Yesterday, I went to the doctor for my annual physical. For about 15 minutes, I stared at the exam table, the posters on the wall and I felt the sterile coolness of the room. Then it occurred to me: I’ve been conditioned to believe that this is what healing looks like. I was never taught to question my doctor’s opinion nor was I taught to try other options. Much of our Western medical system conflicts with what I’ve learned as a somatic yoga therapist and I disagree with many Western approaches. Even so, Western medicine has great value. I mean, there’s a reason the average life expectancy in the U.S. is 79 years old (compared to just 53 years old a century ago.)
Obviously, I find some merit in Western medicine, or I wouldn’t have been in the exam room. But I find the Western approach one-dimensional and it seems most physicians are trained on the physical body machine without a deep knowledge of the mind-body connection. That only takes us so far.
My training tells me (and I believe) that we humans are multi-layered beings – five sheaths called the koshas – that can’t be separated. We are beautifully complicated tapestries of our physical bodies, breath, intellect, emotions, and a sheath of inner bliss. To consider one without the others limits our possibilities for wellbeing and dishonors the richness of who we are.
When we learn to access ourselves as a complete system we can know ourselves better than anyone else ever can. And with that comes the ability to self heal. As a somatic yoga therapist, I help my clients find their internal sources of dis-ease and I teach them how to reeducate their bodies to function more fully. I’ve been told that I’m counter-culture. I suppose I am and I’m OK with that. I’m a big believer in the work I do. I’ve seen clients find relief from pain and suffering from conditions that had caused them to lose hope.
Because somatic yoga therapy is fairly new, I’m asked a lot of questions. Here are a few that come my way most often:
Will you diagnose me?
NO. Doctors give you a medical diagnosis – a name – for the issue you bring them. That’s not in my scope of practice. If you come to me with the name of a diagnosis, it helps me understand how your doctor views your issue and what words you’ve heard to describe it. That’s as far as I use that information. What I’m more interested in is how this issue is getting in the way of you living your life. My role is to help you regain lost function and reclaim activities you’ve had to give up.
Are you going to tell me to stop taking medicine?
NO. Many clients come to me while under a doctor’s care, including medication. It’s not in my scope of practice to share my opinions on, discuss or make recommendations about medication. My role is to do what I can to help you find self-guided ways to find relief for short- and long-term wellbeing.
Are you a physical therapist?
NO. Physical therapy uses treatments like massage, heat and exercise to help a patient regain movement or strength after an injury or illness. I view it as a way to externally manipulate muscles to regain function. Somatic yoga therapy is an internally-based approach to reeducate your muscles on how to regain their full function.
Do you accept insurance?
Unfortunately…NO. Not yet, however, my services are HSA eligible. I’m hopeful that the insurance companies will come around at some point just like they have for other alternative modalities like acupuncture.
Does it work?
YES. Personally, I’ve experienced relief from chronic back spasms and I’ve witnessed many different types of improvement in the well-being of my clients. There are client stories for you to read here.
Somatics, the science upon which somatic yoga is based, originated with Thomas Hanna, Ph.D. who redefined the Soma as “the body experienced from within.” Dr. Hanna was a philosopher and somatic educator, who founded the field of somatics in 1970. I’m grateful for his work and my opportunity to work within it.
“Somatic exercises can change how we live our lives, how we believe that our minds and bodies interrelate, how powerful we think we are in controlling our lives, and how responsible we should be in taking care of our total being.”