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What is a Somatic Workout? One of last year's most Googled fitness trends

25.02.24

In today's fast-paced world, stress has become an inevitable part of our lives, often manifesting as tension and discomfort in our bodies. Many of us have experienced the tightness in our neck or shoulders after a long, stressful day at work. But what if there was a way to not only alleviate physical tension but also enhance our mental well-being simultaneously? Enter somatic workouts – a holistic approach that delves into the mind-body connection to promote overall health and vitality.

Understanding Somatic Workouts

Somatic exercises are a form of movement therapy that focuses on cultivating awareness of bodily sensations and experiences. Derived from the Greek word "soma," meaning body, somatic workouts encourage individuals to listen to their bodies and consciously engage in physical movements. By doing so, practitioners can release pent-up tension, alleviate stress, and foster a deeper understanding of their internal landscape.

While somatic exercises may seem like a contemporary trend, their roots trace back to ancient practices such as yoga, tai chi, and qigong. These disciplines have long recognized the intimate relationship between the mind and body, using mindful movements to promote health and well-being. According to Dr. Mary Jurisson, a physiatrist and rheumatologist at the Mayo Clinic, somatic elements have been integral to these age-old traditions, underscoring their time-tested effectiveness.

The Benefits of Somatic Exercises

The benefits of somatic workouts extend beyond mere physical relief. Dr. Scott Lyons, a psychologist and body-based trauma expert, emphasizes that these practices can help individuals process emotions, increase movement efficiency, and alleviate pain. Moreover, research suggests that somatic exercises can enhance emotional awareness, self-esteem, and decision-making skills, contributing to overall well-being.

Despite the challenges of quantifying the effects of somatic practices, studies have indicated promising outcomes. While there may not be a direct measure of mind-body exercise and connection, physiological markers such as heart rate variability and blood pressure can offer insights into the body's response to these techniques. Increased heart rate variability and lower blood pressure are commonly observed following somatic exercises, indicating a shift towards relaxation and equilibrium.

Exploring Somatic Exercises

Somatic exercises encompass a diverse range of practices, from grounding techniques to breathwork, body scans, yoga, and dance. These modalities share a common intention: to slow down, increase awareness, and connect with the body's sensations and movements.

Below are five simple somatic exercises to try:

Cathartic Movement: Shake off stress and tension by allowing the body to move organically. Embrace shaking, trembling, and releasing tension through spontaneous movements, accompanied by audible sounds or sighs. Feel the energy coursing through your body and take a moment to notice the shifts in your physical and emotional state.

Diaphragmatic Breathing: Engage in deep, abdominal breathing to promote relaxation and lower stress levels. Focus on expanding the diaphragm and filling the lungs with air, paying attention to each breath's rhythm and depth. Notice how diaphragmatic breathing calms the mind and releases tension stored in the body.

Self-Hug: Practice pandiculation by tightly hugging yourself and then slowly releasing the embrace. Allow the body to contract and release tension, mimicking the natural stretching and yawning movements observed upon waking. Notice how this simple gesture promotes relaxation and reduces overall muscle tension.

Mindful Walking: Take a leisurely walk while fully immersing yourself in the present moment. Notice the sensations of each step, from the contact of your feet with the ground to the rhythm of your breath. Perform body scans to identify areas of tension and consciously relax them, allowing for a more effortless and enjoyable walking experience.

Super Slow Strength Training: Combine somatic movement with strength training by performing exercises at a deliberate, controlled pace. Focus on engaging specific muscle groups and maintaining awareness of the sensations arising in your body. Slow down conventional exercises such as squats or pushups to enhance muscular control and deepen the mind-body connection.

Incorporating somatic workouts into your routine can be a transformative journey towards holistic well-being. Whether you're seeking relief from physical discomfort, managing stress, or enhancing self-awareness, these practices offer a pathway to greater vitality and resilience. By nurturing the mind-body connection, somatic exercises empower individuals to cultivate a deeper understanding of themselves and unlock their innate potential for healing and growth.

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