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Somatic self-discovery exercise

Body mapping exercise


Embodiment is a process of somatic self-discovery. Similarly, body mapping is a specific process designed to enhance that somatic self-discovery within the presence of a facilitator and group participants. It is an experience that helps one to recognize the capacity to thrive through exploring how life’s challenges have impacted one’s body over time.





One of these approaches is called “body mapping,” a guided process of visual and narrative exploration through creating a life-size body portrait.



  • Restorative embodiment focuses on the body as a resource to support and reinforce the internal sense of self-agency and resilience.

  • Body mapping is a form of expressive arts therapy that capitalizes on the body as a theme for narratives of lived experiences.

  • Body mapping is a multilayered, embodied process that integrates image and story.


While body mapping is a multilayered process that integrates image and story, it is essentially an embodied experience. Drawing, painting, collage, or other materials are used to represent stories about oneself as well as specific somatic experiences or memories. Paint is traditionally provided as part of the body-mapping approach.


 Art expressions may also include actual hand and footprints and colors and symbols are painted on or around the body outline in response to specific questions about one’s life, including events, challenges, and strengths.


Because image-making may be challenging for some, I often modify the process by introducing a collage box of various images and words, phrases, and quotes for participants who find that language best expresses their experiences.






Typically, body mapping is a directive process. In other words, facilitators use a variety of prompts to guide the process, depending on the individual or group.


  • Choosing a body posture to represent oneself.

  • Focusing on personal history including “where I come from” and “where I am going” (such as goals or aspirations).

  • Depicting images or symbols on the body to represent challenges, events, or obstacles that have been overcome or are in the process of being overcome (often called “marks of resilience").

  • Including personal mottos, quotes, or slogans and/or symbols that are sources of strength (resources).

  • Symbolizing people and entities (pets, communities, or higher power) who have been supportive (represented by photos, symbols, or handprints).

  • Sharing messages or wisdom learned through lived experiences.




Embodied practices help one to reclaim capacities to recognize and release distress. Perhaps more importantly, embodiment introduces possibilities for restorative somatic awareness—the body’s ability to awaken and reclaim the felt sense of the positive experiences that make life worth living.


Much love ❤️


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