What is Somatic Experiencing?

Somatic Experiencing (SE™) is a powerful approach to healing trauma and stress-related disorders by focusing on the body's nervous system. Developed by Dr. Peter A. Levine, SE aims to resolve symptoms of stress, shock, and trauma that accumulate in our bodies over time. This method is particularly effective in addressing patterns of fight, flight, or freeze responses that can become stuck in our systems, impacting daily life and overall well-being.

SE is based on the understanding that animals in the wild, despite facing constant threats, rarely exhibit lasting trauma symptoms. This observation led to the discovery that trauma is closely related to the freeze response - a survival mechanism that, when not fully processed, can leave residual energy trapped in the body. SE works to release this stored energy and deactivate the persistent threat alarm in the nervous system, promoting healing and resilience.

The SE approach can be applied in various professional settings, including psychotherapy, medicine, coaching, and physical therapy. It's particularly valuable for addressing PTSD, developmental attachment trauma, and other stress-related conditions. By guiding clients to develop a greater tolerance for difficult bodily sensations and suppressed emotions, SE practitioners help complete previously unfinished defensive responses, bringing resolution to the nervous system.

Grateful Yoga is proud to offer Somatic Experiencing as part of our holistic approach to wellness. Lela Beem, studio owner and SE practitioner, can help you navigate this gentle yet powerful method of healing, complementing your yoga practice and supporting your journey towards greater balance and resilience. Whether you're dealing with specific trauma or seeking to enhance your overall well-being, SE can be a transformative tool in your personal growth and healing process.

Want to learn more? See videos of founder Peter Levine working with clients and explaining the method here (scroll down the page).

Somatic Experiencing with Lela

Lela Beem has been a yoga therapist since 2005. She first started using yoga and meditation as a way to settle her own anxiety and chronic back pain. In 2008, Lela became trained in a somatic yoga therapy modality called Phoenix Rising Yoga therapy which allows a client-centered dialogue to take place during assisted stretches. Over the course of 15 years of offering Phoenix Rising sessions, Lela came to realize that she needed more tools for addressing nervous system dysregulation stemming from traumatic experiences in her clients’ pasts.

Lela began her own journey as a client of SE in 2020 to help with recovery from long Covid and psychogenic non-epileptic seizures. The practices helped her immensely and she decided to enroll in the training herself. She will achieve full certification from SEI in September 2024.

Since 2021, Lela has been offering SE sessions in her yoga studio in downtown Evanston and on Zoom.

What does booking a session with Lela look like?

First, we schedule a 30 minute zoom call to get to know each other, find out what you are looking for and allow you to ask any questions. If it feels like a fit, we will book our first 60 minute in-person or Zoom session. You will be asked to fill out an intake form prior to your first session.

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What can I expect from my first session?

Sessions are available on Zoom, but meeting at the yoga studio is ideal.  It is a quiet, peaceful space away from everyday life where you can focus on your own healing process.   It is also full of yoga props, which I can use to help you find positions that optimize your physical comfort. We might sit in a chair, on a meditation cushion or be lying down. Sometimes, we might stand up, stretch or play somatic games that help discharge stress from the nervous system or establish a felt sense of boundaries.

Skills You Will Learn

  • Orienting to the here and now
  • How to use positive memories or imaginations as stabilizing resources
  • Pendulation in and out of intense states
  • Increasing your window of tolerance for discomfort
  • The difference between sympathetic and parasympathetic activation
  • How to connect your thinking mind with your felt sense
  • Practical ways to decrease psychosomatic symptoms of stress and anxiety in your daily life
  • Identifying “freeze” in your nervous system memory and what to do about it
  • Ways to discharge overwhelming feelings that won’t hurt you or anyone else

Other possible benefits

  • Increased comfort with embodiment
  • Opportunities for gradual resolution of the impact of various traumatic experiences on your body and nervous system
  • Ability to feel the “good” and take in what supports you
  • Gradual repair of your somatic attachment system, leading to healthier relationship capacity
  • Increased capacity for feelings, emotions and sensations over time
  • Better sleep and digestion as your parasympathetic system comes online
  • Increased sense of balance and freedom from what has hurt you in your past

Who is a good fit for this work?

Someone who has already done several years of or is currently in psychotherapy. Lela is not a psychotherapist. She can work in conjunction with your clinician(s) to help you receive the most possible benefit from your psychotherapy by offering a somatic perspective to your situation and your story. Lela does not provide diagnoses or analysis of your psychological concerns.

Lela’s specialty is working with people who enjoy movement, might be open to some assisted touch and supported relaxation and who like to experiment and play with different ways of seeing things. Curiosity is essential in this work and will be the primary resource we will draw upon with every session.

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What is the cost? Do you take insurance?
The cost for a session with Lela is $110/hr paid by Venmo, Zelle, check or cash. Lela is not a licensed mental health professional and therefore does not take insurance.
Will I have to do yoga?
Absolutely not. We might do some movement if it feels appropriate. Some people enjoy lying down while they do somatic processing. We can also do some yoga-based movement if you want!
What should I wear?
Comfortable clothes you can move around in.
Will I have to give you every detail of my trauma history? I'm worried/reluctant to get into everything and be triggered into a flashback.
Somatic Experiencing does not "require" a client to give a detailed recount of a traumatic experience. We work very carefully not to overwhelm a client's nervous system and have some skills to help us understand what the right amount of information to explore will be. Lela is skilled at tracking clients for overwhelm, dissociation and other signs that things might need to slow down.
How do I know if SE will help me?
We can't know for sure until you try! It's often surprising to people what the body has in store to talk about or show us when we begin to listen. People often report feeling much more centered, grounded and resourced after an SE session, as well as tired or relaxed.
How many sessions should I do and how often?
It's recommended to start with 1x week for 2-3 months and then gradually taper to biweekly. SE is great for crisis circumstances as well as processing past trauma. Everyone's timeline for healing is different.
What is Lela's current availability for sessions?
Lela sees clients Tuesday through Friday. Her availability is always changing and depends on whether you are booking for in-studio or online. You can also be added to a waitlist which usually opens weekly based on cancellations.
I don't know if I want to do SE or not. How can I decide?
One possibility is to attend one of Lela's Hatha Yoga & Somatics classes on Wednesdays at 9:30a CT or Saturdays at 10a CT. Both classes are available virtually as well as in person. You can also purchase recordings. During these classes, you can get to know Lela's style a little more, as well as learn some of the basic SE skills combined with simple yoga.
What is your cancellation policy?
Non-emergency cancellations require a $50 late cancel fee less than 24 hours in advance.
Do you offer sliding scale?
Currently, not offering any additional sliding scale slots at this time, but that can change. Email Lela if you would like this option and we can see if we can work something out.