In a world that often emphasizes the importance of external appearances, Kira Macoun and Carrie Drapac stand as beacons of a different, more profound approach to physical well-being. These two remarkable individuals, both accomplished Somatic Movement Educators, have devoted their lives to exploring the incredible potential of the human body. Through their unique and holistic approach, they offer a transformative experience that allows people to reconnect with their bodies, harness the power of body wisdom, and embark on a journey of self-discovery like no other. Kira Macoun and Carrie Drapac have redefined the way we perceive our physicality, challenging conventional norms and advocating for the intrinsic intelligence that resides within our bodies. In this article, we will delve into the captivating world of somatic movement, explore the philosophies of these two extraordinary educators, and discover how their teachings have touched the lives of countless individuals, providing a path to greater self-awareness, healing, and empowerment. Join Mystic Mag on this exhilarating journey as we unravel the mysteries of somatic movement education through the eyes of Kira Macoun and Carrie Drapac.
Can you explain what it means to be a Somatic Movement Educator and how this practice contributes to individuals’ emotional and sexual well-being?
Kira: Absolutely, we can delve into that. When it comes to understanding what it means to be a somatic movement educator, it’s a title that encompasses a wide range of possibilities. In essence, somatic movement educators assist people in connecting with themselves, delving into their inner world, including their emotions, physicality (musculature, bones, veins), and more. Our primary entry point into this level of embodiment is through movement. There are various ways to approach it; you can use dance, adopt an anatomical perspective, or focus on the energetic and spiritual aspects. As you can see, being a somatic educator is quite a broad and versatile role.
In the context of our fitness company, with over 17 years of experience, we’ve come to realize that in the realm of fitness, the initial and crucial step is somatic sensory awareness. Unfortunately, in our culture, this aspect is often overlooked. But in a body-based domain like fitness, neglecting somatic awareness leaves a lot on the table, which is why we emphasize its importance.
I’ve spoken to the title of somatic movement, and I’m sure Carrie has valuable insights to add, particularly concerning the intersection of somatic movement education and sexuality.
Carrie: Indeed, there are numerous definitions of what somatics encompasses. One working definition that resonates with me is that somatics refers to a collection of practices that facilitate a deeper connection and exploration of oneself and the world. In my role as a somatic movement educator or guide, I lead movement practices that encourage individuals to engage in this inner inquiry to truly comprehend and uncover how they operate. This involves delving into their sensations, emotions, beliefs, and actions, and understanding how these aspects are rooted in their biological and systemic makeup.
Our individual organization or constitution is shaped by a multitude of factors. Ancestry, birth circumstances, family upbringing, experiences, and the institutions we were exposed to, such as churches or schools, all play a role. Additionally, the country we reside in and its political systems exert influence. There are countless external forces that mold and influence us, impacting our sensations, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
As a somatic movement guide, I utilize movement practices to guide people through this inquiry, helping them determine whether their current self-shape serves them or if external influences have created a shape and corresponding sensations, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that may not align with their truest human commitments for this life.
Kira: Absolutely, you can already see how this ties into matters of sexuality and our relationship with our own bodies, down to fundamental discussions like consent. It’s challenging to understand what you truly consent to if you’re not fully attuned to your body, its signals, and its boundaries. Our bodies are not static; they evolve as we journey through life. I can personally speak to this, having given birth just four months ago. Everything has shifted, including my desires and preferences in the realm of sex. This can lead to a range of emotions, from feeling broken to embarking on an exciting exploration of new possibilities.
In my case, I’m fortunate to be in a safe and supportive environment that allows me to explore these changes. However, it’s crucial to recognize that being a woman in the United States comes with a set of societal, historical, and cultural constraints that can affect one’s relationship with sexuality. Engaging in somatic conversations and actively participating in them can make it easier to navigate these boundaries and barriers, whether in discussions with partners or in the process of discovering and articulating our desires.
