7 Somatic Stretching Exercises for Flexibility and Stress Relief (2024)

Somatic stretching is helpful for your body, mind, and spirit an accessible way to nurture yourself,release tension and stress, and recover from pain and injury. Here are seven exercises to get you started.

According to fitness professional Sadie Nardini, a Yoga Alliance–registered yoga teacher, somatic stretching provides practitioners with lasting, true flexibility. That happens because you’ve stopped working with your muscles and instead started working with your brain to keep your muscles relaxed and ready, rather than overactive and tense. As Nardini explains in her DailyOM course, Somatic Stretching to Relax and Release, somatic exercises —gentle, intentional, and active movements —melt away tension and stressbecause you’re allowing your brain to help you release your body.

Meredith Sands Keator, director of Somatic Stretch, explains in a video that the goal is to begin where you’re comfortable and then gently stretch —not reach —right into the edge of resistance and breathe there. “You’re actually going in and breathing into the edges of where we’re comfortable and where we’re not,” she says, likening it almost to “a mime in a box, finding where your resistance begins and then just gently leaning against it.”

Get Started withThese 7 Somatic Stretching Exercises

Yoga and reiki teacher Michelle Taylor, who spoke with DailyOM for this story, says that somatic exercises“aim to reestablish the mind-body connection” and are mostly performed in sitting or supine positions, which allow you to ground yourself, turn inward, and focus on your body’s sensations.

She suggests starting with the following poses, repeating each stretch for one to two minutes before moving on to the next one. Mindfully and slowly move from one pose to the next in whatever way suits your body best, so long as you are listening to your body and bringing intention and awareness to each movement. Whether you choose to do these in the morning to start your day, after a workout when your body is warmed up, or at the end of the day to unwind, you’ll find yourself feeling less tense, from head to toe.

Interested in learning more? Check out Somatic Exercises to Relax and Release

1. Neck Release

Sitting comfortably, tuck your chin to your chest, relaxing into the stretch slowly while you take deep breaths. Then, release your chin and tilt your head to one side (to bring your ear to your shoulder without forcing), relaxing into the stretch. Tilt your head to the opposite side to balance out your neck. Repeat the sequence from the beginning.

2. Seated Cat-Cow

Take a seat in a kneeling or cross-legged position. Place your hands on your knees, then inhale and pull your chest upward, stretching and opening the front side of your body, including the front of your neck (if that’s accessible to you). Then, exhale and curl into yourself, tucking your chin to your chest and rounding your back. Repeat.

3. Embryo Pose or Child’s Pose

You may be familiar with this pose from yoga work. Kneel and sit on your knees, then lean forward, keeping your seat on your heels and resting your forehead on the floor. Move your arms so that they land on the ground on either side of your legs, palms facing up, or place your arms outstretched ahead of you with your palms facing down. Repeat.

4. Supine Spinal Twist

Lie on your back with your legs flat, then bring your arms out to your sides with your palms facing down so your body is in a T position. Bend your right knee so it points upward, then slowly drop your right knee over to the left side of your body, twisting your spine and lowerback. Turn your head toward your left fingertips. Carefully release your hips back to the floor, then repeat with the other side.

5. Waterfall

Lie down on your back with your hands on the floor next to you, palms facing up. Bring one knee at a time up to your chest, then lengthen both legs straight up, keeping your knees slightly bent if you find that is more comfortable for you. Hold this position for a few gentle, slow breaths. Whenyou are ready to get out of the pose, bend one leg into your chest at a time, then place your legs on the ground.

You can also elevate your hips with a block or perform this pose against a wall for more support.

6. Seated Torso Circles

Seated in a cross-legged position, with your hands resting on your knees, gently rotate your torso in clockwise circles in time with your breaths, then counterclockwise for the same number of rounds. Focus on isolating the movement and keeping your sit bones down and your legs steady.

