What is somatic intelligence – and what does Ayurveda have to do with it?

You’ve probably heard of emotional intelligence, but do you know about “somatic intelligence”? It’s a concept that can help you develop a healthier relationship with food and feel better in general. And it can also be linked to Ayurveda.

So, what is somatic intelligence?

This term describes our body’s ability to tell us what foods it needs and doesn’t need. It does this in a variety of ways. For example, do you know when you feel downright repulsed by some things? That could be your somatic intelligence kicking in. The body signals us with disgust, intolerances or the like that some foods are not good for us – in general or simply at the current moment. In turn, somatic intelligence also makes itself known with cravings, for example for salty food.

What is somatic intelligence good for?

Centuries ago, our ancestors’ survival depended on somatic intelligence. They relied on their basic needs and signals from their bodies to protect them from foods that were not good for them and to eat nourishing foods that gave them energy instead. This also ensured continued development. In animals, somatic intelligence is also important for survival.

Nowadays, it’s not necessarily a matter of life and death or the advancement of the human species, but of our well-being, because as mentioned earlier, our bodies can signal us when something is not good for us. For example, children are rarely fans of spinach. There’s a reason for that: spinach contains oxalic acid, and that’s not tolerated by most kids, can even cause kidney stones. So it’s not so much about being a “difficult eater” as it is about paying attention to the body’s signals – if you don’t, malaise, blemished skin or digestive problems can result. Unfortunately, most of us have forgotten how to do just that.

Why is our somatic intelligence impaired?

Let’s take another look back at our ancestors, who absolutely relied on their somatic intelligence: What was different back then?

Unlike today, our ancestors were not constantly influenced – no one told them what to eat. We, on the other hand, are virtually bombarded: Nutrition guides, trendy diets, beauty ideals and moral codes around food determine what we think we want.

In addition, we have become comfortable. We no longer have to hunt or gather our own food, but can simply get something in the canteen or at the bakery around the corner. The problem: processed food often contains additives that artificially impair our somatic intelligence. What’s more, we often eat only when we have a window of opportunity and not when we really feel hungry. Convenience ensures that we eat what is available at the moment or what goes quickly and not what our body is really asking for. In this way, we have forgotten to really listen to the body’s signals.

What does somatic intelligence have to do with Ayurveda?

All these nutrition guides and diet trends have one thing in common: they sell a “one size fits all” solution, a principle of what should work for each of us. But that’s not how it works with nutrition. Every body is different, every person is different, and so their needs are very different from one another. This is exactly where Ayurveda comes in.

Ayurvedic nutrition principles are based on the concept that each person is individual. Thus, not every type of diet is equally healthy for all of us. So, an Ayurvedic consultant will first determine your very own constitution and look closely at your circumstances before he or she gives you any advice. Also, a good consultant will encourage you to ask yourself the following questions: What effects does food XY have on me? What is good for me and what is not?

How can I improve my somatic intelligence?

Even if stress, social media, additives & co. have taken you away from it, you can reconnect with your somatic intelligence. Here are a few tips on how you can do that:

  1. Mindfulness
    Cultivate mindfulness when eating. Don’t eat “on the side,” eat at your leisure. Take time to eat comfortably, paying close attention to the taste and texture of your food. Also, pay attention to when you feel full and don’t continue eating beyond that point. Ask yourself: Am I really hungry right now or am I just taking advantage of a free moment? What kind of food do I feel like eating – regardless of what is conveniently available or what I think I “should” be eating? After eating, reflect on how you feel now. Do you feel nourished, energized, or more in a “food coma”?

  2. Food diary
    Support your newly cultivated mindfulness with a journal in which you document what you ate and when, how much you ate, and how you felt afterwards. Also describe the circumstances of the meal: did you settle down comfortably and really enjoy the meal, perhaps in nice company? Or did you grab something “on the go” and devour it on the go while looking at your phone? Pick up this book again and again. After a while, you’ll be able to see patterns.

  3. Movement
    Movement promotes body awareness, which in turn helps you to perceive more clearly what is good for you and what is not. This is not about high-performance sports, but about gentle, regular exercise – there are no limits to your imagination!

How well do you know your body and its needs? Can you distinguish these needs from cravings? And if not – what steps do you want to take now to change that? Share your experiences in the comments!