THE BODY TELLS A STORY Somatic Acupuncture
Most people that come to see me that I’ve had acupuncture in the past say that they’ve never experienced anything like my treatments. I am fully trained as a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner but the training and experience I had prior to doing graduate school is what makes my work different. What I do is called Somatic acupuncture. In order to explain what it is I must go into the question, ‘What is the history of mind-body medicine?’ There is an ancient history of mind body medicine that comes from ancient indigenous cultures worldwide. The most familiar examples, are traditional practices such as Indian yoga, and Chinese medicine. However, every ancient culture on earth has a valid healing tradition. This is a huge topic and members of these diverse and varied cultures would be the best historians of their own rich traditions .
I’d like to focus on the history of mind-body medicine in the US which is part of my 25 year education as a holistic practitioner. With the explosion of interest in all things holistic and alternative medicine being integrated into more Western medical trainings, I believe it’s important to acknowledge the true roots of mind-body medicine in this country.
When I was 20, I enrolled in a massage school in a Northern California founded by a graduate of the Esalen Institute, also in N. California. The school was located next to an herbal college founded by Rosemary Gladstar, a renowned American herbalist. I was lucky enough to be exposed to older and wiser practitioners. They gave me a glimpse into the century old unique American tradition of holistic health .The style of massage that I learned is best described as somatic. This early exposure continues to inform the work that I do as an acupuncturist and as an intuitive advisor.
What is somatics? Soma is the Greek word for body. For more than 100 years, a number of independent groups from around the world have been exploring the integrity of movement, anatomical dimensions, intelligence, and spiritual consciousness of the body. ( continued in next post)
Part 2 Somatic Acupuncture/These schools of thought, developed roughly around the First World War, have a wide scope of therapeutic applications. Based on a mainly nonverbal system communicated by touch many of these techniques are sometimes confused with psychotherapeutic approaches such as hypnosis and guided imagery. The difference with Somatic’s, is the body, not the mind is acknowledged as the guide. However, as with psychotherapy, in Somatic’s, the client and the practitioner are always learning side-by-side. How? By gleaning information from the clients’ body’s reaction and sensations.
Because of the silent world of nonverbal practices, few writings were done during the early history of this field. Unfortunately, many of the pioneer practitioners were European and were scattered around the globe as refugees due to both world wars.
In 1960, the Esalen Institute was founded as a healing and educational center in Northern California. Esalen attracted many of the old Somatics teachers and students who revived their practices and studies.
“Find your true weakness and surrender to it. Therein lies the path to genius. Most people spend their lives using their strengths to overcome or cover up their weaknesses. Those of you who use your strengths and incorporate your weaknesses, who don’t divide themselves, those people are very rare. And in any generation there are a few and they lead their generation.- Moshe Feldenkrais”
Moshe Feldenkrais, a Israeli physicist developed trainings called “awareness through movement” at Esalen which are still used worldwide. His interest was applying the principles of physics to physical disabilities and body restrictions, enabling clients to move more easily. I’m just using Feldenkrais as an example, although there are several other schools of thought in the field of Somatic’s, as well as, many wonderful practitioners. His work expressed, “the embodied psyche.” This is one way to describe movement with mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a term that is quite common in 2018. However, it’s taken 35 years for the term “Mindfulness” to become secular. In the US, we attribute the term to Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn Who is doing work on the other coast at the University of Massachusetts.. However, it’s roots reach 2500 years into the past. There is some traditional form of prayer or meditation in all of the world’s major religions.
Mind-body healing techniques and mindfulness practices will continue to become more integrated into our lives. Let’s continue to pay respect to those great minds, brave explorers and outspoken individuals that laid the groundwork for the practitioners, clients and patients that reep the benefits in our mind, body and spirits.