Integrative Psychotherapy & Somatic Wellness Practices

By Rebecca Capps   |   March 14, 2023

From a somatic therapeutic perspective, stress, unexpressed anger, heartbreak, and grief are believed to be issues in your tissues that make up your internal state. The word “somatic” is derived from the root “soma,” which means “living body,” and your physical body can serve as a valuable guide when you listen to its messages. Somatic wisdom is listening to what the body says instead of solely relying on what the “logical” mind tries to concoct. As Marilyn Van M. Derbur states: “All emotions, even those that are suppressed and unexpressed, have physical effects. Unexpressed emotions stay in the body like small ticking time bombs — they are illnesses in incubation.” To prevent this from occurring, let’s explore a few somatic wellness practices that you may incorporate into your daily life:


Mindfulness is a powerful tool for cultivating somatic wellness; it is a practice that involves bringing your attention to the present moment and observing your thoughts and emotional state without judgment. As the late Thích Nhat Hanh once said, “Many people are alive but don’t touch the miracle of being alive.” Mindfulness can help you develop greater awareness of how to come alive – in mind and body – so you can experience a greater sense of calm and mental freedom. 

Take a moment to become aware of your experience here and now. Feel into your body; come into contact with the floor and notice your torso rising and falling. Take note of your emotions without trying to change anything — simply noticing with awareness. Cultivating awareness of your somatic experience means noticing any tendencies to numb or sleepwalk through life. It helps you recognize when you’re on autopilot and offers refuge through the breath.


Yoga is another somatic wellness practice used for centuries to promote physical, emotional, and mental wellness. Yoga combines physical postures with breathing techniques to help you connect with your mind and body. Building a yoga practice may help you improve your strength, balance, and feelings of stress – among many other benefits!

Modern culture is becoming increasingly disembodied; many of us sit at computers all day and stare at screens — existing only from the neck up. As a clinician who often conducts meetings online, I have learned building on a daily yoga practice has been an effective way to get grounded and reconnect with my body throughout the workday. It helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for relaxation and is a powerful tool for somatic healing. 

Body Scanning

Body scanning is another simple yet powerful somatic wellness practice that systematically brings awareness to different body parts. It can help release tension and stress from your body and cultivate a greater sense of relaxation and well-being. To practice body scanning, find a comfortable position and focus on your feet. Slowly work your way up your body, bringing your attention to each part – noticing any sensations that arise. Is there any discomfort? See if you can be curious about this discomfort. Explore if it’s possible to be with your somatic experiences for several moments instead of ignoring or pushing them away. Tuning into your embodied experience through a simple body scan can help you observe difficult emotions in stressful situations, rather than reacting.


Breathwork is a foundational somatic wellness practice that involves conscious breathing techniques that can help regulate your nervous system and promote relaxation. There are many different types of breathwork practices, each with unique techniques and benefits. Some of the most popular types of breathwork include:

Diaphragmatic breathing: This type of breathing involves using the diaphragm muscle to draw air deep into the lungs. It can help reduce stress, anxiety, and tension in the body and improve overall respiratory health.

– Box breathing:This particular breathwork involves inhaling for a specific count and then exhaling for the same count. It can help improve focus, concentration, and mental clarity.

Alternate nostril breathing: This type of breathing (a personal favorite!) involves inhaling through one nostril, holding the breath, and exhaling through the other nostril. It can help balance the nervous system and reduce stress and anxiety.

– Breath of fire: This is a rapid, shallow breathing technique that involves quick inhalations and exhalations through the nose to energize the body and improve mental clarity and focus.

Breathwork can be practiced alone or with the guidance of a trained practitioner and can be done in various settings, including at home, in a yoga or meditation class, or in a therapeutic environment, so find what works
for you. 

Whichever somatic wellness practice you choose, start with small, manageable steps, and be patient with yourself as you integrate these practices into your everyday life. With time and practice, you will build on a more peaceful state of being. As Elizabeth A. Behnke states, “There is deep wisdom within our very flesh, if we can only come to our senses and feel it” – and we can begin again through each conscious breath and embodied choice.  


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