What Is Somatic Awareness?
Somatic awareness can be summarized as the experience of being aware of the physical body and being aware of sensations experienced through the body’s five senses: smell, touch, taste, seeing, and hearing.
Somatic awareness is also referred to as somatic mindfulness, and is the foundation of somatic therapy. Somatic therapy, or somatic experiencing therapy, is defined by Psychology Today as “a form of body-centered therapy that looks at the connection of mind and body and uses both psychotherapy and physical therapies for holistic healing. In addition to talk therapy, somatic therapy practitioners use mind-body exercises and other physical techniques to help release the pent-up tension that is negatively affecting your physical and emotional wellbeing.”
5 Activities To Increase Somatic Awareness
There are a vast amount of resources available for somatic awareness exercises of all kinds. Somatic awareness exercises can have different goals, so whether a person is seeking grounding, self-regulation, or a mindful moment, somatic awareness activities can be of great use, and require no special tools or guides. Somatic awareness is all about being in the moment.
- Body Scan
Mindful body scans are a great, simple practice for coming back into awareness of the body. They are typically performed while sitting or lying down, and can be followed through a guided meditation or on your own. Many mindful body scans are available through guided meditation apps or online. The general format is to slowly give awareness to different parts of the body, often starting with the head and moving down the body until you reach your feet. While doing so, you will scan your body for pain or other sensations, practicing non-judgmentalness, and simply noticing what it feels like. Body scans can be as brief or long as you wish.
- Heel Drops
Heel drops can be a useful practice when you need to ground yourself, and can be performed while standing. Slowly and simultaneously lift your heels until you are standing on your toes, then slowly drop your heels back down until you are standing. Repeat this motion while paying attention to the sensations, such as your feet being planted on your floor, your toes holding your weight, and the sensations in your hips and legs. Do this for as long as you’d like.
The 5-4-3-2-1 exercise is helpful for coming back into the present moment, in your body, and getting in touch with your 5 senses. It goes as follows:
5 – Name 5 things that you can see
4 – Name 4 things that you can feel
3 – Name 3 things that you can hear
2 – Name 2 things that you can smell
1- Name 1 thing that you can taste
This exercise can be particularly helpful when feeling a sense of disconnection from the body. With flat or gently cupped hands, begin tapping up and down your arms, legs, and torso. Pay attention to how different parts of your body feel when they are being tapped: do any parts of your body feel disconnected? Stay present to the sensations.
The sensation of shaking your body can help release feelings of “fight, flight, or freeze.” You can try shaking one limb at a time, or shaking the whole body at once. It can also help move stuck emotions, such as fear or anger.
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