Key Takeaways Key Takeaways
  • Somatic therapy integrates psychotherapy and physical techniques to address psychological pain, particularly effective for trauma and stress-related issues.

  • Somatic exercises, while sharing similarities with yoga in promoting body awareness and relaxation, primarily focus on releasing muscle tension and reprogramming the nervous system through gentle movements and awareness of bodily sensations.

  • Grounding exercises, mindful breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, body scanning, and movement/stretching can be practiced at home to enhance mind-body connection, reduce stress, and promote emotional regulation, complementing professional therapy for holistic mental health.

Somatic Therapy Exercises – 5 Exercises to Try at Home

Somatic therapy, a form of body-centered therapy, emphasizes the connection between the mind and body in healing. It is particularly effective in addressing trauma and stress-related issues. While somatic therapy is best administered in office by a licensed professional, there are some exercises that can be used at home in between sessions.

What are Somatic Exercises?

Somatic therapy is a therapeutic approach that focuses on the physical body as a means to understand and treat psychological pain. It integrates both psychotherapy and physical therapies for holistic healing.

Somatic exercises involve gentle movements and body-awareness techniques aimed at releasing muscle tension, improving posture, and promoting relaxation. These exercises focus on enhancing the connection between the mind and body to alleviate stress and reduce physical discomfort. Through mindful movement and breath awareness, somatic exercises help individuals become more attuned to bodily sensations, facilitating a sense of calm and well-being. These practices are often used in therapeutic settings to address chronic pain, trauma, and stress-related conditions.

5 Somatic Exercises to Try

Want to try somatic therapy at home? These five somatic exercises are a holistic way to kickstart your journey to mental wellbeing. Similarly to yoga, these exercises won’t need any special equipment. People sometimes confuse somatic exercises and yoga due to their shared emphasis on body awareness and relaxation techniques. Both practices involve mindful movement and can contribute to overall well-being. However, they differ in their approaches and techniques. Somatic exercises primarily focus on releasing muscle tension and reprogramming the nervous system through gentle movements and awareness of bodily sensations. Yoga encompasses a broader range of practices, including physical postures, breathwork, meditation, and philosophical teachings, aimed at integrating the body, mind, and spirit.

Grounding Exercise

Grounding exercises help reconnect you with the present moment, often providing relief from overwhelming emotions or anxiety. One simple technique involves sitting or standing and noticing the sensations where your body contacts the chair or floor. Focus on these sensations and breathe deeply, anchoring yourself in the here and now. This practice is recommended by experts and can be a foundation for further somatic work.

Mindful Breathing

Mindful breathing is a core component of many somatic practices. It involves paying close attention to the natural rhythm of your breath, noticing the rise and fall of your chest or abdomen. This exercise can help regulate your body’s response to stress and promote a sense of calmness and focus.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This exercise involves tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups in your body. Start from your toes and work your way up to your head, holding each tension for a few seconds before releasing it. Many somatic practitioners recommend this method for its effectiveness in reducing physical tension and helping to bring awareness to bodily sensations.

Body Scanning

Body scanning is a practice where you pay attention to each part of your body in turn, noticing any sensations, tension, or discomfort. Start from your feet and slowly move your focus up to the top of your head. This exercise can increase body awareness and highlight areas that may be holding stress.

Movement and Stretching

Incorporate gentle movement and stretching into your routine. This can be as simple as stretching your arms overhead or doing a few yoga poses. Movement helps release physical tension and improves body awareness. These are essential in somatic therapy, especially for individuals dealing with trauma stored in the body.

Somatic therapy exercises offer an accessible way to enhance mind-body connection and promote healing, especially when dealing with stress and trauma.

By practicing these exercises regularly at home, you can develop greater body awareness and emotional regulation. Remember, these exercises are complementary to professional therapy and should be part of a holistic approach to mental health and well-being.

Authored By 

LifeStance Health
LifeStance Health

LifeStance is a mental healthcare company focused on providing evidence-based, medically driven treatment services for children, adolescents, and adults suffering from a variety of mental health issues in an outpatient care setting, both in-person and through its digital health telemedicine offering.

Reviewed By

Nicholette Leanza, LPCC-S
Nicholette Leanza, LPCC-S

Nicholette is a faculty member at John Carroll University’s Clinical Counseling program, and she is also the host of the LifeStance podcast, Convos from the Couch.