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3-Step Somatic Self Care Practice

Somatic Awareness: Awakening Your Senses

As a self-care enthusiast and somatic psychotherapist, I often hear the question, ‘What exactly does somatic mean?’ That’s a great question! The somewhat elusive term ‘somatic’ refers to our body’s felt experience and the connection between sensations, thoughts, and emotions. Somatic awareness practices enhance both emotional and physical health, acting as a grounding anchor in psychological discovery.

Focused in the here and now, somatic practices enrich our understanding of the body’s innate wisdom. Sensations vary in density, texture, temperature, shape, or even flavor. A deeper understanding of these sensations bolsters our self-inquiry capabilities. This enhanced skill is key in effectively exploring and understanding our unmet needs and their roots

3-Step Somatic Healing Self Care Practice

Doing self-care in nature and practicing somatic awarenessIncorporating somatically-informed self-care practices into our routine can greatly aid in healing. This 3-step practice, combining somatic awareness with personal inquiry, is effective for regulating the nervous system, soothing somatic discomfort, and encouraging personal transformation.

Consistency is key in many life practices, more so than duration. Even just 10 minutes of somatic awareness can reduce emotional distress and bring balance to the body. This practice is suitable for everyone and can be particularly helpful during challenging times. All you need is to set aside a minimum of ten minutes, without any specific goal or achievement in mind. Relax into the process and observe what inner wisdom unfolds.

Step 1: Getting In Touch With Your Emotions

Take a comfortable seated position and breathe deeply. Are you experiencing an emotion right now? Examples: Sadness, Joy, Anger, Anxiety, Excitement, Frustration, Contentment, Fear, Gratitude, Enthusiasm, Confusion.

    • If you’re currently experiencing an emotion, proceed to Step 1A.
    • If you’re not currently experiencing an emotion, skip to Step 1B.

Step 1A: Assessing Emotional Distress

  1. As you tune into your emotion, gauge the level of distress it carries. Use a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 indicating ‘no distress at all’ and 10 representing ‘the highest distress imaginable.’
  2. Make a mental note of your number or write it down in a journal. 

Step 1B: Exploring Bodily Sensations

Focus on a noticeable bodily sensation and pinpoint its location. Choose a specific area to concentrate on as you continue with your somatic inquiry. If you’re sensing multiple areas, select the most pronounced or activated sensation. When sensations are faint, delve into subtle cues, explore the absence of sensation, or employ imagery to gather more sensory information.

  1. Set a timer for five minutes or longer if you can make the time.

  2. Breathe slowly and deeply into the chosen area and think about the sensation relating to a quality. When practicing sensory awareness, it is helpful to use adjectives and descriptive words, rather than emotions or feelings.

  3. Notice if the sensation has weight, texture, temperature, or density. You may also choose to explore the sensation’s shape, color, fragrance or flavor.

    • *Examples of Sensations: bright, warm, cold, hard, soft, tight, bound, swirling, spiky, sour, rough, wirey, spinning, square, smooth, sharp, etc.

  4. Now, simultaneously observe both the location in the body and the sensation at the same time.

    • *Examples of Sensations with Location: a tightness in the chest, an emptiness in the stomach, a restriction in the throat, a tingling in the hands, a heaviness in the legs, a buzzing in the head, a sharpness in the shoulder blade.

  5. Write down your observations.

  6. If you experienced an emotion in Step 1A, consider how it might be connected to the sensations you’re currently noticing.
    • Avoid overthinking! Instead, observe the connection between your initial emotional state and your current sensations.
    • After exploring sensations for an additional three minutes, refer back to the distress level you noted in Step 1A on a scale from 1 to 10. Observe whether your original distress level remains the same, decreases, or increases before proceeding to Step 1B.

Step 2: Psychodynamic Exploration & Personal Reflection

Check in with the sensation you observed in Step 1. Does anything about the sensation and the associated emotion seem familiar to you? 

Step 2A: Personal Reflection

    1. When was the last time you experienced this sensation in your body?

    2. Did this situation occur in the distant past, a few months or years ago, or more recently?

    3. As you ponder this memory, recall where you were, whether you were alone or with someone, and the events surrounding that moment.

