Healing from Within: The Power of Somatic Trauma Release Exercises
Updated: May 18
By Alina P. Halonen, LPCC, CCTP
May 18, 2023
In the journey of healing from trauma, it is essential to address not only the psychological and emotional aspects but also the physical manifestations of trauma. Somatic trauma release exercises offer a powerful approach to healing by engaging the body's innate wisdom and promoting the release and integration of stored trauma. In this blog, we will explore the concept of somatic trauma release exercises and delve into their numerous benefits for individuals on their healing path.
What are Somatic Trauma Release Exercises?
Somatic trauma release exercises are practices that focus on the body's sensations, movements, and physical experiences to promote healing and release trauma. Trauma is not solely an event that affects the mind but is also stored within the body, resulting in tension, dysregulation of the nervous system, and disconnection from one's physical self. Somatic exercises aim to address these somatic manifestations of trauma by facilitating relaxation, grounding, and the release of stored tension.
The Benefits of Somatic Trauma Release Exercises:
Regulation of the Nervous System: Somatic exercises offer effective tools for regulating the autonomic nervous system, which governs our stress response. By engaging in grounding techniques, deep breathing, and gentle movements, individuals can shift from a state of hyperarousal (fight-or-flight) to a state of calm and safety.
Release of Physical Tension: Trauma often manifests as physical tension and constriction in the body. Somatic exercises provide a space for individuals to release this tension, promoting relaxation, and facilitating a sense of physical comfort and ease.
Reconnection with the Body: Trauma can lead to disconnection from one's body as a protective mechanism. Somatic trauma release exercises help individuals reconnect with their bodies, cultivating body awareness and attunement to sensations, emotions, and inner wisdom. This reconnection promotes a sense of embodiment and supports the integration of traumatic experiences.
Emotional Release and Processing: Emotions associated with trauma can become trapped within the body. Somatic exercises provide a safe container for the release and processing of these emotions. Through gentle movements, breathwork, and other somatic techniques, individuals can experience emotional catharsis and find relief.
Empowerment and Resilience: Engaging in somatic trauma release exercises empowers individuals to actively participate in their own healing process. By listening to the body's wisdom and learning to regulate their experiences, individuals develop a sense of resilience and self-empowerment.
Integration of Mind and Body: Somatic trauma release exercises promote the integration of mind and body, recognizing their interconnectedness. By addressing trauma on a somatic level, individuals enhance their overall healing process, fostering a more balanced and holistic recovery.
Somatic trauma release exercises offer a profound pathway to healing by honoring the body's role in the traumatic experience and recovery. Through the regulation of the nervous system, the release of physical tension, reconnection with the body, and the facilitation of emotional release, these exercises promote empowerment, resilience, and the integration of mind and body. However, it is crucial to seek guidance from a trained trauma therapist or somatic practitioner to ensure the safety, personalized support, and effective use of these exercises.
Embark on the journey of somatic trauma release exercises, and allow your body to guide you towards healing from within. Embrace the profound potential to reconnect, release, and reclaim your well-being as you embark on this transformative path of healing.
It's important to note that trauma release exercises are best done under the guidance of a trained professional, such as a trauma therapist or somatic practitioner. They can help provide a safe and supportive environment for working through trauma. However, here are 20 general somatic trauma release exercises with brief instructions. Please keep in mind that it is advisable to seek professional guidance before attempting them:
Shake It Out: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Begin shaking your entire body, starting from your legs and gradually moving up through your torso, arms, and head. Allow the shaking to release tension and trauma stored in your body. Shake for a few minutes, then gradually slow down and come to a still-standing position.
Deep Belly Breathing: Lie down or sit comfortably. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Take slow, deep breaths, allowing your belly to rise with each inhalation and fall with each exhalation. Focus on relaxing and releasing tension with each breath.
Somatic Tracking: Close your eyes and bring your attention to your body. Notice any sensations, tensions, or emotions that arise. Observe without judgment, and gently guide your attention to different parts of your body, acknowledging any sensations that arise.
