The Sacred Vessel Part 1

By Matthew | May 25, 2021

The Sacred Vessel was part of a body of writing I did in the 90’s that explored the experience of the person in body centred clinical practice.  As you’ll see, this essay is a meditation on the influence of Jungian ideas about the intersect between psyche and body through image, and is a deeper dive…

Body, Depression and Anxiety

By Matthew | August 10, 2020

Life can be overwhelming. It can be hard to stay connected to body centred practices when we are feeling depressed and anxious.  But our body is still there, providing a constancy that can support us in difficult times, if we only know how to connect with it. In this 15 minute podcast, Matthew describes the…

Embodiment Project Week One: Noticing Yourself

By Matthew | April 24, 2020

© Lan Yao   Notes from the Embodiment Seminar: Week One Matthew van der Giessen 20 April 2020 what would happen next for those disavowed places in yourself if they just experienced you being present to them. The nine weeks of the Embodiment Project were built on practices that I slowly gleaned or distilled out…

This Is How It Begins: Podcast Transcript

By Matthew | June 11, 2019

The is How It Begins Matthew van der Giessen When I was a child, I would go into the woods, find a quiet spot to sit, and listen.  Slowly, nature would emerge – a bird on the path, a squirrel carefully working its way down a tree trunk, or the sounds of rustling in the…

Introduction to Somatics: Podcast Transcript

By Matthew | June 11, 2019

Understanding Somatics  It was a cool morning on July 30, 1990, when 38 students gathered expectantly at the Dominican College campus in San Rafael, California waiting for Thomas Hanna’s arrival.  He would be introducing the second module in the inaugural training of Hanna Somatic Education.  Hanna had built a reputation as a leading thinker in…

Introduction to Somatics on YouTube

By Matthew | February 12, 2019


The Biology of Boundaries

By Matthew | November 25, 2018

I’m standing at the front of a conference room, filled with people in rows of folding chairs.  “Breathe into your body, feel yourself sitting in your chair”, I tell them.  “Now move your chair until you feel like you have the space you need.”  There is a brief pause, and then the room is filled with the sound…

Living in Your Body

By Matthew | March 16, 2017

I was feeling a bit whoozy when I made it back home to Bowen Island. I’d just had a dental procedure dealing with an abscess. A  bit messy but I thought I handled it pretty well considering my history of nasty dental experiences.  I seemed to be doing well enough that I decided to fit…

Why Somatic Studies

By Matthew | August 10, 2016

From its inception, my practice has been guided by the question, “what makes somatic practice work?”  It has turned into the guiding star on my long and winding road, leading me through the emerging landscape of this field, and helping me hear its voice.  Like a mantra, it has also guided me into the depths of…

Constellating Patterns

By Matthew | February 3, 2016

Constellating Patterns On a dark night, the sky is aglow with stars – the longer we look, the more we see.  The patterns we call constellations are relationships formed by our imagination.  Some of the stars in the Big Dipper are more than a hundred light years from each other but we connect them as…

Connective Tissue – Easing the Ties that Bind

By Matthew | August 23, 2014

Rebecca and I have been getting our house ready for sale in the last couple of months. And, of course, I’ve been spending lots of time fixing those things that I never seemed to get around to. I think about how those new owners will never know how hard I worked getting the place ready…

The Body’s Story

By Matthew | August 20, 2014

Comment: This is a short article I wrote as an introduction to my Anatomy and Expression workshop series.  It gives a bit of insight into the intersect between body practice and our inner experience.  As I am working through a twist in yoga, the instructor kneels beside me, and with gentle support starts helping me…

Where Softness Begins – Justin Stone and T’ai Chi Chih

By Matthew | August 20, 2014

Where Softness Begins Justin Stone and T’ai Chi Chih Matthew van der Giessen I had positioned myself toward the end of a long row of workshop participants when Justin Stone walked into the room and sat himself down right in front of me. My placement of safe anonymity evaporated immediately. Justin sat there, looking at…

Anatomy for the Inward Path

By Matthew | December 26, 2011

Here’s an article I recently wrote for the Yoga Association of Alberta. It gives a taste of the paradigm I use in my anatomy courses with yogis and other somatic practitioners. Some very good resources becoming available to support a somatics infused approach to anatomy, particularly those that approach patterning from myofascial or neuromuscular paradigms.…

Matthew’s Internet Radio Interview

By Matthew | April 14, 2009

On April 15th I had an invitation to talk about the SomaLab, the blog and somatics related stuff on Somatime, a program on Blogtalk Radio, an internet radio service.   Somatime described the event this way:  “It’s time to turn the mirror around and take a closer look at how this ‘somatic paradigm’ gets communicated…

The Essential Questions of Somatic Practice

By Matthew | March 20, 2009

1. What is This? Open your awareness to all possible sources of sensory information including: Surfaces Movement Breath Moods 2. How Does It Want to Go? Give your body the fullest possibility to make movements that use all sensations available in the moment. 3. Where am I Using Unnecessary Effort? Watch for two kinds of…

Practicing in the Dojo of Everyday Life

By Matthew | February 22, 2009

Richard Strozzi-Heckler tells a story about coming out of an Ikido dojo and almost getting run over by someone running a red light as he crosses the street. But what caught his attention more than the car hurling itself past his body was his rage, and the way he was thrown off centre. Strozzi-Heckler, an…

The Orienting Response

By Matthew | February 20, 2009

As I go through the flow of everyday life there are certain events that pull my attention. Some come to me externally – a car unexpectedly coming around the corner as I step off the curb. Others emerge from my inner life such as the awareness of a strain from sitting for too long peering…

Climbing Stairs

By Matthew | December 27, 2008

In early December we had the first meeting of the SomaLab. In it I introduced some of the concepts I have described in the first two posts to this blog. I also presented an example of how we can use somatics principles to guide us in our engagement with body experience. The reading, entitled, “Climbing…

What is Somatics?: Principles and Techniques

By Matthew | December 25, 2008

In the fall of 1986, Somatics Journal published an article by Don Hanlon Johnson entitled “Principles versus Techniques: Towards the Unity of the Somatics Field”. In it he outlined an argument for the study and development of a theory base that, he postulated, underlay and united all body-centred practices. These principles, Johnson wrote, became the…

What is the SomaLab?

By Matthew | December 25, 2008

Welcome to the first post of my SomaLab blog. The SomaLab is year-long journey of exploration into the underlying principles of body-centred healing, and their integration into practical application. This version of the SomaLab is the latest manifestation in my 25 year study of the question, “What is it that makes body-centered practices work?”, that…


(Writing may be copied and reproduced in whole or part as long as credit is given to the author.)

Psyche and Soma

Climbing Stairs

Doing a Massage

Embracing the Beast

Finding Ourselves


Sacred Vessel

Other Resources

Somatics Pioneer Don Hanlon Johnson PhD

Integrative Hanna Somatic Education Practitioner Servaas Mes

Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen and Bodymind Centering

Emilie Conrad and Susan Harper's Continuum

Mary Ann Foster's Somatic Patterning

Yoga Instructor Pam Moskie's Falling Open

Healing Connections

Video Series

Soma: The Body Experienced from Within

Workshop I: Body and Identity