That distinction shows up when we consider the
somatic viewpoint. A soma is what each of us is, to ourselves. The
somatic viewpoint is the first-person, "I" viewpoint. It is
a viewpoint that is uniquely ours, experienced in our "hereness".
All others are "bodies", but to ourselves, we are
"soma". In a sense, "Soma" is our name!
Somatic education awakens and empowers ones ability to sense and to
correct oneself -- not only automatically, but if need be,
The term, "bodywork", reflects an earlier paradigm in
which the human body was viewed as a "marvelous machine"
that occasionally malfunctioned and needed fixing. The individual's
role in the healing process was considered minimal; the mind and the
body were regarded as separate.
Physical therapy emerged from this view, as did osteopathy,
chiropractic, and trigger-point and reflexology techniques. The
operating viewpoint of this viewpoint may be stated, "Humanity
masters Nature" or "Medicine
Later developments in bodywork, such as Rolfing, Cranio-sacral
therapy, and others, moved into the "grey area" where body
and mind are regarded as "body-mind", and yet the
individual's ability to correct his/her own bodily processes seems
limited. The individual is still to be "done to",
manipulated, mostly passively. The operating viewpoint of this grey
area may be stated, "Body affects
The term, "education" implies learning and empowerment,
the voluntary gathering of ones faculties. The term more neatly fits
with the word "somatic" than does the term,
With somatic education, the individual takes an increasingly
masterful degree of responsibility for his or her own process. That is
what makes somatic education so effective. This development of
responsibility is a kind of awakening. It is not only passive, but
equally active. It is not only physiological, but
psycho-physiological. Aware intention is
the means of self-mastery of Soma by Soma. The operating viewpoint of
somatic education may be stated, "I am as I
decide to be."
Thomas Hanna, who may arguably be considered the father of the
field of somatics, put it this way:
It is fundamental to somatics that soma
is seen as a synergised process which is exactly as active
in all its behavior as it is sensorially receptive . .
. Acceptable models of human behavior must integrate into themselves
a 50/50 sensory-motor view, describing the full scale of adaptive
motor activities that constitute the behavior1.
That is why "somatic education" is more than
It is possible, however, to convert the traditional forms of
bodywork into forms of somatic education by incorporating learning
processes that incorporate the client's active participation. That
possibility awaits a practitioner's ability to recognize and invite
the client's self-sensing, self-mastering ability in active
participation in the session. It involves bodily awareness (in the
objective, third person sense), emotions, mind, feeling, and will. To
convert bodywork into somatic education is a creative act in which all
the highest attributes of the masterful bodyworker come into play:
empathy, communication, creativity, skill, and patience -- and one
more essential thing that makes somatic education more than bodywork:
a shift of a way of operating from doing it to or for the client
to showing the client how they are
empowered to do it for themselves.