3 Somatic Movement exercises to relax and destress

Slow movements to ground, rest and recover

Are you too often "in your head"? Do you struggle with your body image and don’t like to be in front of a mirror? Are you looking for an effortless way to calm your mind and release muscular tension when you feel anxious and restless?

Then you have to try Somatic Movement (on a personal note, this has been the game changer for me 20 years ago!)

✨ What is somatic movement?

Somatic movement refers to a series of bodily practices that give attention and value to our internal experience and our sensations while we move, rather than our external appearance or a measurable result.
Deeply influenced by Yoga and Eastern Martial Arts, these practices were developed at the end XIX- beginning XX century in Europe, US and Australia.

Some of the most common somatic movement practices are the Alexander Technique, the Feldenkrais Method, Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analysis, Body-Mind Centering, Ideokinesis, etc.

✨ What are the benefits?

Somatic movement is all about bringing awareness to our breath, our internal sensations and the way movement travels through the body, therefore it can help us reduce unnecessary muscular tension and pain, perform any physical action in our daily life more effortlessly and efficiently, and feel more focused and inner connected, mitigating the symptoms of anxiety and stress.

It promotes motor wellbeing, sense of safety and personal expression (the idea is that there are many possibilities to move and always the option to make choices), and help us trust the wisdom of our body again (there are no mirrors in somatic movement).

As most of the preparatory exercises are performed laying on the floor, they are very inclusive and accessible at any age, and they also provide a sense of grounding for those of us who are always on the go.

πŸ‘‰ Try this somatic movement sequence to relieve stress and anxiety

This sequence is inspired by Bartenieff Fundamentals, which focuses a lot on efficient movement functioning and on the intelligent use of our deep muscles, our core, and the use of our breath to increase the power and flow of movement.
As this is an effortless movement, you can practice these patterns every day as a way to ground and relax, or before and after your regular physical activity. The most important things is to move slowly and with full focused attention, so make sure you practice in a quiet space, directly on the floor or on a mat.

Moving slowly allows you to notice if you are holding unnecessary tension in any body parts and to repeat asking yourself the question: can I do this with 1% less tension?

1️⃣ Cross-connections

Good for: connecting to your physical and psychological centre, finding a gentle core support. 

How to: lay on your back, arms and legs apart like a big star fish. Feel the connection between your right arm and left leg, and left arm and right leg, mentally visualising 2 diagonal lines crossing at the centre of your body (your core). Slowly press your right arm and left leg on the floor, and allow your left arm and right leg to lengthen and float light one inch off the floor. Then repeat to the other side, always slowly and sensing the 2 diagonal lines. Repeat 5-10 times each side and relax, noticing how you feel once you return to stillness.

2️⃣ Turning over. 

Good for: stretching your whole body, creating more space in the joints, unlocking stiff back and shoulders, learning how to sequence movement slowly through all your body parts. 

How to: Lay on your back in the same star fish position, as relaxed as possible. Move your left fingertips across your chest using the minimum amount of effort, aiming for your right shoulder, then keep on pulling through your fingers to reach towards your right hand, slowly rolling over to your right side. Allow your whole body to be carried by your fingers, keeping every muscle as relaxed as possible. Once you have completed the movement, rest for a couple of breaths and roll back to the starting position, this time initiating from your left toes, which now aim for your low diagonal on the left side (their original position). As you return back to your centre, allow your arms and head to roll as passive as possible, only dragged by the energy of the left leg. Repeat on the other side, 5 times each side in total. As you practice, try not to break the connection in your lower backs, so if you notice you are going into a deep backbend or your back feels uncomfortable, gently hug your ribs and hips towards each other. Also, try and keep your head always on the floor, so you can receive a nice massage and fully let go of muscular tension in your neck. 

3️⃣ Knee rocks into fetal position

Good for: releasing tension in your hips, back and shoulders, feeling the three-dimensionality of your body, which can get lost if you only practice very linear styles of movement (like some forms of Yoga or strength training). 

How to: Lay on your back, knees bent as wide as your hips, soles of your feet on the floor, arms open sideways, in a wide V shape. To begin with, let your knees rock and drop passively to one side allowing the rest of your body to react spontaneously, then return to centre and repeat on the other side. Do this a couple more times allowing your legs to truly relax as they drop. Once you feel comfortable continue to move into a soft fetal position: as you knees drop to your right side, allow your left arm to swipe above your head, fingers still touching the floor, until you are comfortably laying on your right side. Feel your head and tailbone, elbows and knees gently coming closer towards each other, with a sense of contraction towards the centre. To return to the starting position, allow your knees and feet to rock back to centre (try and maintain at least your toes touching the floor at all times), and swipe your left arm above your head, shoulders re-finding an equal connection with the group. Repeat to the other side relaxing all your muscles and dropping the weight of your body as much as possible. If it helps, breathe in as you expand in your centre and breathe out as you close inwards on your side. Repeat 5-10 times on each side and give yourself time to integrate your sensations once you come back to stillness.

πŸ‘‰ Want my 121 guidance to explore more stress relieving movement sequences based on Somatic Movement, Yoga Therapy for Anxiety and yoga Psychology?

πŸ‘‰ Click here and book a free 15 minutes consultation for private training, so we can check what would be the most effective way for us to work together!

πŸ“‹ A version of this article was published on Metro, you can read it here: https://metro.co.uk/2022/06/20...

Categories: anxiety relief, feel good, mental health, somatic movement, stress