Somatics Were Key to My Healing

I heard the word Somatics for the first time during the Professional Coaching Course. Every day after lunch, our group would reconvene for fifteen minutes of dancing before starting the afternoon session. It seemed to me that everyone else looked forward to this part of the afternoon – whether they could move with abandon or were cautious due to physical limitations. I dreaded the whole exercise in the beginning. I was still dealing with the aftermath of a herniated disk and the low energy levels residing from my burnout. It was a challenge to sit and walk, let alone dance.

There was a lot of discussion in this group about different Somatics applications. While the technical language was new to me, I’d always instinctively talked about my emotions in physical terms. Still, I didn’t know there was a word, let alone an entire field, devoted to what I intuitively understood: that emotions are embodied.

That training helped me to develop an even deeper understanding of the body-mind connection and see how I could integrate Somatics into my coaching practice. But I had yet to explore these practices in my personal journey to healing. I began to research intuitive movement, and that’s when I discovered Zuza Engler.

“Dancing is not just getting up painlessly, like a leaf blown on the wind; dancing is when you tear your heart out and rise out of your body to hang suspended between the worlds.”

– Rumi

Somatics Were Key to My Healing

There was something in the description of Zuza’s class, Moving with Feeling, that spoke to me. The course aimed “…to explore the feeling body in motion, through breath, sensation, emotion, and embodied inquiry.” I began to wonder if my current physical state was telling me something about my emotional experience. Something, perhaps, that I didn’t want to hear.

We began with basic body scans, then danced without music. Some of her exercises required that we create both physical closeness and separation with other participants. Early on in the workshop, I wasn’t able to bridge the divide between myself and others. I was still in a lot of pain, and that didn’t help. But there was something else at play that I was starting to understand.

Disconnect From Yourself Leads to Disconnect From Others

I’d been closing doors to deeper intimacy for years, but this resistance to closeness only intensified when I was in burnout. During that time, I had an excuse to wall myself off. I needed to disappear to save myself. But prolonged disconnection proved destructive, and all I could see was that people “didn’t care enough” to reach out.

I had always struggled to be with my emotions. The only way I could ever experience them was by feeling my bodily sensations, but during my burnout the pain was often unbearable. So I began to numb myself with unhealthy coping mechanisms. I stopped moving, and I stopped going to my body for information.

Somatics Helped Me Close the Gap Between Myself and Others

The invitation from Zuza to move with other people was initially terrifying. Instead, I started to twirl. Twirling allowed me to express joy and exuberance – something I had been raised to suppress – but it also helped me to create separation between myself and others. At first, I moved like a tornado – which felt amazing but made it impossible to see anyone else.

Gradually, I started to slow down and move with a gentler energy. When I did this, I could finally see the other participants and what I saw was profund. No one was shutting me out; I was shutting myself in. I also realized that the other participants had not moved away from me. They were standing right at the periphery of my space. No one tried to infiltrate or force me to engage. They patiently waited until they saw that I had loosened up.

Somatics Teaches You to Trust Your Bodily Wisdom

On the last day of the workshop, the group circled up, and Zuza asked us each to go into the center and move however we wanted. I walked in, pointed to someone, and asked them to dance with me. By then, I felt secure in the space, and I opened to the possibility of connection.

In my next post, I’m going to dive deeper into the art and science of Somatics and offer a simple exercise you can use to reconnect with your body, tap into its wisdom and start living a fully connected life.

Nicole is a creative leadership coach and speaker who empowers women to transform limiting beliefs and bring their lives and careers to new heights.

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