What is Somatic Therapy?
The word 'Soma' or Somatic is: pertaining to the Body, especially as distinct from the Mind.
Rather than focusing on the Mind alone, as do talk-therapies like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Somatic Therapy focuses on integrating mindfulness, body awareness, breath awareness and body-orientated tools to guide the client towards resolving maladaptive emotional and physiological patterns.
Somatic Therapy aims to assess and map out each client's unique Nervous System and to track, through the skill of Interoception, how the Body holds stress, trauma and patterned tension through emotions, sensations and different bodily states. Using a Somatic lens in therapy views the client as a whole, unique individual; gently guiding one back into relationship with the truest version of the Self.
Somatic Therapy has been shown to be highly effective in alleviating the symptomology of (c)PTSD, Developmental Trauma, Attachment Disruptions and the various symptoms of a dysregulated Nervous System that often get labeled as Anxiety, Depression, Mood Disorders, Chronic Illness, Chronic Pain, Substance and Behaviour Addictions.
Polyvagal Theory and the Vagus Nerve
The Vagus Nerve is the 10th cranial nerve (CNX) and the most important cranial nerve that regulates many bodily functions necessary for our health and emotional well-being. This nerve must function properly in order for us to be healthy, feel good emotionally and to be able to interact calmly and positively within our community.
Polyvagal Theory demonstrates that the Vagus Nerve integrates feedback from the eyes, sound, touch, head movement, jaw, tongue, swallow reflex, breath, digestive organs and interoceptive sensory input from the brain stem.
When the Vagus Nerve operates optimally, it has a smooth, flexible connection that acts like a 'brake' between your brainstem and the electrical pathways of the Heart. It slows the heart rate to a pace where your physiology is safe, calm and regulated; in the face of a stressor or threat, the brake lets up to allow more mobilizing energy into the system in order to meet these demands.
When an individual is exposed to chronic stress and inflammation, common causes being: our toxic environments, pathogens (parasites, bacteria, virus, mold), gut permeability, physical trauma and complex emotional stress, the Vagus Nerve loses its tone and flexibility.
When Vagal Tone is lost, an individual has reduced Capacity and Resilience to cope with day-to-day stressors; getting 'stuck' in maladaptive activated states. The symptoms of low Vagal Tone can show up as: anxiety, depression, restlessness, reactivity, agitation, brain fog, fatigue, shut down, digestive issues, insomnia, chronic pain. Over time, this sustained complex inflammatory process can be seen to transition into autoimmune disease, cancers and many other chronic debilitating illnesses.
The good news: the human body is brilliant; biologically wired towards survival and maintaining homeostasis/balance. When long-term chronic stress affects our internal balance, we have the power to support this balancing act through the application of Polyvagal Theory and Somatic body work. Polyvagal Theory demonstrates that we can override dis-Ease causing patterned responses.
How? The Vagus Nerve acts as a bi-directional information highway; sending 80% of information from the Body to the Brain. Therefore, if we change how our Body 'feels' somatically, we can change protective patterns that have gone haywire. Learning self-regulation skills allow us to live less reactive, healthier, more connected, calm and balanced lives.