“Somatics” refers to any physical practice that uses motion to improve physical and mental health. How does that work? Well – have you ever found that stress or anxiety can make your muscles feel tight? Does your throat close up when you are upset? Do you want to curl into a ball and hide under the covers when you are procrastinating? Those are all signs of your mental state influencing your physical state.
But it’s also possible to change your physical state to improve your mental state! Watch the video below to learn how moving your body can decrease feelings of stress and anxiety.
If you’re interested in some specific ways you can replace the Anxiety Cycle with the Somatic cycle, join my self-paced Somatics for Anxiety course, available online now!
I’m so excited to announce that my first online course is ready!
Somatics for Anxiety isn’t just for people with anxiety. It’s for anyone who is curious to learn about the way moving your body can enhance your mood. We’re heading into a fun – but often high-stress – time of year. Our heads are full of changes to our normal routines, and our hearts are full of emotions: not just excitement and joy, but often angst and even grief.
When all that feels overwhelming, it can be helpful to tune into what the body is doing. And in fact, moving your body in certain ways can have a direct impact on your thoughts and emotions. Not sure where to start? This course is designed as a guided exploration! In each of the four lessons, I’ll introduce you to a different approach to using your body to enhance your mood, including:
Breath and movement (you can do it in bed!)
Gentle gliding yoga (including a variation in a chair)
Flowing chi exercises (simple standing motions)
Immersive distraction activities (many options for using your body to reset your mental state)
I’ll walk you through the exercises, talk a bit about the theory behind each one, and invite you to observe the degree to which each approach helps you. By the end of the course, you should have a much clearer idea of the types of activities that help your state of mind. You can revisit the course for an entire year, too, so you can continue to follow along with the videos whenever you need them.
Anthony Corahais states on his web site that he began practicing qigong during a severe bout of depression, and it saved his life. He now offers online courses in qigong to share that power with others. So, if you’re stressed-out and looking to fight depression and boost your immune system, qigong could be a great practice to try!
I firmly believe that to get the most out of qigong or taiji, you need to be feeling and working with the energetic aspect. For most people, they will find that most readily working with a teacher in a live setting. However – needs must drive, and when you start out, you’ll likely be pretty busy just focusing on where your hands and feet are supposed to be. So, this free video series is a great place to start. If it resonates with you, get in touch with a great teacher in your area to continue your studies. (Here’s my teacher!)
If you are looking to move beyond self-soothing into some deeper self-care (learn the differences here), you might be interested in Qigong (also spelled chi kung, pronounce “chee-GUNG”). This is a practice related to taiji (t’ai chi) that uses repeated motions synched with breath to circulate blood, lymph, and energy through the body. Medical studies have shown that taiji improves immune system response, and it’s been used in China specifically to help people recover from COVID-19. If the idea of energy movement feels a little “woo-woo” to you, know that these practices also help you breathe deeply, limber you up (especially in the torso), and help you focus calmly on something that is not the dire news of the day.
I think qigong is an easier place to start than taiji, because instead of flowing from one move to the next in a choreographed form, qigong has you repeat one move several times before moving on to the next exercise. Ideally, you’d learn from a teacher, because there are things about the way it feels that are hard to convey via video alone – but even just following along the videos as best you can will be a help.
Today’s video is by Bruce Frantzen, who has studied several lineages from masters in China. He starts with a couple minutes of talk about how qigong can help against Coronavirus. The actual practice is only 3 moves that take 3-4 minutes. The key takeaway is not that qigong or taiji would help you avoid it forever (it won’t) but rather it will help your immune system respond rapidly and effectively.
I find this approach very calming philosophically – my goal is not to lock myself away and never, ever come in contact with the virus, but rather to accept that it is fairly likely I will catch it, but to have a body and mind resilient enough to overcome it. This approach may or may not be for you, especially if you have underlying conditions or lowered immunity. I have to say, it’s a leap of faith for me after my last bout of pneumonia in 2016. So, I’m isolating, washing well, AND doing qigong!
If you’re looking for something more active, expressive, and exuberant than gentle yoga, take a look at Jurian Hughes’s Let Your Yoga Dance practice. This will get you moving in a much more active way, with some hints of yoga but also a lot of freeform movement. If your best self likes to dance through your days, but is getting bogged down in bad news and worry, this might be right up your street.
If you are interested in more of her classes, she’s offering streaming classes in several flavors throughout the week while so many of us are in lockdown (March/April 2020). They are only $5 each or $50 for an unlimited pass for the month of April, and she’s donating 10% to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.