Somatic transformations

In Moving Consciously, Sondra Fraleigh and other contributors draw on both scholarship and personal practice to participate in a multifaceted investigation of a thriving worldwide phenomenon.

As Fraleigh writes, the book “is about moving consciously and why consciousness matters in movement. Using a variety of perspectives on movement and dance somatics, our book presents the benefits of experiencing self and others through sensory awareness, movement integration, and intuitive dance as vital means toward mental and physical health.”

Somatic processes, in general, allow a person to retrain the neuromuscular system. The ultimate goal of improved health and well-being can apply in many areas: stress reduction, chronic pain, stiffness and joint discomfort, healing from specific trauma, and faster healing from illness or surgery. It can also improve flexibility and coordination, and allow the recipient to more easily move their bodies to dance, play sports, or perform many other life-affirming activities.

Numerous techniques exist. The Alexander Technique, dating to the late 1800s, and the somewhat related Feldenkrais Method may be the best known. Others include Fraleigh’s own Eastwest Shin Somatics (described in this book), Body-Mind Centering, and Aston Movement Patterning.

Fraleigh explains:

Somatic bodyworkers guide people through movement patterns and positions to facilitate wellness. They are also interested in developing awareness through movement and imagination. Somatic bodywork is done clothed and often emphasizes moving through space. A session might culminate in some fundamental movement pattern that shows the client and facilitator what has been learned or what has improved. This is easily accomplished through walking, for instance. A session could begin and end with walking to see if the student senses a difference. Or the session could begin with a dance phrase and end with the same phrase to reflect on possible improvements.

The focus of a somatic bodywork lesson (or session) depends on the needs and wishes of the student or client. It is always assumed that something is being learned that can be reviewed verbally, or danced or painted. Somatic bodywork is creative and unpredictable. Lessons don’t follow standard formulas, even when they evolve out of general lesson plans or well-defined developmental movement patterns.

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