7. Bridge Pose

Lieon your back with your knees bent, pointing up, and your feet flat on the floor, toes pointing forward. Place your arms alongside you with your palms facing down. Pressing down on your palms and feet, slowly raise your hips off the floor so you are making a “bridge” with your body, stopping when your hips are lined up with your knees. Try not to let your hips dip while you hold for a few breaths, then carefully release your hips back to the ground before repeating the bridge movement.

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Regarding the concept of somatic stretching, it is a form of exercise that focuses on gentle, intentional, and active movements to release tension and stress in the body. It involves working with the brain to keep the muscles relaxed and ready, rather than overactive and tense. Somatic stretching is said to provide practitioners with lasting, true flexibility.

Somatic stretching exercises are aimed at nurturing the body, mind, and spirit. They can help with relaxation, stress relief, and recovery from pain and injury. These exercises are mostly performed in sitting or supine positions, allowing individuals to ground themselves, turn inward, and focus on their body's sensations.

Here are seven somatic stretching exercises to get you started:

1. Neck Release:

  • Sit comfortably and tuck your chin to your chest, relaxing into the stretch slowly while taking deep breaths.
  • Release your chin and tilt your head to one side, relaxing into the stretch.
  • Tilt your head to the opposite side to balance out your neck.
  • Repeat the sequence from the beginning.

2. Seated Cat-Cow:

  • Take a seat in a kneeling or cross-legged position.
  • Place your hands on your knees.
  • Inhale and pull your chest upward, stretching and opening the front side of your body, including the front of your neck.
  • Exhale and curl into yourself, tucking your chin to your chest and rounding your back.
  • Repeat.

3. Embryo Pose or Child's Pose:

  • Kneel and sit on your knees.
  • Lean forward, keeping your seat on your heels and resting your forehead on the floor.
  • Move your arms so that they land on the ground on either side of your legs, palms facing up, or place your arms outstretched ahead of you with your palms facing down.
  • Repeat.

4. Supine Spinal Twist:

  • Lie on your back with your legs flat.
  • Bring your arms out to your sides with your palms facing down so your body is in a T position.
  • Bend your right knee so it points upward, then slowly drop your right knee over to the left side of your body, twisting your spine and lower back.
  • Turn your head toward your left fingertips.
  • Carefully release your hips back to the floor, then repeat with the other side.

5. Waterfall:

  • Lie down on your back with your hands on the floor next to you, palms facing up.
  • Bring one knee at a time up to your chest, then lengthen both legs straight up, keeping your knees slightly bent if more comfortable.
  • Hold this position for a few gentle, slow breaths.
  • When ready to get out of the pose, bend one leg into your chest at a time, then place your legs on the ground.
  • You can also elevate your hips with a block or perform this pose against a wall for more support.

6. Seated Torso Circles:

  • Sit in a cross-legged position, with your hands resting on your knees.
  • Gently rotate your torso in clockwise circles in time with your breaths, then counterclockwise for the same number of rounds.
  • Focus on isolating the movement and keeping your sit bones down and your legs steady.

7. Bridge Pose:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent, pointing up, and your feet flat on the floor, toes pointing forward.
  • Place your arms alongside you with your palms facing down.
  • Pressing down on your palms and feet, slowly raise your hips off the floor so you are making a "bridge" with your body, stopping when your hips are lined up with your knees.
  • Try not to let your hips dip while you hold for a few breaths, then carefully release your hips back to the ground before repeating the bridge movement.

Remember to listen to your body, bring intention and awareness to each movement, and repeat each stretch for one to two minutes before moving on to the next one. These exercises can be done in the morning, after a workout, or at the end of the day to unwind and feel less tense from head to toe.

If you're interested in learning more about somatic stretching, you can check out the course "Somatic Stretching to Relax and Release" by Sadie Nardini on DailyOM.

I hope this information helps you get started with somatic stretching exercises! Let me know if you have any further questions.

7 Somatic Stretching Exercises for Flexibility and Stress Relief (2024)

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