Often, we focus on asking for what we want, but an essential aspect we tend to overlook is truly understanding and articulating what we want in the first place. Being engaged in somatic education conversations can empower individuals to have more straightforward discussions about their desires, both in the context of sexuality and in various other aspects of their lives. It enhances their ability to communicate effectively and navigate various conversations more confidently.
How do you approach each individual person, taking into consideration that we all have our own unique needs and beliefs, often influenced by factors like religion that shape us as individuals? Could you please explain how you tailor your approach for each individual client to guide them systematically through their personal journey?
Carrie: As a somatic movement guide, my approach is to create a space free of expectations. I don’t go into a session with predefined expectations of what should occur. I don’t measure my success by specific outcomes or a particular look to the session because somatic work is fundamentally about the process. Each person’s journey is unique, and the outcomes they experience will be completely personal. Somatic inquiry leads to profound self-discovery, where each individual’s uniqueness is celebrated.
You rightly noted the question of how to work with numerous individuals, given the profoundly individual nature of the self. It’s essential to emphasize that there is no universal form or a right or wrong approach. Instead, the focus is on helping each client uncover their personal commitments and inspirations. What are they dedicated to, and who do they aspire to become in their life? These commitments often serve as a powerful driver for transformation. Many people may start to be motivated by external pressures or “shoulds,” but this motivation quickly fades if it doesn’t align with their authentic selves.
Helping individuals identify their unique motivations and commitments is often one of the initial steps in the process. These personal commitments become a guiding light throughout their journey of self-discovery and transformation, especially when they encounter challenging moments or difficult realizations that they may not have anticipated. The process can make their life temporarily more challenging because they are transforming and recognizing that certain aspects of their life need to change to support that transformation. In such moments, they might question why they are putting themselves through this. It’s easy to consider returning to the familiar, but their individual commitments provide the strength to stay on course.
As a guide, my role is to assist them in finding their path towards their commitments, which they themselves have determined. The goal or destination is entirely generated by the individual, and my role is to support them in their journey rather than impose something from the outside. The foundation of our work begins with acknowledging and celebrating the uniqueness of each person.
Kira: I’m eager to share my thoughts. I feel like a door has been opened, and I’m ready to step right through.
Feel free to add, and I’d like to expand on something Carrie mentioned earlier. She highlighted the concept that people are on a journey. They might be at different points in their journey, whether it’s the early stages, mid-way through, or quite far along. Understanding where individuals are on their journey is incredibly helpful. It allows us to meet them where they are and cater to their unique needs. Some may require foundational elements, while others with extensive experience in transformation, the nervous system, and somatic work may seek more advanced guidance.
One important aspect to remember is that we’re not the final destination in anyone’s journey. Generally, clients spend a specific time with us, and we have the privilege of connecting with a network of teachers and instructors. This network enables us to provide suggestions and alternatives, recognizing that different tools may be valuable for various aspects of one’s journey. Much of this work involves a trial-and-error approach, a process of experimentation and discovery. It’s a fun and rewarding practice as a practitioner to be in that space of curiosity, focusing on guiding someone through their journey rather than attempting to “fix” them, as we’re often conditioned to do.
What type of services do you offer?
Kira: Carrie and I both initiated our careers as personal trainers, albeit from different backgrounds. Carrie’s journey began in the realm of dance, where she was a choreographer and dancer, attending Tisch at NYU. On the other hand, I started as a dedicated gym enthusiast, having engaged in working out and exercise since the age of 12, consistently frequenting the gym throughout my life. Our paths converged in the world of exercise, laying the foundation for our collaboration.
Due to our backgrounds, we possess the expertise to help individuals enhance their strength, endurance, cardiovascular capacity, stability, and various other aspects related to fitness. We co-founded Comfy Fitness seventeen years ago, which initially formed the cornerstone of our professional endeavors. However, over time, we diversified our services and incorporated practitioners who specialize in various disciplines. This expansion allows us to offer a broader range of services under the Comfy Fitness umbrella.
