The Science Behind Somatic Movement: How it Affects the Nervous System
Somatic movement refers to movements that involve our active engagement with our bodily sensations and experiences. These movements are different from automatic movements, such as walking or breathing, that happen without our conscious awareness.
The science behind somatic movement is based on our understanding of the sensory-motor system which connects the nervous system (feeling), motor system (moving), and the brain. The nervous system is responsible for processing sensory information and sending signals to the muscles to create movement. The nervous system works on the same loop as the systems we use to move. To simplify when your nervous system tells your brain it senses something, the body will respond with movement - this is a sensorimotor reflex.
Our brain and our body move using a system called the Sensorimotor System that runs on little chords throughout your whole body. When we engage in somatic movement, we activate sensory receptors in our muscles, joints, and skin. These receptors send signals to the brain, which processes the information and sends signals back to the muscles to create movement. Our muscles will clench and let go using these processes.
Somatic movement also involves feeling from the inside, this is called proprioceptive learning. The activation of the proprioceptive system is responsible for our sense of body position and movement. This system allows us to be aware of our body in space and to make adjustments in movement based on our body's needs. When our body loses its ability to sense a muscle this is called sensory-motor amnesia and often is what causes us functional pain.
By engaging in somatic movement, we teach our body how to safely feel and relax our muscles. This is done by paying attention and ensuring that we do not move into pain. Our proprioceptive awareness teaches us to move our bodies more efficiently and with greater ease. In class we re-educate the body to move safely and calmly, then it naturally opens to a freer and safer form. This can lead to improved posture, balance, and coordination, as well as reduced pain and tension in the body.
Overall, somatic movement is a powerful tool for improving our overall movement quality and promoting nervous system health. By engaging in mindful movement and increasing our awareness of our bodies, we can tap into the natural intelligence of our nervous system and move with greater ease and efficiency.