What is Somatics?

Part Five: What to expect in Clinical Somatic Education lessons and classes

You can learn Clinical Somatic Education (CSE) exercises in several different ways. You’ll get the most personal attention and in-depth understanding of the exercises if you are able to have private lessons with a certified educator. A less expensive option is to attend group movement classes, where you will learn a number of self-care exercises during a one- to two-hour class. A third, and more accessible option for people who don’t live near an educator, is to learn the movements at home on your own with these online courses.

Private Lessons

CSE is most effective when it is approached not as a therapy but as an educational experience. You should come to lessons expecting to be a student, and should be prepared to do your homework—the self-care exercises—every day for about 20 to 30 minutes. While you may feel the positive effects of CSE exercises right away, they should not be considered a quick fix. You must commit to doing the exercises on a very regular basis if you want to experience lasting results.

CSE lessons are slow and gentle, and appropriate for people in any physical condition. You do not need to be physically fit or aerobically active, and all movements can be modified so that you can do them comfortably. You will actively participate in the lesson, consciously engaging in slow, simple movements. You will remain fully clothed, and should wear comfortable, stretchy clothing that allows for free movement.

Your first lesson begins with an assessment in which you and your educator sit down and go over your medical history, current pain conditions, and daily lifestyle. After the verbal assessment, the educator will ask you to stand up so that they can observe your posture. The educator will gently touch the muscles in your neck, back and waist to get a sense of your muscular tension. They may observe you walking or ask you to do a few simple movements. The purpose of the assessment is for the educator to gather as much information as possible so that they can work with you in an informed way.

After your assessment, you will lie down on the Somatics table and spend forty-five to sixty minutes doing gentle movements. The educator will guide you through some of these movements with their hands, while other movements are done on your own. Some of the movements are passive, meaning that you get to completely relax and just focus on what you’re feeling. These passive movements give both you and the educator a sense of your range of motion, movement patterns, and level of muscular tension. They also begin the process of relaxing the nervous system. Other movements are active, and as they are very slow and controlled, they require a great deal of mental focus. These active movements allow for the release of chronic muscular contraction and the relearning of natural, efficient movement patterns.

At the end of your lesson, you will get up and do a sitting or standing proprioceptive exercise. The proprioceptive exercises are practiced in front of a mirror, and they allow you to begin the process of changing your postural habits. By combining your internal sense of your posture with the objective view that you see in the mirror, you can learn if what you’re sensing is actually correct.

At the end of your lesson, your educator will teach you self-care exercises that you will practice at home every day. Once you have learned all of the basic self-care exercises, you should practice them for 20 to 30 minutes every day. It is fine to do more than 30 minutes, but it is not necessary. The most important aspect of the self-care exercises is not how many repetitions you do, but how you do them. Practice the exercises in a quiet, private space where you will not be interrupted by family members, pets, television or background noise. You should focus all of your attention on what you’re feeling as you do the movements. It is important to remember that the exercises are exploratory, so you should allow yourself to feel something new and learn something new each time you do them.

Group Classes

Group Somatics classes and workshops are most often held in yoga studios or similar spaces. You’ll lie on the floor on a mat or blanket to learn the exercises, alternating between lying on your back, side, and stomach depending on the movement you’re doing. The educator leading the class will verbally teach you the exercises rather than demonstrate, and you can feel free to close your eyes while you do the exercises. By not demonstrating the movements, we encourage an internal learning process. You can make changes in your nervous system more effectively and efficiently when you focus completely on your internal sensations rather than on copying someone else’s movements.

Somatics classes are very relaxing and enjoyable. You’ll learn slow, gentle, relaxing self-care movements that are suitable for all ages and fitness levels. They are the same self-care exercises that you would learn if you attended private lessons. You can do these exercises at home to relieve pain and tension, improve posture, increase range of motion, prevent injuries, and warm up and cool down from workouts.

Online Courses

If you do not live near a certified educator, or if you simply prefer to learn on your own at home, then these online courses are a great option for you.

You can learn a great deal and experience vast improvements in your pain, posture and movement when you learn Somatics exercises at home. However, learning on your own at home is not for everyone. You still need to commit to a daily practice of 20-30 minutes, and you need to create the time and space for this daily practice completely on your own, without the guidance and encouragement of an educator. Some people enjoy learning this way, while others learn better by participating in private lessons or group classes.

Check out the other five posts in this series:

Part One: What is Clinical Somatic Education?
Part Two: How Clinical Somatic Education was developed
Part Three: How is Clinical Somatic Education different from other methods?
Part Four: Is Clinical Somatic Education right for me?
Part Six: The Clinical Somatic Education learning process