The Power of Somatic Dance Movement in Trauma Therapy

The Power of Somatic Dance Movement in Trauma Therapy

In this video bellow, I share ( to my community, so no fancy editing! ) how I use conscious dance movements with my clients to help regulate trauma states. I share how conditions like PTSD, betrayal, and shame can be released from the nervous system through dance modalities such as Ecstatic Dance, 5Rhythms, or Open Floor. Where to start, what can you do when you are first time on the dance floor and how can you move out some states from your PTSD & trauma body.

Incorporating somatic dance movement into trauma therapy provides a dynamic and expressive avenue for healing. It encourages you to process trauma in a holistic way, combining physical movement, emotional expression, and nervous system regulation. Through somatic dance, you can reconnect with your body, gradually release stored trauma , and regain a sense of control, ultimately contributing to your healing and recovery journey.

Somatic Dance Movement for Nervous System Regulation in Trauma Therapy:

Embodied Expression: Somatic dance serves as an effective means to address the disconnection that trauma often instigates within you from your own body. It fosters a reconnection, encouraging you to fully inhabit your body. Through the expressive medium of movement, you can effectively convey and release pent-up emotions and physical tension, thereby facilitating a profound reconnection with yourself.

Integration of Sensations: Trauma survivors frequently grapple with overwhelming sensations linked to traumatic memories. Somatic dance provides a structured avenue for you to explore and integrate these sensations in a mindful and controlled manner. This process aids in the development of a sense of mastery over your own physical responses, contributing to your healing journey.

Nervous System Regulation: At the core of somatic dance lies the engagement of both body and mind. The deliberate and rhythmic movements, combined with focused breathing techniques, effectively activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This activation, in turn, plays a pivotal role in reducing the heightened arousal often experienced by individuals with trauma, ultimately fostering a profound sense of calm and safety.

Enhanced Body Awareness: Somatic dance serves as a catalyst for heightened body awareness. By attentively observing and experiencing your body’s movements during dance, you can become more attuned to your physical sensations, which is a crucial step in recognizing and effectively managing trauma-related triggers.

Somatic Dance Movement Examples:

  1. Grounding Stomp: To perform this somatic dance movement, you can begin by adopting a stance with your feet hip-width apart. With each deliberate step, emphasize a strong and purposeful stomp, immersing yourself in the sensation of your feet connecting with the ground. This grounding movement can significantly enhance your sense of rootedness and connection to the present moment.
  2. Flowing Waves: Flowing waves entail fluid, undulating movements of the arms and upper body. Initiating from a stance with your feet shoulder-width apart, gently sway your torso from side to side, allowing your arms to follow in a wave-like motion. This particular movement technique encourages the release of emotional tension and promotes a heightened sense of flow and self-expression.
  3. Breath-Centered Dance: In this practice, you can synchronize your dance movements with your breath. For example, take slow, deep breaths while raising your arms overhead and exhale as you lower them. This mindful coordination of breath and movement plays a pivotal role in regulating your nervous system and fostering a profound sense of control.
  4. Dissociation Reconnection: Trauma often results in dissociation, causing you to disconnect from your body. Somatic dance provides a means for you to gradually reconnect with your body. By encouraging gentle, deliberate movements such as slow and controlled swaying or reaching, you can embark on a journey to re-inhabit your body, effectively reducing feelings of disconnection.

A Brief History of Somatic Dance Movement:

Somatic dance movement has deep roots in the world of expressive arts and therapeutic practices. Emerging in the mid-20th century, it was a response to the desire for more authentic and embodied forms of self-expression. Dancers and therapists sought to move away from rigid choreography and embrace movement that arose from within, reflecting the individual’s unique emotional and physical experiences.

One of the pioneers of somatic dance was Mary Whitehouse, who developed a practice known as Authentic Movement in the 1950s. Authentic Movement encouraged participants to explore their inner selves through spontaneous, unstructured movement. This approach emphasized the connection between body and mind, paving the way for somatic therapy as we know it today.

In the 1960s and 70s, the Conscious Dance Movement gained momentum, fueled by the countercultural and humanistic movements of the era. Dancers began to see their bodies as vessels for self-discovery and healing, with movement serving as a powerful tool for personal growth and emotional release. The practice emphasized non-judgmental self-awareness, encouraging individuals to move authentically and explore their inner landscapes.

Established dance movements modalities are: 5Rythms, Open Floor, Movement Medicine, Azul, Ecstatic Dance

The Contemporary Resurgence:

Fast forward to the present day, and somatic dance movement is experiencing a resurgence in the field of trauma therapy. This resurgence can be attributed in part to the groundbreaking work of Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, notably his influential book “The Body Keeps the Score.” Dr. van der Kolk’s research shed light on the profound connection between trauma, the body, and the nervous system.

“The Body Keeps the Score” explores how trauma can become stored in the body and impact both physical and psychological well-being. It emphasizes the importance of integrating the body into trauma therapy, as traditional talk therapy alone often falls short in addressing the somatic aspects of trauma.

Additionally, the contributions of Peter Levine and the Somatic Experiencing Institute have played a significant role in the resurgence of somatic dance movement. Levine’s work in Somatic Experiencing focuses on resolving trauma by engaging the body’s natural healing abilities. This approach has been instrumental in bringing attention to the somatic aspects of trauma and promoting holistic healing.

Somatic dance movement aligns perfectly with the principles outlined in Dr. van der Kolk’s and Peter Levine’s work, making it a powerful tool for trauma healing in the present time. Therapists and individuals alike are recognizing the value of using movement to reconnect with the body, release stored tension, and regulate the nervous system. It offers a profound and therapeutic way to process and recover from past traumas, further contributing to the evolving landscape of trauma therapy.

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