What is somatic education?

Body-Mind Centering® (BMC), Rolfing®/Structural Integration and the Jeremy Krauss Approach® (JKA) belong to the field of somatic education disciplines, i.e. the study of the dynamics of synergistic interaction between the mind, the organism and the environment at the basis of the processes of psycho-corporeal individuation or embodiment.

The term “somatics” was introduced around 1970 to designate a variety of approaches to movement and health that emerged in the West, over the twentieth century, at the confluence of Eastern psychophysical disciplines (yoga, Chinese energy arts, martial arts), the new aesthetics of gesture in modern and contemporary theater and dance, and in conjunction with the developments of various currents in psychology, experimental pedagogies and neuroscience.

The proponent of somatics as a disciplinary field in its own right, philosopher and movement theorist Thomas Hanna (1928-1990), proposed using the Greek word “soma” to mean “body experienced in the first person,” or “body perceived from within,” as opposed to the objectifiable body of scientific knowledge.

The groundbreaking research of Frederick Matthias Alexander, Mabel E. Todd, Elsa Gindler, Charlotte Selver, Ida P. Rolf, Moshe Feldenkrais, Gerda Alexander, Milton Trager, Irmgard Bartenieff, Emily Conrad, Anna Halprin, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen – just to mention some of the founders of the most popular techniques from the late nineteenth century until today -, break with the dualistic concept of the body-mind and propose a holistic approach to the person, taking into account the multiple dimensions of his experience (affective, perceptual, physiological, cognitive, etc.).

Unified in this paradigm, somatic methods explore sensorimotor learning processes by training listening and paying attention to the slightest gesture and soliciting experience and knowledge through the body.

Moreover, in this systemic vision, the subject is inseparable from the environment – physical, social, cultural – in which he/she is constituted and with which he/she builds, without ceasing, dynamic relationships and links of meaning.

Somatic methods are located at the crossroads and interact with many disciplinary fields: from the sphere of movement education in the artistic and sporting disciplines, to that of therapy and neuromotor rehabilitation, from psychophysical wellbeing to prevention in general.

Somatic methods are not medical practices and do not address the treatment of pathologies, but are based on methodological principles and experimental techniques related to four major areas of pedagogical intervention:

– a structural approach, which involves the use of manual educational techniques to intervene in a targeted manner on the physical structure – bone, muscle, fascial, visceral, etc.. -, to promote awareness of the body map and balance, or restore, the physiological relationships of connection between the parts;

– a functional or neurophysiological approach that works on a person’s motor and perceptual coordination, subjective orchestration of rhythms and movement styles, tonic-postural habits, and “kinetic melodies.”

– a creative approach that encourages dialogue between the “material” of sensation and the imagery of gesture, to extend the landscape of perception and refine the qualities of movement;

– an interactive approach, which stimulates sensorimotor learning in play and relationship activities.

Training in the methods of somatic movement education is provided by institutions accredited by the respective schools around the world. Qualified programs meet the curricular requirements of professional associations such as ISMETA (International Somatic Movement Education and Therapy Association).
After completing basic training, operators and teachers of the various methods maintain their professional qualification through periodic refresher courses organized by their respective schools.