Center Your Body and Mind with Somatic Movement

Somatic Movement and Pilates

Allie Greene and Gia Calhoun recently discussed Somatic Movement during a Pilates Report webinar. They touched on what it means and defined Somatic Movement as Soma (meaning the body), Somatic (relating to or affecting the body, as opposed to the mind), and Somatization (meaning body based).

During the first discussion on this topic (Somatic Movement and Pilates) they mentioned that there are different methods of practice, such as the Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais Method, Nano Somatics, etc.

This heavily sensory practice of body-mind centering is an exciting, growing field of work, that is considered the gateway to conscious embodiment.

What Types of Movements are Used in Somatics?

Specific Somatic movements are not part of the traditional Pilates repertoire. Slowing down is very important, which some people find challenging. As done in Pilates, it is important to meet people where they are.

Allie starts with movement to reflect the tone of the client and then slows down. Few people need practice speeding up but for this practice, you must be able to recognize subtleties and you can only get that by moving slowly.

There are also micro-movements that move away from the muscles and into the fluid system. With micro-movements, the focus is on movement close to the joints, very deep and internal. Micro-movement is not a traditional part of Pilates. Here too, the patterns of yield push, and reach pull are important. They are like the ABCs. We first have to move toward something to be able to move away from it. That’s the relationship between yield and push, and the same relationship exists between reach and pull. You can’t pull until you have first reached.

Yielding is moving toward support, consciously, and softening towards it. First, you have to move toward something before you can move away. If you don’t yield, there is going to be rigidity and over-stabilizing. Yielding is a powerful practice for people to give themselves permission to receive support, nurturance, and especially realizing they are giving that to themselves.

Push comes from first yielding. Yield is our first yes; push is our first no. We must know what we truly want to be able to say what we don’t want. There is the psycho-emotional part, and these aspects work very closely together.

Next is reach and pull which comes out of yield and push. Allie mentioned that she herself was more of a reach-and-pull, needing to learn how to yield a bit more. This sometimes meant she didn’t have a good foundation and she would totally exhaust herself. If you are similar and learning how to yield is your issue, once you start practicing it, it is also going to help your mental state.

Allie uses a technique called Belly Down time. Adult Belly Down time helps break it down to the organs and create awareness of the connections. Adults don’t usually lie on their stomachs, but in this position, we can create awareness of all the different connections, such as the connection of the fingers to the shoulders and the spine.

In the quadruped position, some people lost the completion of getting the hand to really spiral so that they are using their thumb, pointer, and middle finger to push. This is important because those have connections through the muscles, through the fascia, through the bones up to the front of the body, and to the middle of the shoulder joints. Our other two fingers have more to do with the scapula in the back. When we really get good at pushing through those fingers, especially the middle one, we end up lifting. Think of our hands like diaphragms. We end up lifting the carpal tunnel area that gets beaten up so much. Therefore, hand positioning in quadruped is about getting that in the right place, getting the feet under to push. Feet have a similar relationship to the pelvis.

How does Somatic Movement help during difficult times?

Allie and Gia also discussed whether she notices trends at certain times of the year when people crave Somatic movement more than at other times.

Allie mentioned that it is good if you can help yourself during difficult times so that you keep your system more evenly regulated and balanced. It helps us become more responsive instead of reactive, in stressful situations. Responsiveness implies thoughtful action that considers the long- and short-term outcome in the context of the situation at hand. Reactive behavior is immediate and without conscious thought, like a knee-jerk response. Reactive behavior is often driven by emotions.

This can make it difficult for people during the holidays, social situations, being around family, and such. There is also financial stress with extra expenses. You have less time and more on your plate, so there are so many stressors during this time of the year.

There is also a seasonal factor. During the same time of the year, some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Triggered by less daylight, SAD involves symptoms of depression. This work helps to buffer that and support that. It can be extremely personal.

We all face different difficult times throughout the year regardless of the season. Maybe you are grieving the loss of someone. Maybe it is the end of the school year and although you love your kids, you worry that you will have to entertain them all summer long. Regardless of the stressors, Somatic Movement helps people manage and respond better when things get tough.

How Much Somatic Practice Time Produces the Most Benefits?

What is also great about this practice is you don’t need to do a full hour of it at a time, or even have a set schedule per day or per week. You can if you want, but you can also do five minutes here and an hour there. Just take that five minutes to come back into yourself, let your brain take the backseat, and let your body inform you.

We need to be deeper and more relational with ourselves because it makes us more grounded. You may come up with fascinating realizations, such as how a lot of our sayings are actually somatically based.

For example, “I feel like my heart is in my throat”, or “I was sick to my stomach”. These are very accurate somatic descriptions of what you are usually feeling in the situations in which these sayings are used. There is so much truth in how we do or don’t interact with our body, how we go about operating in the world, how we feel about ourselves, others, and even the whole world around us.

Where Do I Start with Somatic Movement?

Allie says you don’t need to be an expert to begin this journey.  You can start it by simply lying on the ground, or while doing your favorite Pilates exercise. But instead of thinking “I need to engage the pelvic floor and want to pull my belly button to my spine and shoulders down” (some of the traditional cues), start to explore it from a more sensory-based experience.

Notice what is touching. Where are your feet? Where is your body? Pay attention to whether you’re holding a lot of tension that you don’t need. You can start small and grow.

If you are a teacher who wants to start incorporating Somatic Movement in your Pilates classes, you need to learn to do it without ego. In your own practice, it may be about you, but in front of your client or class, it is not about you. You need to develop the fortitude to honor that pausing, silence, and confusion sometimes. If your client doesn’t know if they are doing it right, you need to be able to let them know it is okay. As a teacher, you have to create space so that each person in class can find their own way.

It is also important to expect pushback. It makes some people very uncomfortable if they don’t know what they are doing or how it is supposed to feel. Some people are simply uncomfortable digging deeper into themselves. They like staying on the surface and as the teacher, you have to know it is not just about teaching the material but also how you set up the space. Allie mentioned that she often uses humor as a good tool to disarm the pushback. You have to meet people where they are, and it is important to know your audience. Let your clients know that they can say “no, thank you” to some movements - let each person go through their own personal journey. Just get them to start to have more of that internal experience and just be very gentle with it.

Where Can You Learn More about Somatic Movement and Body-Mind Centering?

Depending on whether you are a student or a teacher, there are different types of somatic education. You may want to try different kinds and see what resonates with you.

For example, if you want more info about body-mind centering, you can go to which has a lot of great resources. YouTube is also a valuable resource.

Learn How to Live a Body-Mind-Centered Life

Allie finished the discussion by mentioning that most people are quite dysregulated. Somatic Movement, whether you are the teacher or the client, teaches you how to create the space to recognize when you are reacting and learn how to respond instead. It helps you to make different choices, whether it is movement or something that comes out of your mouth.

It is wonderful to feel it for yourself or to help others experience it too to help them truly connect to their inner being and hear the signals the body sends whether it is pain, discomfort, or joy. This deep awareness helps create balance on every level when the mind and body work together in conscious harmony.

Marchel Ackler
About the Author

Marchel Ackler

Marchel Ackler is a Marketing Associate at Pilates Anytime. She lives in Knightdale, NC. She enjoys cooking with loved ones, crocheting, and gardening, is currently learning how to play pool (billiards), and loves going on adventures with her husband and puppy.


Marchel, today is my birthday! You gave me the best gift! I just happened across this on IG. It is really fantastic. Thank you for such an approachable and clear representation of somatics and what I do. 

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