Grounding with Weighted Objects: Find a weighted object, such as a sandbag or weighted blanket. Lie down and place the object on different parts of your body, allowing the weight to provide a grounding and calming sensation. Focus on the sensations of pressure and support.
Trauma Release Ball: Use a soft ball, such as a tennis ball or foam roller, and place it on an area of tension or discomfort in your body. Apply gentle pressure and slowly roll the ball back and forth, allowing the release of tension in that area. Breathe deeply and relax as you work through different areas.
Release through Sound: Find a private space and allow yourself to vocalize any sounds that arise naturally. This can involve screaming, crying, or making guttural sounds. Allow the sounds to emerge without judgment, facilitating the release of pent-up emotions and trauma.
Emotional Release Postures: Experiment with different postures that facilitate emotional release. These can include curling up in a fetal position, lying face down with arms outstretched, or assuming a strong and open posture. Allow yourself to fully embody the posture and notice any emotions that arise.
Grounding Touch: Place your hands on different parts of your body that feel tense or activated. Use a gentle touch and apply steady pressure, imagining the warmth of your hands providing soothing support. Breathe deeply and allow the touch to facilitate grounding and relaxation.
Trauma-Informed Yoga: Engage in trauma-informed yoga practices that focus on gentle movements, breath awareness, and grounding postures. Seek guidance from a trauma-informed yoga teacher or follow online resources specifically designed for trauma survivors.
Tension and Release: Tense different muscle groups in your body, such as your fists, shoulders, or jaw. Hold the tension for a few seconds, then release it suddenly, allowing the muscles to relax completely. Notice the contrast between tension and relaxation in each muscle group.
Grounding Stance: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Feel the connection of your feet to the ground. Imagine roots growing from the soles of your feet, anchoring you to the earth. Engage your leg muscles and feel the support and stability in your stance.
Trauma Release Exercises (TRE): TRE is a technique that involves initiating and releasing tremors in the body to discharge tension and trauma. It is important to receive proper instruction and guidance from a qualified TRE practitioner before attempting these exercises.
Butterfly Hug: Cross your arms over your chest, placing your hands on your upper arms. Begin tapping your hands alternately on your upper arms, creating a gentle and rhythmic tapping motion. Focus on the soothing sensation of touch and allow it to promote relaxation.
Roll and Release: Lie down on a foam roller or rolled-up blanket positioned under your spine. Slowly roll your body up and down, allowing the pressure to release tension in your back and promote a sense of grounding.
Trauma-Informed Dance: Put on some music that resonates with your emotions. Allow your body to move freely, without judgment or self-consciousness. Express any emotions or sensations through your movements, allowing them to flow and release.
Somatic Dialogue: Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Imagine engaging in a conversation with your body. Ask it questions, such as "What do you need?" or "What emotions are you holding?" Listen to any sensations, emotions, or images that arise, and respond with compassion and curiosity.
Tapping (Emotional Freedom Techniques): Using your fingertips, gently tap on specific acupressure points on your body while focusing on traumatic memories or emotions. Follow a specific EFT protocol or seek guidance from an EFT practitioner for proper instructions.
Guided Imagery: Listen to a guided imagery recording that takes you on a journey to a safe and healing place. Visualize the details and sensations of this place, allowing it to evoke feelings of safety, calm, and resilience.
Somatic Self-Compassion: Engage in self-compassion practices that combine somatic awareness and self-compassionate language. Focus on offering kindness, understanding, and acceptance to your body and the sensations it carries.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Tense and release different muscle groups in your body, starting from your toes and moving up to your head. Engage each muscle group for a few seconds, then release the tension completely. Notice the sensations of tension and relaxation in each muscle.
Remember, these exercises are intended to provide general guidance, and it is essential to consult with a trauma therapist or somatic practitioner to ensure their appropriateness and safety for your specific needs.
Please note that the references provided are for informational purposes only and should not replace professional advice or guidance from a qualified therapist or mental health professional.
© Alina P. Halonen, LPCC, CCTP 2023. All Rights Reserved.