What exactly is somatics?
The term somatics was coined by Thomas Hanna in the 1970s, from the Greek word ‘soma‘, meaning of the body and the Greek suffix ‘atikos‘, meaning through the process, or development of.
Along with many others in the twentieth century’s burgeoning field of body mind awareness, Hanna recognised that physical alienation by way of modern life contributed to an experience of sensory motor amnesia. The discipline of somatics came to understand that the lack of awareness of how one moves in the world and how this loss might negatively affect the body’s health and function could be mitigated by conscious control of nerves and muscles, a training of sensory-motor awareness, if you will.
Interspersed and interwoven within the tremendous creativity and innovation of the nineteenth century worlds of art, philosophy, and literature, somatics likewise has a long history with many key figures. For better or worse, the modern interpretation of somatics has mostly focussed on the inner perception of the body and regaining mindfulness in movement.
WHY DO YOU INCLUDE “SOMATICS” IN YOUR BUSINESS NAME?
The exploration and joy of movement has been my raison d’être for over twenty years now. Calling me a physiotherapist doesn’t quite give the total picture…
Prior to becoming a physiotherapist, my young adult life revolved around somatic movement inquiry, though I certainly wouldn’t have called it that then. I was an adult dancer and yogi, playing, and hungry for anything that these worlds offered up. The profound choreographer, Tina Bertoncini of Saskatoon, kindly took me under her wing and introduced me to Butoh, Authentic Movement, and meditative practice explored within the contemporary dance sphere. An aroused imagination summoned me beyond Saskatchewan, and I was fortunate in my early years to be able to explore many different schools including the Grotowski Method, Pilates, Butoh, Flamenco and Latin American dance, Contact Improvisation, Alexander Technique, Body Mind Centering with Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen and team, the Franklin Method, the Feldenkrais Method, Syntonics with Judith Koltai, Authentic Movement, Postural Reconstruction followed by Anti-gymnastique with Ginette Séguin-Swartz, the Itcush Method and Mitzvah technique with Amelia Itcush, and Anatomy Trains with Thomas Myers and his team in Walpole Maine.
At the same time, I was studying art and religious studies at uni, living in a type of communal housing with a kind and eccentric older gentleman who introduced me to Buddhism and Vipassana meditation, the local food co-op, and Bob Dylan. He was also an innovator and social entrepreneur working towards the inclusion of complimentary and integrative medicine into the U of S’ medical program. This wise old sage told me that the allied health profession of physiotherapy is perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between mainstream medicine and integrative healthcare.
At the time, all I knew was that I didn’t want to open a yoga studio and that a solid job to fall back on was a good idea, so I applied to the Master of Physical Therapy program…having nary an idea of what that might entail…
HOW DO YOU INTEGRATE YOUR SOMATICS PRACTICE WITH YOUR PHYSIOTHERAPY PRACTICE?
I get asked this all of the time. Physiotherapy is my profession and everything I do falls under it’s scope. I have great respect for the profession and its continuing contributions to our public and private health care in Canada. I am a proud health care worker and grateful for the opportunities it has afforded me and the people I have been able to serve.
The somatics piece of my physio practice is an ever changing and deepening understanding of kinesis in thought, body, and action, and dialogue around this aspect human being-ness.
Because of my history with personal practice, this knowing was initially intuitive in approach, but that doesn’t cut it in the physiotherapy world! Thankfully, research within the disciplines of neurology and the social sciences is carrying over to allopathic medicine and helping to explain what we clinicians observe when working with patients/clients, ie human beings.
Pain and/or poor function are the main reasons people come to see me as a physiotherapist. But this can simply be an entry point to coming home to one’s self. You must be met, first and foremost, as a whole being, rather than a collection of symptoms. A holistic somatic approach to rehab includes an understanding of how the things you feel and believe about your current physical experience can impact your function, and how if your physical experience changes, then the way you feel and what you believe might change too.
Whether you come with acute or chronic issues or whether you have one or multiple sites of pain, if you are interested in genuine healing then a one-size treatment plan will not fit you at all…and my studies and experience with somatics helps me see and work with you in this different way.
HOW DOES YOGA FIT INTO YOUR WAY OF WORKING AS A PHYSIOTHERAPIST?
Yoga is my first and longest love. While still living at home in small town Saskatchewan, yoga was my introduction to the world of body mind consciousness. I went on to study and teach Iyengar yoga (the only yoga offered in Saskatoon at the time), and then practiced various other styles across Canada.
I met my teacher, Diane Long (longtime student of Vanda Scaravelli’s), in my mid-20s. As soon as I met her, I knew that this intuitive yet clear practice was what I had been looking for. I stopped taste-testing different approaches to embodiment and dedicated myself to her tutelage and this path.
Only after that moment was I freed from searching, and able to study physical therapy.
Humbled before the mystery of life, this practice of yoga continues to inform all else I do.
*The information contained on the website/blog is not intended to be medical advice nor replace the care given by your health care provider.
Always consult your own health care provider if you are seeking medical advice.