Herbs + mindfulness-based somatic practices have been two of my greatest “gateway” tools for learning how to incorporate sacred pauses into my daily life. They complement each other perfectly in many ways, and since beginning to incorporate mindfulness + somatic practices with my use of herbs, my approach as an herbalist has changed as well. Each tool begets the other in beautiful ways.
The use of herbs invokes mindfulness and practicing somatics invites us to tune in and recognize what herbs we really need (or desire) in that moment. In fact, now that they are so woven together in my life, it’s hard for me to imagine separating them (or why I would want to).
While the world of herbalism is exciting + verdant (and I look forward to sharing lots more on this here in my substack), I know the world of somatics is new for many folks and I wanted to take a moment with this article, to introduce it and break it down.
Many of the “practices” that I will be sharing in The Sacred Pause Substack are somatic-based in nature. And it can be helpful to highlight what they’re all about before diving in and doing them. If you’re interested in somatics or looking to learn simple practices that help calm + stabilize in moments of stress, I invite you to subscribe + stay connected. I’m excited to dive into more of the layers and practices with you on my Substack over time.
So let’s touch on the magic of somatics.
What are “somatic practices”?
The word somatic is defined as “of or relating to the body”.
While this word might sound illusive and farfetched to some…your dog is actually already practicing somatics daily (believe it or not)! People aren’t lying when they say animals can be our greatest teachers…
Do you ever notice how dogs (and many other animals) will give themselves a nice shake before they change environments? Or how oftentimes they will pause to visually survey a new room around them before entering?
These are both examples of simple somatic practices.
In essence, somatic practices are intentionally subtle forms of movement (often practiced slowly) that focus on our internal experience while physically moving the body.
Many of the practices I will share in this substack are inspired and based on the Somatic Experiencing methodology (developed by Dr. Peter A. Levine, PhD.). The Somatic Experiencing approach encourages the "completion" of our self-protective motor responses and the release of "survival energy" that can stay bound up in the body. This effectively addresses the root cause of many stress, anxiety, and trauma-response symptoms. It helps us release the charge of trapped emotions and turn off our "threat" alarm so we can regulate our nervous system back to a place of calm again. This is truly a "body first" approach to healing that has a lot of reported success clinically.*
By practicing these methods daily and consistently, especially when stressors arise, you help guide your body into a place of increased tolerance for the uncomfortable symptoms and suppressed emotions that are bound up with stress + anxiety.
We release, through movement, so we can recover faster. And we practice consistently to teach our brains to favor true, root-based recovery over numbing + coping mechanisms when stressors arise.
These practices also help us reconnect and relate our own bodies with the changing world around us, and our changing internal environments.
And this is exactly what your animal is doing before they do their routine shakes + wiggles. They just don’t consciously think “oh, I’m feeling anxious so I should do a somatic practice right now” or “I want to clear that survival-instinct energy, let me just shake real quick”.
They just do it instinctively and intuitively, because it is embodied in their way of being.
And although we are complex humans with lots of active thinking (and overthinking), we can get to this place of embodiment too. Where these practices become second-hand and we just subconsciously “do them” when we recognize that we need them.
As with building any new habit, it takes time, practice, and intention to get to the “second nature” sweet spot. So give yourself grace and commit to curiosity as your body and mind learn a new way of regulating amidst the chaotic world around you.
The Beautiful Benefits of Somatics
There are many beautiful benefits to practicing somatic exercises and I’d love to highlight a few of my core favorites here:
They are extremely simple and easy to perform without much instruction (making them easy to remember and practice on your own too).
There is a very low risk of error or injury.
Unlike most sports or certain forms of yoga, dance, and other movement therapies - you don’t need to engage your “physical fitness capabilities” in order to practice many somatic exercises. For many of them, you could either be laying in a hospital bed or about to run a marathon…and be doing the same practice to the same level of effectiveness.
You can experience immediate results.
This is essential in those moments when you feel like you need it most. When you’re feeling actively anxious or stressed and need to down-regulate an over-stimulated nervous system within ~1-3 minutes.
They are low time commitment.
We all live busy lives in one way or another. While it certainly is wonderful to devote an hour to practice restorative yoga, meditate, relax in nature, etc… On busy days it can be hard to carve out the time, and oftentimes we forgo practicing anything, surrendering to the momentum of the day. Somatic exercises can be performed in 30 seconds (if that’s all the time you have). You can drop in quickly while waiting in line at the grocery store or when stuck in traffic. Of course, you can practice them for longer too (and enter a place of even deeper restoration and calm), but in essence, they can be extremely effective even when practiced for short amounts of time in between all of the other life chaos around us.
You can experience long-term results (with daily consistency).
With daily practice, over time, you’ll start to notice that you’re less reactive and more responsive when daily triggers come your way.
With deeper awareness, over time, you can watch how engaging with somatic practices transforms not only your nervous system reactivity but your entire life.
So How Do I Start?
Subscribe + stay tuned! I plan on sharing many somatic practices here in The Sacred Pause substack and more articles on the theory of somatics (if that’s your cup of tea).
Using herbs + somatic practices together has transformed my life and was a huge part of the inspiration behind creating The Sacred Pause collective. Nothing makes slowing down feel easier in the midst of chaotic and turbulent moments. If you’re curious and this speaks to you, I invite you to subscribe + stay connected to The Sacred Pause Substack as I’ll be sharing many of my favorite somatic practices over time, including when and how to practice them.
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