4 Somatic Exercises for Emotional Resilience



This being human thing is messy, right? Wouldn’t it be so nice if things were just easy?


So, what if it was designed that way for a reason?


As we know, nature is pure brilliance, so whether we like it or not, we are meant to be pushed and challenged, both individually and collectively. That is how we evolve... and resilience is what gets us through by helping us to change, adapt, transform and grow in ways we never thought possible through life’s greatest struggles.


So what gets in the way? Simply put...trauma... and a system designed to perpetuate it.


Let’s face it, we are living in uncertain and chaotic times and this brings up a lot of fear, stress, and overwhelm for most people. This is in large part due to the impacts of Western culture and industrial growth society, which is not designed for our thriving, but rather is designed to prioritize profit over people by keeping the vast majority of folks in a state of perpetual survival and disempowerment.


It is our nervous system’s job to manage this stress because our bodies are designed to seek a state of homeostasis… that is, “the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes.” [1] Unresolved trauma and chronic stress can impact our nervous systems to such a degree that it is unable to facilitate inner balance. This is referred to as “being outside of your Range of Resilience”.


When your nervous system is continually compromised as a result of chronic stress and overwhelm in the pursuit of trying to survive, your power and life force becomes greatly diminished. This is inherently traumatizing because your nervous system is not designed to handle the pressure of being under constant threat, and yet the very extractive and exploitative systems that we are born into and embedded within shape our existence in a way that demands more from us than we are able to give.


Western culture and industrial growth society centers the human above all other expressions of life and relies upon domination, disconnection, fear, and scarcity to drive the growth of our economy while compromising the delicate balance of ecological systems in the process. Can you see the correlation? We are not separate from nature and the belief that we are is indicative of the problem… and at the root of trauma. Trying to maintain inner equilibrium while going along with business-as-usual and fully participating in a culture that is destroying itself is antithetical.


That is why having a holistic understanding of wellness and going beyond individualistic notions of self care is necessary for these times. We must understand how our body is embedded within relational and ecological systems of interdependence. The pressure that we feel in our bodies manifests in myriad ways such as chronic stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, sleeping problems, digestive issues, and so much more. That same pressure is being applied to delicate life systems and looks the same, except on a global scale: poverty, war, disease, the growing wealth gap, climate collapse, biodiversity loss, etc.


That is why developing an internal system of resilience is so foundational to collective resilience and transformation. The kind of change we want to see in the world must be integrated within our own bodies. Resilience in the body is what helps us stay grounded and connected to the present moment while being in the thick of life without flying off the handle or getting stuck outside our Range of Resilience. Resilience gives you the capacity to be with the full-spectrum experience of being ensouled matter... aka. human.


Ultimately, resilience matters because we are living in unpredictable times and it would be naive of us to think that somehow that's going to magically change. It’s not. We have to get real with ourselves and become the people these times are calling for.


Resilience, understood through the lens of somatics, literally creates more spaciousness in your body for change. It is a state of open relaxedness and engaged receptivity that allows room for the organic process of emergence to unfold. We must work toward cultivating this kind of resilience now, otherwise we will have a hard time responding effectively to the massive changes coming and already underway.




Relational Resilience


Keep in mind that there are many different definitions of resilience, most of which have to do with an individual’s ability to recover quickly from hardship or the ability to bounce back, however I think it’s important to bring in a more holistic understanding of resilience to include it’s systemic and ecological roots as described in Rethinking Resilience from Indigenous Perspectives:


“In biological systems, resilience usually does not involve simply springing back to a previous state but is a dynamic process of adjustment, adaptation, and transformation in response to challenges and demands. In adapting, the organism also usually changes its own environment.” [1]


According to an Indigenous understanding, resilience is “a dynamic process of social and psychological adaptation and transformation.” [2] It’s amazing to be reminded of the fact that we are what the whole of nature is doing, and that resilience doesn’t happen in a vacuum.


The reason I am sharing this perspective and definition with you before diving into the 4 Somatic Exercises is to root ourselves in an ideological foundation that situates the individual within a relational and ecological context. This is so that we don’t get caught up in individualistic ways of thinking that perpetuate delusions such as the notion of “pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps.”


Learning how to emotionally regulate yourself through somatic exercises is a foundational part to strengthening your personal capacity for resilience AND it also contributes to strengthening the resilience of the relational and ecological systems that you are embedded within.


Personally, learning about emotional regulation and integrating somatic exercises into my own life has helped to strengthen my resilience in the face of uncertainty, change, and crises.




3 Methods of Emotional Regulation:


When it comes to learning new practices and strategies for regulation, there are three forms that we can engage with in order to build our resilience.


  1. Self-Regulation: consciously engaging in self-soothing practices and resources that are available and accessible in the moment to create balance and wellbeing.

  2. Co-Regulation: the body to body process whereby one nervous system calms another, producing a feedback loop that is soothing for both.

  3. Eco-Regulation: a cultivation practice with Earth that allows us to re-attune to the natural biorhythms and access movement, breathing and relating patterns that are regenerative.


The following Four Somatic Practices for Resilience involve methods of Self-Regulation and Eco-Regulation:


  1. Humming: Self-regulation

  2. Body Mapping: Self-regulation

  3. Mindful Walking: Eco-regulation

  4. Alternate Nostril Breathing: Self-regulation