Saturday, December 27, 2008

Climbing Stairs

In early December we had the first meeting of the SomaLab. In it I introduced some of the concepts I have described in the first two posts to this blog.

I also presented an example of how we can use somatics principles to guide us in our engagement with body experience. The reading, entitled, "Climbing Stairs", is a short description of what happens when we follow the phenomena of body experience when investigating a disruption to the flow of "normal" functioning.

In this case I used the example of working with a clicking in my right knee. You can read it by linking to the Articles page of my web site.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

What is Somatics?: Principles and Techniques

In the fall of 1986, Somatics Journal published an article by Don Hanlon Johnson entitled "Principles versus Techniques: Towards the Unity of the Somatics Field". In it he outlined an argument for the study and development of a theory base that, he postulated, underlay and united all body-centred practices. These principles, Johnson wrote, became the ground out of which arose the various techniques that made each school of practice unique.

Although Thomas Hanna had created the word "somatics" in 1976 to name the approaches to mind/body integration, Johnson's writing started to differentiate between "somatic" practices and, a study of their underlying theory base.
In the years since Johnson's article, a handful of practitioners have been distilling these principles through a careful study of a variety of somatic practices. By paying close attention to how each modality explained why their approach worked, it has become possible to see a similarity in the language used to describe the essences of the practice that underlie the effectiveness of the techniques. Therefore, out of the study of somatic practices - Somatics - a theory base came into form.

Hanna and others have often mixed the definition of "somatics" and "somatic". I have found it more helpful to make a clear differentiation between use of the two words: Somatics as the study of the underlying principles and their application in practice, and Somatic as the name for the broad field of body-centred practices that, to some extent or other, utilize somatics principles.

The Somatics, or principles, of somatic practice helps us in a couple of ways:

1. We can develop a foundational descriptive language that can aid communication between different somatic practices, whether they work with the body through touch, movement, breath, energy, or psycho-social processes.

2. We can learn from the ways other modalities use each principle. Each practice has developed strengths in how they understand a part of Somatics theory and expressed it through techniques. The eye of a yoga practitioner can develop a keener understanding for postural and movement integrity. And the skills of "listening touch" used in many light touch modalities can enhance our understanding of how to follow patterns of reorganization in the body.

Two decades after Johnson's ground-breaking article, we now have a more fully formed understanding of the fundamental Somatics theory that forms the foundation of somatic practice. Three of the most essential principles, tested thoroughly in a variety of education applications, and deeply grounded in the physiology and psychology of our response patterns, are:

1. Awareness brought to sensation produces a reorganization response within the organism.

2. The reorganization response will take the shape of a pattern.

3. The pattern of response will always be an attempt toward balance or homeostasis in both the internal organization of the person and in its relationship to the sensory source.

I use these principles as the foundation of all our investigations in the SomaLab because they form the broadest practical reference for each individual's application in their practice. Future blogs will describe the interactions between principles and practice in each monthly installment of the SomaLab.

What is the SomaLab?

Welcome to the first post of my SomaLab blog.

The SomaLab is year-long journey of exploration into the underlying principles of body-centred healing, and their integration into practical application. This version of the SomaLab is the latest manifestation in my 25 year study of the question, "What is it that makes body-centered practices work?", that I have pursued over the years through numerous learning environments. I'll make reference to them, and their contributions to my understanding of Somatic practice in future blogs.

This current version of the SomaLab is being sponsored as an inservice training under the kind auspices of Healing Connections, a holistic health clinic in Edmonton, Alberta Canada. The clinic provides services in a broad array of holistic practices including massage, myofascial release, light touch practices such as cranial-sacral and lymph drainage, acupuncture, Reiki and other energetic modalities, yoga, and somatic psychology. The wide range of healing approaches gives us the opportunity of working in a rich learning environment in which each paradigm and modality will share the outcome of their explorations, and the application of somatics principles into their practice.

Each monthly workshop in the series will introduce new conceptual information that will then be explored through both personal practice and clinical application. We will continually revisit core practices to deepen our understanding of them and strengthen the foundation of our personal and professional practice.

Over the next year I will be using this blog to journal the training process. I will be also interested in hearing from you in the form of comments to the blog. If you have questions or contributions please don't hesitate to post them.