0044 (0) 7894 466671 anna.coen@acintegration.com

Developing courageous and compassionate leadership

Somatic Coaching

We hold our history and habits in our muscles as well as in our minds. Our physical shape and emotional responses are significant drivers of our behaviour. Somatic coaching is based on the premise that to make significant and lasting difference you have to consider your physiology as well as developing awareness of your thinking and practising new skills. You work towards embodying the change by using your body to guide you as a leader.

An overview of what, when, how and the benefits is set out below. The purple buttons take you to more detail.

What is it?

  • somatic-coaching-whatA series of one to one face-to-face coaching sessions
  • An approach to development that focuses as much on your physical presence and how you feel as on what you think.
  • A process that integrates leadership skills with physical exercises and emotional literacy. It is transformational and fun.

When to use

  • somatic-coaching-whyYou want to change the impact you have on others
  • You want to feel more confident, courageous and connected
  • You are facing the same obstacles over and over again and are finding it difficult to address one or more significant challenges

The process


The Benefits

  • somatic-coaching-egsProfound transformation
  • Leadership confidence
  • A set of lifelong practices to help you face new challenges as they arise.

The what of Somatic Coaching

“Soma” is a Greek word that means ‘whole body’. Somatic coaching means coaching that includes consideration of the body as well as the intellect. Once we understand that the body affects the mind as well as the mind affecting the body, it becomes clear that to make real changes you need to become aware of your emotional and physical states in order to change how you hold yourself and how you move. You will develop a self-awareness and understanding that takes you away from repetitive circular thinking. In addition to seeing new perspectives and learning new skills you will practice simple exercises to reveal how you behave under stress and how you can behave in ways that will move you towards your goals. Somatic coaching is an approach that enables you to see your own aspirations and challenges at a deep and fundamental level and then helps you put into practice skills and behaviours that will give you new levels of confidence, resilience and capability. At its foundation it equips you with the capacity to handle those challenges, that trigger you and pull you off course, more efficiently so that you can access your personal power more readily. By considering the impact of your physical and emotional states, somatic coaching helps you to identify what really matters to you and provides you with skills, tools and practices that enable you to be the leader you want to be against a challenging and changing backdrop.   www.strozziinstitute.com

Some Definitions

The soma (whole mind and body): Recent discoveries have demonstrated that the way we hold our-selves and move our bodies affects our mind. www.ted.com/speakers/amy_cuddy

Somatic Exercises Physical movements and practices such as:

  • Centering and standing with more presence and connection
  • Stepping movements to practise being present in transition and coordinating with others
  • Extending movements to develop new strategies when faced with pressure or conflict

Somatic practice This provides the capacity to practise exercises that connect the body with the mind in order to help you understand your conditioned behaviours and give you the opportunity and courage and resilience to develop new behaviours.

Emotions: physiological responses that impact our thinking and behaviour Emotions are sensations residing in the body. Healthy emotions provide information. Unhealthy emotions increase your blind spots and can result in unintended consequences. A lack of understanding and awareness of emotional states can lead to suboptimal decision-making, increasing feelings of stress and not behaving according to your values and intent. ‘Emotion and feeling are not merely players in the process of reasoning but indispensible players’ Damasio 2003.

Emotional literacy The capacity to identify and assess your own (and others’) emotional states: in order to help you face your fears and improve the quality of relationships.

The why of Somatic Coaching

Somatic coaching enables you to step out of your comfort zone, take courageous steps and build new and deeper relationships. It does this because it provides a structured approach based on your own values, goals, capabilities and physiology.

To make a deep and effective transformation in leadership capability you need different perspectives combined with the courage and compassion to practise new ways of doing and being.

You need the courage to commit to periods of uncertainty and discomfort whilst setting new direction and building new skills to become the leader you want to be.

You need the compassion to act with others in mind so as to inspire and collaborate.

Somatic coaching provides you with a safe environment and a set of sustainable tools and practices. This framework and process will enable you to be in control of your own transformation, step out of your comfort zone and extend your boundaries.

The How of Somatic Coaching

The coaching sessions are in complete confidence.

The coaching approach helps you to understand yourself better, your motivations, intentions and impact on others. You will establish your key objectives and the results you would like to achieve. The coaching will help to draw out the issues that you find yourself facing and provide practices, models and tools in which these can be resolved and developed.

