3 Favorite Somatic Stretches

As we move gently through spring, many of us are brushing off the winter cobwebs and manifesting a lifestyle that matches the lightness of the season. In my life, a spring refresh includes letting go of things that don't serve me anymore, changing up my workout routine and spending as much time outside as possible. When I was looking to add something new to my nightly decompression ritual and stumbled upon somatic stretching.

As I sat down to begin I realized that this was something that I learned to do when I was in college but just like with everything in life, I fell out of habit with it. Back then I found myself gravitating towards this practice time and time again because it provided a gentle release for my tight muscles while being meditative and soothing to my nervous system.

I can attest that after rediscovering this old ritual, it has quickly become my go-to twice daily. In the evenings I spend 5 minutes incorporating two to three stretches depending on where I feel tension whereas in the mornings, I spend 15 minutes incorporating a variety of techniques to wake my body up. I have found that this practice allows me to feel centered and fully engaged when I start my day and relaxed and rested when my day comes to an end.

For those new to this technique, somatic stretching is a form of flexibility training that focuses on reconnecting the brain to communicate with the muscles with the goal of releasing tension, improving range of motion and lengthening. Because it focuses on a mind-body connection, it helps to calm your nervous system leaving you feeling more present and in tune with how your body feels and tapping into what it needs.

Somatic stretching emphasizes the importance of engaging the muscles in a gentle and controlled manner unlike traditional stretching, which often involves holding a stretch for a period of time. By actively contracting and relaxing the muscles during the stretch, this helps to reset the muscle length and improve overall flexibility. Other somatic exercises include yoga, meditation and breathwork, which I consider to be part of a balanced self-care lifestyle.

Research has shown that somatic stretching can help improve posture, reduce muscle tension, and enhance overall body awareness and coordination when incorporating this type of movement into your routine. This practice has been around since the 70s and is beneficial for everyone but is especially good for those dealing with chronic pain, anxiety, tension or reduced muscle flexibility.

With everything at our fingertips these days there are many online resources that can guide you on this journey if you decide to venture down this path. If you want to start with the basics, these 3 Somatic Stretches are my favorite for an overall release.

1. Neck Release

Sitting comfortably, tuck your chin to your chest, relaxing into the stretch slowly while you take deep breaths. Then, release your chin and tilt your head to one side (to bring your ear to your shoulder without forcing), relaxing into the stretch. Tilt your head to the opposite side to balance out your neck. Repeat the sequence from the beginning. This stretch is taken directly from this article by Natasha Burton.

2. Arch & Flatten

Lying on your back with knees bent, arch and flatten your lower back, inhaling while going up, and exhaling while going down. Repeat five to 10 times (or less) as slowly and consciously as possible. This stretch is taken directly from this article by Kayla Blanton.

3. Inversion/Eversion; Bow-legs/Knock-knees; Skiing

Lying on your back, twist your right foot, leg, and hip in and out about two to five times, being sure to lift and arch each side of your back alternately without lifting your shoulders. Do the same with your left side. Move both legs simultaneously in alternating bow-legged/knock-kneed positions about five times, then together in skiing motions about five times (or less, doing no more than are comfortable and easy to do). Do this as slowly and consciously as possibly. This stretch is taken directly from this article and book Somatics by Thomas Hanna.