Somatic expressions: how your mind talks to your body

by | Sep 19, 2021 | Featured blog post, Lifestyle

Do you ever wonder where expressions like pain in the neck, knot in the stomach or lump in the throat come from? Your body is a vessel for the patterns of your mind and soul. The physical expressions of these patterns are called somatic expressions. I sat down with Madison Madden, founder of Livewise Ayurveda who is an expert on this topic.

How do somatic expressions develop?

Madison: In Eastern philosophies, such as Ayurveda, you hear terms like “soma” and “agni”, which are two sides of vital energy. Soma, which roughly translates into soul, is the expression of lunar or feminine energy. Agni, which means digestive fire, is solar or masculine energy. It’s a similar concept to yin and yang in the Chinese tradition.

Somatic expression is the way emotional, mental and spiritual energy shows up through the physical body. #wellness #ayurveda Click To Tweet

How do our words express some of these energies?

Madison: We say things like this person is holding the weight of the world on their shoulders. Or, that experience was so jaw-dropping. Or, I’ve always been anal. Or, this person is so in their head. Or, that person has such a warm heart.

We speak in somatic expressions regularly without realizing it. And the way the physiological forms and their functions express themselves mirror almost perfectly the way that we express ourselves energetically.

How do emotions affect somatic expressions?

Madison: Emotion means ‘energy in motion’. E-motion. When we experience something that we have an emotional response to, we need to have a pathway of expression or movement to release that emotion. When we don’t have that, the emotion gets stuck in our body. It’s like driving a car in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The energy of the car doesn’t go away, it just doesn’t move.

Some common ways you see the body express the mind are through neck pain, back pain, jaw-clenching, over- and binge eating, constipation, ear diseases, a knot in the stomach and even urinary tract infections (UTI).

How can you uncover the connection between physical manifestations and emotions?

Madison: When someone comes to me with neck pain, I ask them if there’s something they’re afraid to express. You can break it down even more. I explore if the pain is on the left or right side of the neck. In yoga and Ayurveda, the left side of the body is feminine, and the right side is masculine. So if the pain is on the left side, it could be related to needing to express something to a female or it could be related to the person’s feminine qualities.

Another example is constipation. Constipation is holding onto waste products. So a question to ask is what they’re holding onto in their life that no longer serves them.

In case of ear problems, I like to ask if the person is openly listening or if there’s something they’re trying to tune out.

And a knot in the stomach could be a sign that they’re ignoring a gut feeling. We know that the mind and the gut are connected so we have to ask ourselves what we’re holding back that’s creating these somatic expressions.

Recurring UTIs and cystitis in women is a second chakra expression often connected to fear, tension and trauma around intimacy, sensuality, connection and creativity.

It’s important to note that somatic expression don’t mean that it’s just “all in the head.” These conditions have a very real physical manifestations in the body. Instead, we are recognizing the wisdom in recognizing the relationship between the physical and metaphysical roots and expressions of our experiences.

How can you bring awareness to the patterns of your mind and body?

Madison: Somatic awareness is the ability to listen to the ways that your body is expressing the patterns of your mind and soul. The more you tune in, the better you’ll understand.

Have you seen any shifts in the types of somatic expressions since COVID?

Madison: I’ve seen some themes come up more frequently since COVID. For example, financial stress manifests for some in their hearts or rectal areas. The rectal area is in the first chakra, which is responsible for survival.

People in unhappy marriages, domestic violence situations, and living alone without contact and physical touch for months also reported higher levels of somatic expressions.

On the other hand, some people really appreciated the lockdown, and their somatic expressions were productive and creative. Their bodies opened up and pains they had before melted away. As things are opening up, the transition back to “normal” for these people is hard, and some of the somatic expressions of tension, stress and fear are starting to come back. So I ask them what they learned about themselves during the lockdown and if there’s anything they want to keep from that experience. Then, I invite them to explore how they can integrate those lessons into their life as the world reopens.

In case you missed it:

Connect with Madison at or on Instagram.

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Image by David Hofmann, Unsplash


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