Bodies organized into somatotypes… that’s old-hat. Lesser known, but more interesting… which “system” dominates? The same Dr. Sheldon who gave us endo/meso/ecto- morph gave us also viscero/somato/cerebro- tonia.
- Viscerotonia: focused on the digestive system, enjoyment of the processes of the human body.
- Somatotonia: focused on the musculoskeletal system, there is a need for physical exertion
- Cerebrotonia: focused on the nervous system, hungry for intellectual/mental stimulation
In the way psychology describes them, they are all defined by their excesses – viscerotonia is nearly synonymous with gluttony and hedonism, cerebrotonia with being stuck in the head, somatotonia with aggressiveness.
But there’s a way of inverting this pathologizing and revealing insight… What happens when you bring these three into balance?
A movement practice has the effect of balancing these dispositions. In the right balance, there is doing / thinking / being. Action, reflection, stillness. You are the athlete, thriving in the exertion of fighting, improvisation, competition. You are the philosopher, sitting back to reflect on all of it, recalibrating and mapping the territory. You are the yogi, able to sit and enjoy the processes of the body.
You’re disposed to one? Run towards the others. The neurotic cerebrotonic doesn’t need to read another book… maybe s/he can learn to sit, simply sit (no, not a book in hand). The meathead somatotonic doesn’t need, maybe, to hit another PR… maybe you can steal a book from the cerebrotonic. And the relaxed viscerotonic – go lift something heavy, for god’s sake.
Long has philosophy looked to resolve our nature, with conceptions such as the tripartite soul, or mind-body dualism, or four humors. The Greeks did it, the Ayurverdic did this, every psychological “-ism” does it, statistical analyses attempt to identify them… This is just one way to “slice and dice” (as Ido describes it). What an incredibly useful tool, if only we understand its applications and limitations.