The practice of Somatic Relaxation with our dogs can be incredibly beneficial. Engaging our own body to find a state of peace, then using that calm loving space to engage with our dogs as we guide them into their own state of relaxation.
So, what is Somatic Relaxation?
The word Somatic relates to the physical body. Within our bodies, we have the somatic nervous system, which contains both sensory and motor nerves. When you touch something or receive touch, a message is sent up towards the central nervous system via these sensory nerves. In response, motor neurons are activated with instructions on how muscles should respond to that touch.
During a session of somatic relaxation, we use our mind to bring awareness to our immediate environment, becoming aware of our body and posture and then giving ourselves time and space to listen to our somatic nervous system. We allow our body to make subtle adjustments that relax the body and release tension. Connecting and listening to our body can invoke a state of relaxation known as Somatic Relaxation.
With practice, somatic awareness can help slow our minds and shift our attention so that we are present within ourselves. Listening to our body and releasing tension can help us feel safe, and move out of the fight, flight, fright or freeze response into rest, repair, and digest mode. This shifting of state occurs when the parasympathetic nervous system becomes active.
We can use the principles of somatic relaxation when treating our canine patients. These sessions begin by helping our human client relax and find a state of calmness; we then invite our canine friends to join us as we apply therapeutic touch to their bodies. We invite a shift in the dog's nervous system through our state of peace and our gentle, loving touch.
Therapeutically using touch allows the dog to engage in the presence of their own physical body, similarly activating their somatic nervous system to invoke that same calming response we experienced. As the dog engages with somatic relaxation, we should see changes in their outward behaviour and movements to indicate they are experiencing a state of relaxation.
Since somatic relaxation is a very individual practice, it may take some people longer to become proficient at it than others. The same is true for dogs; dogs who experience chronic hyperarousal, anxiety, fear and trauma may at first find it hard to relax for any length of time. Through time, patience, and love, you can help your dog to increase the duration of their relaxation sessions and shift into their parasympathetic nervous system quicker.
This technique is an excellent way for owners and companion animals to bond through relaxation. Dogs especially are empathetic creatures, reading and responding to our emotions. Taking time away from the chaos of everyday living to connect with our dogs in a relaxed manner can be incredibly beneficial to both the owner and their dog.
We offer in-person and online consults for somatic relaxation sessions, so contact us today to discuss how your dog may benefit from somatic relaxation.