5 Simple Somatic Exercises to Help Reduce Stress & Anxiety


Somatic healing (and its immensely impactful effects) are – finally, thankfully – getting some attention.


Books like Waking the Tiger, The Body Keeps the Score and The Emotion Code were profoundly impactful for my healing, as was the work of Dr John Sarno, in understanding just how much our bodies hold our emotions and trauma, with that trauma and emotion often metastasising into dis-ease.


Working with somatic healing practitioners has also been something that has helped me on my healing journey, and something I often recommend to clients.


Essentially, somatic exercises offer a conversation between body and mind, and by engaging in somatic healing we can work to remove trauma and stagnant energy in the body.


I’ve honestly found that often, this “stuck” trauma is causing more illness than anything else we put our health optimisation efforts into, and when we can somatically remove it, it is also 80% of the journey to emotional strength, resilience and healing when it comes to our past traumas.


We can actually use simple somatic exercises ourselves to start that “conversation”; to gently ease the body into the parasympathetic nervous state by engaging in mindful movement that is designed to enhance awareness of our bodies in space and increase neuromuscular control.


Many of the exercises I will share with you actually work to activate the vagus nerve and calm the autonomic nervous system, leading to reduced anxiety and reduced stress levels.


These exercises can also be used to reduce pain, improve posture and improve sleep quality.


1. Breathwork.

Simple diaphragmatic breathing takes the brain from sympathetic nervous state to parasympathetic, reducing cortisol levels instantly, enabling us to be more productive, have better focus and reduce stress. What I call “Balance Breathing” is a great way to start this. Simply breathe in through the nose for a count of 4, hold for 4, breath out the mouth for a count of 6, and hold for 4. Do this for 2 minutes at multiple points throughout the day to experience more calm.



2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a somatic technique whereby we tense and then relax different muscle groups. It helps us to become more aware of physical sensations associated with tension and relaxation. When it comes to healing anything (physical, mental, emotional), awareness is the first step.

Start by focusing on the breath to bring your brain out of heightened brainwave states into the calmer state of Alpha. Then simply tense one group of muscles – such as your upper arms – for a few seconds, then release, spending time observing the contrast. Repeat for as many muscle groups as you can and keep your awareness on the difference in sensation.



3. Pelvic Tilts

Pelvic tilts are a great way to improve posture, bring more lower back alignment, and increase circulation.

Lie with your back on the floor and your legs bent, feet flat on the floor. Start gently lifting your pelvis off the floor, as if you’re peeling it off vertebrae by vertebrae, hold at the top when you’re holding yourself up by your shoulder blades, then gently peel back down. Repeat 5-10 times.



4. Cat Cow Stretches

The Cat-Cow stretch is a popular exercise for aiding spine mobility. It’s also brilliant for pregnant women. It helps alleviate back tension and, if breathing mindfully whilst doing it, also calms the autonomic nervous system. Start on your hands and knees in tabletop position, keeping your head in a neutral position. As you inhale, lift your bottom up, allowing your belly to sink to the floor, then exhale and round the spine like a cat would do. Repeat 5-10 times.



5. Grounding in Nature

Grounding in nature brings us back to Self. Connecting with the Earth (Pachamama) literally recharges us in the same way plugging your phone into a charger charges it. We take energy from the Earth’s powerful electromagnetic field, which is why walking barefoot in nature has so many benefits. Aside from this, it’s been proven time and time again that humans are wired to be in nature and as such, are happier and healthier when we get enough of it. Simply take yourself outside and walk or sit barefoot on the Earth, spending time being consciously aware of your connection to the Earth and to your body and your surroundings. This also brings us back to Present Moment Awareness which further helps reduce anxiety. When we’re in the present there is no past to regret and no future to worry about, only the Right Here Moment. Bliss.


Of course, if you want to be inspired in holistic living practices like these, to increase immunity, longevity, to heal and to live more closely to your divine purpose, join my RISE Membership, where this is the sort of thing you’d be guided in regularly!


For a London-based somatic healer, check out Rhia Pratsis.


Make sure also to check out those books I linked above to take you deeper into this work.


And lastly, if you want something else to help you more easily activate the vagus nerve and calm the autonomic nervous system, the Sensate is my most treasured piece of health tech for that!

In love & health,

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