You will experience renewed energy and robust challenge in an environment of total commitment to helping you.

The somatic coaching process involves a five 90 minute coaching sessions over an initial period of three months. We will then review to decide on further coaching and/or next steps.

Over the three-month period you will engage in the following:

  • Understand and commit to your goal

You will articulate your goal and commitment to change and learn how to stand and move with more presence and confidence

  • Identify your physiological responses to stress

Using somatic exercises you will identify your habitual responses especially to challenging and stressful situations. These responses include emotional states and moods as well as physical sensations and shapes.

  • Learn and practise somatic exercises

You will learn and practise a variety of somatic exercises that will help you transform the way you respond and connect in the face of challenge and conflict

  • Explore and practise new skills

You will explore appropriate leadership skills such as visioning, behaving strategically, engaging others, creating impact, setting the agenda, collaborating effectively. You will test these skills between sessions

  • Together we will review the process and the outcomes on a regular basis.


Example stories

Aliana was the newly appointed FD of a £50million turnover company and a member of a Board full of forceful and dynamic individuals including her CEO. She was both excited and nervous. She had a clear vision of how finance could support a more sustainable future and at the same time was concerned that her voice wouldn’t be heard. This was in part because members of the Board had known her for many years in her role as Financial Controller. She believed they saw her as a steady pair of hands rather than an equal. She wanted to feel more confident when faced with ‘intimidating people’ so that she could influence and inspire.

She made a commitment to respecting herself and to clarifying and communicating her vision. Aliana learnt some basic skills such as asking open questions, active listening and understanding the people around her.

She identified her desire to be well regarded and her fears of being either ignored or dismissed. When considering her fears, she noticed her heart beat faster and her legs wobbled in anticipation. At the same time she observed a brittle smile, shallow breathing and fast talking. She also noticed that she made herself smaller by lowering her head and hunching her shoulders.

By learning how to stand and move in an empowering way and learning new ways to respond at a physiological level, she was able to choose how to act instead of being triggered into automatic responses.

Aliana practised some of these somatic exercises at home and tested out different techniques and approaches when the Board met and also initiated more one to one meetings with members of the Board.

Aliana saw that she was exacerbating her fear of feeling ‘small’ by physically making herself small. By practising somatic exercises she learnt how to develop her physical presence and stay empowered in the face of challenging individuals and groups. She found a calmer and deeper voice and was then able to use listening and questioning techniques to develop her courage and get her messages across effectively and passionately.

John had just been promoted to Partner and wanted to free up his time so that he could focus more on growing the business. He was stuck in doing everything himself because his strongest value was doing everything to perfection and he had achieved success in his studies and his work so far with this approach. He was feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work he was doing and the challenge ahead.

He made a commitment to developing a sustainable business and to living a sustainable working life.

Already understanding the rudiments of delegation he learnt how to develop longer-term thinking and planning.

He identified his fears around trusting others and frustration when others did not meet his standards. He also identified an anxiety around his ability to think more strategically. He noticed he tensed up and withdrew whenever he thought about delegating and freeing up time. Even more significantly he saw how he always held a very narrow posture and constricted his chest.

John learnt how to stand and move in an empowering way and learnt new ways to respond at a physiological level so that he could relax, breathe more deeply and stay with a challenge without withdrawing.

John practised some of these somatic exercises at home and tested out different techniques and approaches at work.

He tested delegating more and suggested working with a couple of other Partners on a strategic plan.

The most interesting result for John was a newfound confidence and joy around his work. His colleagues at work felt more engaged and trusted. John discovered that he had a powerful vision and could mobilise others towards it.

“I have had the real privilege and pleasure of knowing Anna for over 17 years and had the opportunity to work very closely with her in that time. Anna comes with utter integrity to her work and a passion for helping the people she comes into contact with to really solve their complex problems in a powerful way. She is very professional and focused in her approach, strategic in her thinking and good at simplifying complex issues. However, the thing that really inspires me is the energy and commitment (and fun) she brings to the situation and how much she is prepared to give of herself to really add value.”

Jeremy Keeley

Independent facilitator and executive coach