What Is Somatic Bodywork?

Most people have a clear idea of what therapeutic bodywork is—it helps relax and heal the body. And most have at least a basic understanding of talk therapy—it treats the mind. But what about this thing that works with the whole of you: somatic bodywork?

What is it?

Somatic bodywork is any type of bodywork—whether it’s massage, reiki, or craniosacral therapy—where you and your practitioner consciously work with your inner perceptions. It combines bodywork with verbal skills, and it works with a lot more than muscles.

Somatics works with the whole of you: your physical sensations, emotions, and thoughts; your intuition and imagery; your spiritual insights. It can facilitate deep healing of old wounds and trauma, but it is definitively not talk therapy.

A comparison to massage

If you’ve had a therapeutic massage, your practitioner probably checked in on pressure and hopefully checked you were OK during work on painful spots. But most exploration of your inner state stops there. If the massage brings up feelings or memories, these may be managed skillfully, but the focus is on releasing tissues.

But bodywork can bring up a lot. Our body stores unhealed experiences for a safer time, and then nonverbally brings them up for healing—as sensations, symptoms, feelings, and more. So what if those were the focus? That’s somatic bodywork.

How does this work in practice?

To start a session, I often ask clients to get comfortable and turn inwards. I’ll ask: What do you notice?

You might say my shoulders are tight…or I feel revved up. This is just an initial sense of the terrain, an invitation to turn inward. I’ll do a craniosacral therapy hold somewhere comforting, like your feet. And we’ll wait for settling.

Once your body slows, it generally brings up an issue. Perhaps pressure arises in your chest. I may hold your shoulders to help track and we’ll be curious: Is it like a weight? A squeezing? Is there a color? An emotion? As we keep noticing, the sensation will usually change. It may decrease, you may sweat as heat discharges, or you may grow sad and cry.

Do you know why you’re crying? Not always. You don’t have to know to heal. But you may get an insight: I felt unloved as a child. I won’t analyze why—I’m not a therapist. We’ll acknowledge what’s here now. How is it for you to realize that? Perhaps you feel sad but relieved.  

Constantly seeking health

The body is constantly bringing up old issues in an effort to heal—but it needs our attention. If we can speak its language, and truly listen, the body will heal itself.

Why My Practice Is Staying Online

As the country reopens for business, I’m staying closed. Well, more accurately, I’m staying closed to in-person work and keeping my practice online—probably indefinitely. Why? There are some obvious reasons and advantages. And then there’s the real underlying reason.  

Let me start with some obvious…

When my state locked down last spring, we had no idea how long quarantine would last. So I kept paying my office rent for months. Repeated openings and re-closure orders—not to mention a deadly virus—made that unworkable. So I closed my office and rebuilt my practice online.

Could I go rent a new office now that things are open? Sure, probably…with a lot of expense and practice re-rebuilding. Do I know what’s going to happen in the fall and winter, especially with these new variants? No. Do I ever again want to be in a position where a pandemic can shut down my business? An emphatic no.

And truthfully, my quality of life is so much better now. My commute is ten feet long. I can be at home with my cat—rather than leave her alone for 10+ hours a day. And my expenses are down to, well…Internet. No office rent, no supplies, no costly permitting.

On top of that…

My client base just went global. I can work with anyone, anywhere, provided we can communicate. In other words, I just went from a city worth of potential clients…to a planet. And I’m unfettered now, too. Before, my practice was tied to San Diego; moving would have meant rebuilding from scratch. Now, I can take my clients with me.

But none of that gets to the heart of it. The real underlying reason is…

From my very first distance session, I knew deep down this was it for me. In the midst of syncing up with that client, of sensing their body in a more expansive and comprehensive way than I’d ever imagined, I knew there was no turning back.

It was like that moment in the fourth grade when I’d finally gotten glasses. Suddenly, the trees had leaves! What had been nothing but a green blur came into sharp and breathtaking focus. The world was so alive, and I’d been missing so much.  

So, basically I’m saying…

This is my work.

I know it’s not for everyone—I love receiving hands-on bodywork, too. And I loved giving it. But this…this is my thing. It’s where I fit best and sense most. It’s where I see the strongest results. And it’s where I can be of most service.