3 Practical Somatic Exercises To Relieve Anxiousness

In the fast-paced world we live in, stress and anxiety seem to be constant companions. The pressures of work, personal life, and the general hustle and bustle can take a toll on our mental well-being.

While traditional methods of stress relief like meditation and deep breathing exercises are effective, there’s a lesser-known yet highly impactful approach: somatic exercises.

In this article, we’ll explore what somatic exercises are and delve into three practical techniques that can help alleviate anxiousness.


Understanding Somatic Exercises

Before we dive into the exercises, let’s demystify somatic exercises. Somatics is a holistic approach that involves the integration of the mind and body. Unlike traditional forms of exercise that focus solely on physical movements, somatic exercises emphasize the awareness of internal bodily sensations.

The term “somatic” is derived from the Greek word “soma,” meaning the body in its entirety. Somatic exercises aim to release physical tension stored in the muscles, promoting relaxation and reducing stress.

By bringing attention to bodily sensations, individuals can enhance their mind-body connection, leading to a more balanced and centered state.


The Somatic Connection: Unpacking Trauma and Emotional Stress

Understanding how trauma and emotional stresses are stored in the body is essential to grasp the profound impact of somatic practices on one’s well-being.

Unlike physical injuries that visibly heal over time, emotional wounds can become deeply embedded in the body, creating a reservoir of tension and anxiety. The body often reacts to stress by tensing up, a natural response that if not addressed, can lead to chronic physical and mental health issues.



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The Body as a Repository of Stress

somatic exercises to relieve anxiousnessOur bodies are remarkable repositories of our life experiences, serving as a canvas where emotions, memories, and traumas are imprinted. When faced with a stressful or traumatic event, the body responds by activating the “fight-or-flight” response, releasing stress hormones and preparing the body for immediate action.

In cases where the stressor is chronic or overwhelming, the body may struggle to return to a state of equilibrium, leading to the accumulation of tension and emotional residue.


Somatic Practices as Release Mechanisms

Somatic exercises and bodywork practices act as powerful tools to unravel and release the stored tension within the body. Here’s how these practices contribute to the process of healing:

  1. Interrupting the Stress Response: Somatic exercises, such as shaking, grounding body scans, and the cat-cow stretch, interrupt the body’s stress response. By engaging in intentional movement and breath, individuals signal to their nervous systems that it is safe to relax, disrupting the cycle of chronic tension.
  2. Encouraging Mind-Body Awareness: The essence of somatic practices lies in cultivating mindfulness of the body’s sensations. Through exercises like the body scan, individuals develop an awareness of areas holding tension. This heightened awareness becomes the first step towards releasing pent-up emotions and stress.
  3. Releasing Blocked Energy: Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) tapping therapy takes a unique approach by combining physical tapping with verbal acknowledgment of emotions. This dual-action technique aims to release blocked energy in the body’s meridian points, providing a tangible outlet for emotional expression and promoting a sense of relief.
  4. Facilitating Trauma Release: Somatic Experiencing Therapy (SET) is specifically designed to address trauma stored in the body. By guiding individuals through the gradual release of traumatic energy, SET helps regulate the nervous system and allows the body to discharge stored stress, contributing to long-term healing.


The Transformative Impact on Daily Life

As individuals engage in these somatic practices, they often experience a transformative shift in their daily lives. The release of stored tension not only alleviates anxiety but also fosters improved sleep, heightened energy levels, and a greater sense of emotional resilience.

By acknowledging and addressing the mind-body connection, individuals empower themselves to navigate life’s challenges with increased ease and a more profound sense of well-being.


Exercise 1: Shake It Off

One of the simplest yet remarkably effective somatic exercises for anxiousness is the “shake it off” technique. This exercise is inspired by the natural response of animals to stress, where they shake their bodies to release tension and helps discharge stored tension in the muscles and resets the nervous system, promoting a sense of calmness.

  1. Find a Quiet Space: Choose a quiet and private space where you can move freely without distractions.
  2. Stand Comfortably: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and slightly bend your knees.
  3. Start Shaking: Begin shaking your entire body, starting from your feet and working your way up. Allow the shaking to be loose and uncontrolled.
  4. Focus on Breath: As you shake, pay attention to your breath. Take deep breaths in and out, allowing any tension to be released with each exhale.
  5. Continue for 5-10 Minutes: Shake it off for 5-10 minutes, letting go of any stress or anxious feelings. Afterward, take a moment to notice how your body and mind feel.