Personally, I have acquired certifications not only in functional fitness but also in Pilates, particularly standing Pilates tailored for older populations. My qualifications also extend to cycling, kickboxing, body sculpting, and I have served as a group fitness instructor for an extensive period. Around five or six years ago, I delved into somatic movement, specifically Essential Somatic Movement. This approach focuses on understanding the reflex patterns and stress reflexes of the body. It involves slow, deliberate movements aimed at identifying unhelpful patterns in the way we move, which are common to all humans regardless of their specific body type. Through a technique called pandiculation, our somatic movement classes help individuals release these patterns at the nervous system level.
Additionally, I hold training in another nervous system modality known as Bridging Technique. As the name suggests, it’s a hands-on modality designed to facilitate the connection between specific mechanisms in the body and how it moves, ultimately enhancing the flow from the ground upward.
Carrie: I would categorize the foundation of my work as general somatic and nervous system education. Within this broad category, there are various somatic practices, body-based meditation, nervous system regulation exercises, and specific modalities. I am trained in TRE®, which stands for Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises, as well as an energy medicine practice called SourcePoint Therapy. My approach is interdisciplinary, combining my background as a dancer and personal trainer with energy healing work, nervous system regulation, and somatic practice.
This approach has played a significant role in my personal transformation, helping me overcome chronic pain and unhelpful relational patterns that I had developed over 30 years before discovering these practices. In my work, I integrate all these elements to create a unique approach for one-on-one sessions, which both Kira and I offer. We also provide partner and group sessions, with the group sessions often focusing more on fitness because somatic work is highly personal.
Additionally, Comfy Fitness offers the Embodied Transformation Studio, an online membership platform that features five weekly classes. These classes encompass Essential Somatics, TRE®, Big Queer Yoga (a non-traditional yoga practice centered around rest), Somatic Strength, and Full Body Awakening. The Full Body Awakening class combines intuitive movement, dance, energy healing, somatics, and nervous system work, falling into a category that some might describe as ecstatic dance, albeit with distinctive elements that set it apart from traditional ecstatic dance classes. Through the online membership, individuals can access these somatic modalities and approaches in a group setting.
Can you discuss the importance of consent, boundaries, and ethical practices in your work as a Somatic Movement Educator? How do you ensure a safe and respectful environment for your clients?
Kira: That’s a wonderful question, and it’s sparking various thoughts in my mind. I’ll begin, but I feel this might evolve into more of a conversation because it’s such an excellent question. The very first thought that arises is that I don’t approach my role as a problem solver. This may sound somewhat self-deprecating, but I don’t see myself as an all-knowing expert there to resolve your issues. Instead, I view myself as a guide, a facilitator, someone with a toolbox of tools, strong listening skills, and an inherent curiosity.
I believe it’s crucial, especially as a somatics practitioner, to convey this to your students and clients so they understand that they play an active role in their healing journey. It’s not about me putting my hands on you and magically fixing everything. Our relationship is integral to the process, and we’ll encounter challenges together. Being able to communicate this to people helps dispel feelings of self-blame, shame, anger, and frustration, particularly when working with chronic pain, which is my specialization.
In our approach, we set the stage for a journey, a conversation, and a mutual curiosity. This approach can unravel the blame game and the notion that if I can’t solve your problem, no one can. We aren’t here to have all the answers, and that’s just one aspect of how we engage with our clients. We also establish, maintain, and sometimes push boundaries as this is a part of our work.
Carrie: Our practices are trauma-informed and they directly relate to the nervous system. When we work with people’s nervous systems, we’re essentially engaging with their felt sense and their understanding, or sometimes their lack of understanding, of their own boundaries. Through these practices, especially in the context of TRE®, we help individuals identify and understand their boundaries and the nervous system patterns that have led them to override these boundaries. Without a connection to our bodies, we may not be aware of our boundaries because we don’t receive or acknowledge the messages our bodies send, or we simply disregard them as inconvenient.
From a young age, many of us are conditioned to suppress our nervous system signals and bodily impulses. These practices help us reconnect with our body’s sensations, listen to them, and allow those impulses to be expressed. By regaining this connection, we can authentically identify our boundaries, as opposed to imposing arbitrary ones due to past experiences or fears.
