What is somatic bodywork?
Updated: Feb 28
Most people have a somewhat clear insight into therapeutic bodywork, like massages – it helps relax and tackles specific pains in the body. Same goes for conversational therapy – it treats the mind and aims for wellbeing often, not always, through understanding underlying emotions and experiences. And then there is this other thing that works with all of you – somatic bodywork.
What is it?
Somatic bodywork is an embodied approach. It is a setting where you and your practitioner curiously and consciously listen and discover your own, unique inner perceptions. Somatic Bodywork works with the whole of you, it is a combination of verbal communication and touch. All of this leads to a conversation that happens between me and my clients. A conversation that also uses touch and movement. I listen to my clients and react to where they are and what they need.
I love the approach that I practice for many reasons. One that stands out for me, is that in the Pantarei Approach the uniqueness of my clients is top priority. What does that mean? It means quite the obvious, that no two stories, two people are the same. I have no pattern or system that I apply to every client. More so it is an exploration where I don’t know more about my client than they do. However, I do give the space for this discovery.
What is the difference to a massage?
I enjoy getting a massage every now and then. I know I will go somewhere where specific pain points in my body will be tackled and I will leave the room a little lighter and softer.
I also know that most exploration of my inner state stops at the person asking if something might be too painful. The focus is mostly on releasing tissues, which is an amazing thing to experience when I want just that.
This is the beginning of the difference to somatic bodywork: Bodywork can bring up a lot. We could say our bodies remember experiences. In some cases, the body stores difficult and unprocessed experiences for a safter time to express them. Over time these can come up nonverbally and express themselves as symptoms, sensations, emotional states, feelings and more. Somatic bodywork is when the focus is on all of that: what you feel, your story, your pains and strengths. We use the body to guide us in this discovery. As a practitioner I will say at this point “The body knows and when we have the space, we hear that inner wisdom”.
How does a session look in practice?
At the start of a first session there will be a good half hour of conversation. My client and me are getting to know each other, already naming overarching topics and hearing their story. Already at this point emotions might flow, and we allow this.
At a later point I will ask my client to the massage table. At the start of the hands-on part, I often ask my clients to get comfortable and notice their body.
There might already be a sensation, like tenseness or a tingling. I will ask to breathe and together we explore the presence of these sensations as an invitation to turn inwards. I begin to touch somewhere comforting like the feet or shoulders and then move to different places as the body starts to join the conversation.
Once your body feels that it is being heard and there is space for all the information you carry within, your body shares this. There might be a weight on your chest or shoulders, and we explore this sensation. What does it feel like? A weight, a color, an emotion? This is the beginning and from there we dive into the experiences that come up. It isn’t only about the past but as a Pantarei Practitioner I view your past as an immense pool of resources and knowledge of who you are. This is what we want more of: more of who you are.
The body is constantly communicating to us, in an effort to be seen and to process what is in us and that can be anything. From pain to joy, everything in-between and all at once. If we truly listen, if we can give our attention and gently learn to speak its language, we grow into a more embodied version of ourselves, we become who we uniquely are.