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  • Writer's pictureAmy Duffy-Barnes

12 Somatic Exercises to Release Trauma

Healing from trauma involves addressing both the emotional and physical aspects of the experience. Somatic exercises offer a powerful tool for releasing trauma stored in the body. By engaging in mindful movement and body awareness, individuals can gradually release tension, regulate their nervous system, and cultivate a sense of safety and empowerment. In this article, we’ll explore 12 somatic exercises that can aid in the healing journey from trauma.

Grounding Techniques:

Begin by grounding yourself in the present moment. Stand or sit comfortably, and focus on the sensations of your body connecting with the ground beneath you. Feel the support of the earth beneath your feet or the chair beneath you. Take slow, deep breaths, and notice how your body responds to each inhale and exhale.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation:

Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and then releasing different muscle groups in the body. Start at your toes and work your way up to your head, tensing each muscle group for a few seconds before releasing. Pay attention to the sensations of tension and relaxation in each muscle group.

Body Scan Meditation:

A body scan meditation involves systematically bringing awareness to each part of the body, from head to toe. Notice any areas of tension, discomfort, or numbness, and gently breathe into those areas, allowing them to soften and release. This practice promotes body awareness and relaxation.

Diaphragmatic Breathing:

Deep, diaphragmatic breathing can help regulate the nervous system and reduce feelings of anxiety or distress. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your abdomen to rise as you fill your lungs with air. Exhale slowly through your mouth, feeling your abdomen fall. Repeat this process several times, focusing on the rhythm of your breath.

Somatic Experiencing:

Somatic experiencing is a therapeutic approach that focuses on bodily sensations and their connection to emotional experiences. During a somatic experiencing session, individuals are guided to notice bodily sensations associated with traumatic memories and explore gentle movements or gestures to release stored tension.


Pendulation involves shifting attention between sensations of safety and discomfort in the body. Begin by focusing on a sensation of safety or comfort, such as the feeling of your feet on the ground or the warmth of your hands. Then, gently bring awareness to any areas of tension or discomfort, and allow yourself to pendulate between these sensations, noticing how they change over time.

Shake It Out:

Shaking or trembling is a natural physiological response to stress or trauma. Find a private space where you feel comfortable and safe, and allow your body to shake or tremble spontaneously. This simple yet powerful exercise can help discharge excess energy and tension stored in the body.

Cat-Cow Stretch:

The cat-cow stretch is a yoga pose that involves alternating between arching and rounding the spine. Start on your hands and knees, with your wrists aligned under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Inhale as you arch your back and lift your tailbone and chest toward the ceiling (cow pose). Exhale as you round your back and tuck your chin toward your chest (cat pose). Repeat this movement several times, focusing on the flow of your breath.

Trauma Release Exercises (TRE):

TRE is a series of exercises designed to activate the body’s natural shaking or trembling response. These exercises typically involve simple movements and postures that gently fatigue the muscles, leading to spontaneous shaking or trembling. TRE can help release stored tension and trauma from the body.

Butterfly Hug:

The butterfly hug is a self-soothing technique that involves crossing your arms over your chest and tapping your shoulders alternately with your hands. This rhythmic movement stimulates bilateral stimulation of the brain and can help regulate the nervous system, reducing feelings of distress or overwhelm.

Body-Based Visualization:

Body-based visualization involves imagining a safe, peaceful place or a supportive figure while simultaneously focusing on sensations in the body. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a calming environment, such as a beach or a forest. Notice how your body responds to this visualization, and allow yourself to sink deeper into relaxation.

Self-Compassionate Touch:

Gently placing a hand on your heart or another area of the body can provide comfort and reassurance during times of distress. Experiment with different forms of self-comforting touch, such as cradling your face in your hands or giving yourself a gentle hug. Tune into the sensations of warmth and connection that arise from this gesture.

Somatic exercises offer a holistic approach to healing trauma by integrating the mind-body connection. By engaging in mindful movement, breathwork, and self-awareness practices, individuals can release tension, regulate their nervous system, and cultivate a sense of safety and empowerment. These 12 somatic will help support you on your journey toward healing and resilience. Remember to approach these exercises with patience, compassion, and self-care, and seek support from a qualified therapist or healthcare professional if needed.

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