In somatic inquiry, the person’s system takes the lead, and we approach it without expectations. As practitioners, we uphold people’s autonomy, recognizing that we’re not here to heal anyone. We guide them to discover the lessons and teachings their bodies have to offer. This approach aims to minimize potential boundary issues that might arise in movement practices.
In the world of personal training, there’s often the “go hard or go home” mindset, emphasizing specific intensity levels and goals. In somatics, this mindset doesn’t apply. Everything is valuable because it’s an opportunity for inquiry and self-discovery. We may provide cues, but we respect and encourage individuals to listen to their bodies and follow their impulses. If someone decides to do something different or modify the practice to align with their needs at that moment, we celebrate that choice. We create an open and accepting space where individuals can make decisions that respect their own boundaries.
By fostering this environment of autonomy and self-listening, we help people explore their boundaries and find authentic ways to navigate them.
Given that your work involves delving deep into the realm of energy and providing one-on-one guidance to your clients, how do you prioritize self-care and maintain your own well-being while assisting others on their journey?
Carrie: First and foremost, I adhere to the principle that I won’t teach anything I haven’t personally experienced. This isn’t necessarily a strict rule but rather a teaching style that I’ve naturally gravitated towards. I prefer to teach based on my own experiences, although I always make it clear that others’ experiences may differ significantly. Since I can’t predict someone else’s experience, my own journey is the primary source from which I draw or anecdotes shared with me by others. The practices I teach are the ones I actively use for self-care.
I find great value in the practices I teach. For instance, I frequently use TRE® as part of my regular self-care routine. In our membership platform, we have wonderful instructors, like Caroline, who offer excellent classes, and I often turn to their videos when I need a bit of yoga or movement. I live in a community rich in movement-based activities, which I cherish. Having a connection with others through activities like contact improvisation and dance is vital to me. These activities are both nourishing and challenging, and I engage in them regularly.
Receiving Reiki from a woman who offers it in one of my volunteer spaces is another element of my self-care routine. I make an effort to sit in her chair for a 10-minute reboot every week, even when I’m not feeling stressed or drained. As I’ve matured in my self-care practice, I’ve learned that self-care is not just for when you’re feeling depleted; it’s equally important when you’re feeling fantastic. I read something recently that resonated with me—this writer emphasized the significance of taking excellent care of oneself, not just for personal well-being but also to serve others. She explained that her self-care practice enables her to provide beautiful service to the world, which fulfills her soul and expands her heart. Her motivation for self-care is rooted in abundance, love, and the desire to be of service, rather than depletion and obligation.
In essence, my self-care routine extends to ensure that I can show up for my community and commitments in a way that aligns with what is important to me. This practice allows me to honor both myself and my commitments.
Kira: I attend weekly Essential Somatics Movement class and actively participate in workshops led by my mentor. She’s incredibly knowledgeable and brings various elements to the Essential Somatic movement practice which have broadened my understanding significantly. Not only does this help me take care of myself, but it also aids in my continuous learning process. I can incorporate these insights into my own teaching.
Additionally, I have a mentor in the Bridging Technique, and we maintain an active community. My mentor focuses on educating and producing YouTube videos, and I’m always ready to volunteer for videos and other projects. I find it rewarding to contribute to these educational efforts.
On a personal level, my husband and I engage in fairly intense workouts. It’s amusing to reflect on the progress we’ve made and the things we’ve accomplished in our workouts.
My family plays a central role in my life. I have a two-year-old and an infant, and they bring immense joy and meaning to my life. Spending time with them is a profound source of happiness and fulfillment. It’s a fun and enriching life, and I often jest that I’ve discovered the ultimate life hack by working in the movement, fitness, and somatic industry. This profession has led me down a path where self-care, relationships, and a nurturing environment are paramount. I believe this journey has enriched my life in a unique way that few other experiences can replicate.