    4. This recollection might pertain to a personal experience or involve interactions with others. If it involves other people, reflect on your relationship or dynamics with them.

Step 2B: Connecting the Body to Past Experiences

    1. Did the sensation occur in the same area of your body?

    2. Reflect on what you remember about the sensation. How did you feel at the time emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually?

    3. Take as much time as needed for this process. Focus on self-compassion rather than self-judgment, whatever you discover.

    4. Write down any keywords, themes, or patterns linking your current sensations to past experiences. Move to Step 3 when ready.

Remember, there is no ‘wrong’ way to approach this. Patience with oneself is often key. If you encounter emotional triggers during reflection, and it leads to significant distress or emotional dysregulation, prioritize self-care and proceed to the breath practice detailed below. This exercise can always be revisited later or discussed with a clinically trained professional if needed.

Step 3: Reflecting On Deeper Needs

Continue observing arising sensations and consider their familiar aspects. You’re enhancing your understanding of the sacred connection between mind and body, and recognizing the crucial role sensations have in the healing journey.

Step 3A: Connecting the Body to Past Experiences

    1. After completing Steps 1 and 2, reflect on if there is a deeper need or desire connected to what your body is telling you. These needs are usually emotionally centered and typically associated with the vulnerable, more hidden aspects of our human character or ‘part’.

    2. Then ask yourself, “What do I need or desire in this moment?”

      • Examples of deeper needs or desires: affection and love, connection and belonging, safety and security, respect and recognition, trust and intimacy, purpose and fulfillment, emotional expression, etc. Pay close attention to the underlying need or desire concealed within the sensation. ❤️
      • Example: Tense shoulders
        This sensation may be connected to emotions such as anger, frustration, or fear, which may be associated with a person’s deeper need to feel safe, respected, or understood.

      • Example: Tightness in the chest
        This sensation may be connected to a person’s feeling of sadness or anxiety, which may be associated with a person’s deeper need for love and belonging.

Personal Reflection Statement Examples:

“I desire deeper connection (with others)”

“I need to feel safe”

“I desire love and affection”

“I need to be heard”

“I desire fulfillment”

    • Take a few more deep breaths, and once you’ve uncovered the deeper need or desire connected to your body wisdom, feel free to spend a few more minutes reflecting and journaling about it.

Step 3B: Review your Activation

    1. Check in with your current emotional state and rate any emotional charge or distress, using a scale of 0-10. If your distress level from Step 1 was a ‘2 or greater’, how would you rate it now?

    2. If your number has not reduced, take a few minutes to practice some gentle breathwork such as  ‘Antara Kumbhaka’ (description below), or your other favorite breath-practice.

    3. For additional clarity, feel free to repeat the entire practice.

      • Relationship Support: It may also be beneficial to share the 3-step self-care practice with a loved one, especially when your deeper need or desire relates to deepening connection, love, or emotional expression.

Integration

I hope this 3-step, somatic self-care practice has supported your healing journey and deepened your appreciation of innate body wisdom. As you incorporate body-centered practices into your life, you’ll strengthen the body-mind connection and nurture a more compassionate, connected relationship with yourself and others.

Whether you choose to share your insights with a loved one, your therapist, or keep them private, continue to acknowledge the power of somatic inquiry. It is a potent tool for fostering healing, resilience, empowerment, and personal transformation.

Antara Kumbhaka Breath Practice

Duration: Begin with 3 to 5 minutes, according to your capacity. I recommend setting a timer before starting.

Inhalation (Puraka): Inhale slowly and deeply through the nose for a count of four. If you’re congested, feel free to inhale slowly through your mouth.

Retention (Kumbhaka): After inhaling, hold your breath for the same duration of retention as inhalation – if you inhale for a count of of four, hold for a count of four.

Exhalation (Rechaka): Exhale slowly through the nose, typically for twice the duration of inhalation — if you inhale for a count of four, exhale for a count of eight. If you’re congested, exhale slowly through your mouth.

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