What is Soma?
In Indian mythology, soma is the elusive elixir of immortality. It is a celebrated beverage that is healing, uplifting, and intoxicating. In the Vedas, India’s most ancient scriptures, It is much enjoyed by the Vedic gods and sought after by centuries of Yogis. In Sanskrit, it literally means “to distill or extract” and there is a wide body of literature that debates the exact nature of soma as it is described in the Vedas. The ancient elixir is also personified in the God Soma, who is depicted riding a three wheeled chariot pulled by a team of ten white horses. He is the lord of plants, associated with the moon (chandra) and known as the bringer of health and prosperity.
Soma is also a word of ancient Greek origin and means “body”; it is largely from this latter origin that the field of somatic therapy has developed to emphasize the individual’s internal experience of the body. In Greek translations of the Bible, soma is aligned with the body of Christ, a corpse revived with spirit. In biology, a somatic cell is a basic term that describes body cells as distinct from reproductive cells. In Greek terms, soma generally indicates bodily experience that is separate from psychological or mental knowing.
In contrast, the contemporary field of somatic healing signifies a shift towards integrating mind and body in the process of overcoming life’s obstacles. It emphasizes the idea of learning from and through the body.
Somatic therapy uses dance, yoga, massage, and physical therapy as essential tools to unpack and repattern a variety of experiences, including trauma, addiction, and depression. The body holds and expresses emotion, anxiety, and stress, therefore the body plays an essential role in how we experience and understand life’s challenges. Traditional talk-therapies focus on cognitively understanding and addressing issues, while Somatic therapy explores feeling states of the body and treats the body as a source of knowledge.
In contemporary somatic healing, which brings in questions of spirituality, we can trace a cross-cultural integration taking place. The Vedic Soma, ambrosia of immortality, god of health and prosperity metaphorically merges with the corporal Soma of the Greeks to foster a truly holistic picture of healing and transformation.