizontal axis represents your relationship to other humans; the alignment of front and back represents your relationship to nature.
From both a Balinese and a somatic perspective, the body is understood as the microcosm. By the process of alignment, you are actually aligning yourself with the macrocosm of the universe. This literal sensation of re-balancing oneself translates inherently to mental, emotional and spiritual stability.
The good news is that, while your whole life story is recorded in your body, the rest of your life is still before you. If your current shape no longer serves you, you can deliberately change it.
Change your shape to change your state.
Somatic therapy begins with a body scan, which you can do by yourself right now. Simply stay still and take a moment to observe any tensions, cramping, straining, or clenching currently active in your body. Are you gritting your teeth or holding your breath? Favoring one hip or collapsing your shoulders or jutting your jaw forward? What is this body language telling you? What is the internal narrative related to that holding?
This practice is a tool with which to continually re-align your physical self with everything else, internal and external. Somatic therapy recognizes that being centered is not a static position. In fact, it recognizes that nothing in life is static and that life will always have moments that can throw you off balance. However, with awareness, we are each on the brink of transformation.
“There is no body distinct from the soul.” – William Blake