Exercise 2: Grounding Through Body Scan

Grounding techniques are powerful tools for managing anxiety, and a body scan is a somatic exercise that enhances awareness of bodily sensations. This exercise promotes a sense of groundedness by fostering awareness of your body and its sensations, reducing the grip of anxious thoughts.

  1. Find a Comfortable Seated Position: Sit comfortably with your back straight and your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Close Your Eyes: Close your eyes to enhance your focus on internal sensations.
  3. Scan Your Body: Starting from your toes, mentally scan your body. Notice any areas of tension or discomfort without judgment.
  4. Breathe Into Tension: As you identify areas of tension, take slow, deep breaths. Imagine sending your breath to those areas, allowing them to relax and release.
  5. Progressive Relaxation: Continue scanning and relaxing each part of your body, working your way up to your head. Take your time and be gentle with yourself.


Exercise 3: Cat-Cow Stretch

somatic exercises cat-cow poseInspired by yoga, the cat-cow stretch is a somatic exercise that combines movement and breath to release tension in the spine and promote relaxation.

This gentle and rhythmic exercise helps release tension in the spine, improving overall flexibility and fostering a sense of ease in the body.

  1. Start on Hands and Knees: Get on your hands and knees, aligning your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  2. Inhale (Cow Position): Arch your back, dropping your belly towards the floor, and lift your head and tailbone towards the ceiling.
  3. Exhale (Cat Position): Round your back, tucking your chin to your chest, and drawing your belly button towards your spine.
  4. Flow Between Positions: Inhale into the cow position and exhale into the cat position. Repeat this flow for 5-10 cycles.
  5. Focus on Breath: Coordinate your breath with the movements, inhale as you move into the cow position and the exhale as you move into the cat position.


Other Somatic Approaches for Stress Relief

Beyond these exercises, there are other somatic bodywork practices and therapies that can contribute to stress and anxiety reduction.

  1. Somatic Experiencing Therapy (SET): Developed by Dr. Peter A. Levine, SET is a therapeutic approach that focuses on releasing trauma and stress stored in the body. Through guided sessions, individuals learn to regulate their nervous systems and release physical tension associated with anxiety.
  2. Mindful Movement Practices: Incorporating mindful movement practices like tai chi and qigong into your routine can enhance somatic awareness, promote relaxation, and reduce stress.
  3. Body-Mind Centering (BMC): BMC is an approach that explores the body as both a physical and perceptual entity. Through movement, touch, and breath, individuals can deepen their understanding of their bodies and release tension.
  4. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) Tapping Therapy: EFT, or tapping therapy, is a somatic practice that involves gently tapping on specific meridian points on the body while focusing on emotional challenges or stressors. This technique aims to release blocked energy and promote emotional and physical well-being. By acknowledging and tapping on acupressure points, individuals can alleviate anxiety and foster a sense of calm.


Empowering Release Through Somatic Practices

somatic exercises to help relieve anxietyIn wrapping up, the integration of somatic practices into one’s routine emerges as a holistic gateway to enhanced mental health. By acknowledging the profound connection between the mind and body, individuals can embark on a transformative journey of self-discovery.

These practices, ranging from simple shaking to the nuanced Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) tapping therapy, offer a unique and effective means to release the burdens of the past.

Whether through the rhythmic flow of the cat-cow stretch or the intentional awareness of a grounding body scan, somatic exercises empower individuals to actively participate in their well-being. This integration unlocks the body’s innate capacity for healing and resilience, fostering a more balanced and fulfilling life.

The key lies in the gentle yet profound impact of somatic awareness, providing a tangible pathway for managing stress and promoting mental equilibrium. Experiment with these practices, and discover firsthand their transformative power in navigating life’s challenges with newfound ease and vitality.



About Author:
Paul Jenkin | Life Coach & Somatic Facilitator
With 26 years of experience in alternative health and personal development, Paul coaches entrepreneurs and creatives to let go of limiting programming and empower themselves to reach greater levels of personal freedom, peace and success.

Author of ‘Heartfelt Manifestation’– he enjoys sharing information about a whole range of topics from LOA, optimal health, emotional intelligence, self-sovereignty and business.
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