Anna Gouin is a yoga instructor, embodiment coach and somatic educator specializing in women’s pelvic floor health and scar tissue remediation bodywork. Drawing from her background in yoga, reiki, craniosacral, non-linear movement method, and somatic pelvic care, Anna seeks to guide women to create a deeper relationship with themselves through connecting to the wisdom of their own body.
Anna lives and works out of her home in Squamish, BC. You can also find her at Horseshoe Bay Health and Performance Clinic twice a week, where she serves her client base from Vancouver and the North Shore.
Q: Tell us a bit about the work you do.
My work is predicated on teaching techniques for embodied autonomy. Meaning, my goal is that clients come away with a better understanding of what it means to live connected to their physiology.
The work I do places a strong focus on nervous system regulation, as the “state” we live in holds primacy over our body’s biomechanical, biochemical, and emotional expression.
From working and studying with influential leaders in the women’s alternative health sphere, I have a diverse background in various healing and movement modalities.
Q: Somatic therapy has started gaining popularity over the last few years but what exactly is embodiment coaching?
For those who aren’t familiar, somatic experiencing is a form of trauma therapy developed by Dr. Peter Levine. It’s an emerging body-based field of therapeutic practice (in its relative infancy) for treating post-traumatic stress and past trauma through working with our nervous system.
I use the term somatic educator and embodiment coach simultaneously to describe the fact that I am teaching women how to come into a different sensory experience of their own body by learning to trust their body signals and understand the language of what is being communicated to them viscerally–through their felt senses.
Using the title “embodiment coach” gives me permission to draw from my training as a somatic pelvic care specialist, while incorporating influences from other body-centric modalities that I have studied in which hold the same objective–to open our awareness of our body, and feel more of our capacity to engage with the world around us.
When talking about building “capacity”, this is in direct reference to working with our nervous system and trauma. We’re unraveling the ways that unresolved past experiences have narrowed our ability to feel. I teach this specifically attuned to issues surrounding women’s health, sexuality, self-expression, pelvic floor awareness and what it means to reclaim the feminine as a primal part of our nature.
If you’re working in the realm of nervous system regulation and somatics, you’re teaching people about embodiment. However, “embodiment” is becoming a colloquial term commonly used on social platforms within the coaching world. Because nuance is important, something to note is if someone is claiming themselves as an embodiment coach, they might not necessarily have training in somatic work, or an understanding of trauma and the nervous system. The word can mean different things depending on the context.
Q: Is there a common thread you see with the clients you work with?
The most common theme I work with is the belief that “my body”, or something about me, is broken. Why do I hear this from so many women? Because we don’t give space or listen to women when they tell their stories of womanhood–regarding menstruation, abortion, birth, sex, trauma, struggles against social constructs of the feminine.
Your body isn’t broken, but how we’ve learned to attune to her is. The majority of us have been taught to suppress, control, sterilize and distance ourselves from the natural expression, cycling and movement of the female body and our emotional well-being.
This has major adverse effects on how women experience themselves and causes us to live in a stark divide between brain and body, where we fracture from our internal world in order to bid for social currency/acceptance–we feel one thing and represent/choose another.
Some examples of this are:
- thinking about what/when/how much we should eat, rather than listening to our hunger/fullness cues.
- constantly measuring our life’s actions/achievements in order to gauge whether we’re “of value” or not.
- exercising based on arbitrary schedules and dragging our body forward when we’re actually getting signals that we’re tired and need to rest–however, if we don’t move, we don’t know how to be with the intensity of what might bubble up in the space of not-doing.
- during sexual intercourse (in cis-hetero relationships), we orient our sexuality based off the male orgasm, and therefore have not been taught how to move with our own timing, openness and body signals before allowing penetration. This is a prime example of disembodied behaviour; “I place someone else’s needs above my own truth”.
In all these examples we’ve learned to push forward when we’re not open, and this is the most common theme I work with in women.
So much of this work is about waking up the feminine inside all of us, which is our ability to slow down, be with ambiguity, feel more, relate to our emotions, and experience life with more intimacy and permission.
Q: How does the work you do with pelvic floor health differ and/or compliment work done with a pelvic floor specific physiotherapist?
First of all, they are different modalities in their perspective of how we conceive of and approach the body. I have respect for both disciplines.
From where I stand, a pelvic floor physiotherapist is more of an outward-looking-in application of treatment, where a practitioner works on you, and the focus lays heavily on the manipulation of your biomechanics.
The work I do is predicated on a belief that the physical expression of our body is the manifestation of our psycho-somatic attunement to self. When our bodies present adverse symptoms, there is a reason, and it’s often deeper than just correcting our physical form.
A pelvic floor physio may not know how to explain or hold big emotion that arises unexpectedly after a physical adjustment. Just like you may go to a psychologist who might not link the pain in your pelvis with the story you’re describing of a past event.
This is where somatic work bridges the concept of our body as separate from us. We’re considering the intersection of where emotion, mental constructs, and the nervous system meet to create our physiological expression.
Q: What drew you to this work?
It’s hard to give a simple or finite answer to this question, I feel like I have evolved into this work by way of having an indignant nature and working on healing myself throughout my life. I’ve always had a deep sense of curiosity and struggled with most of the concepts I’ve spoken about throughout this interview.
This led me to seek practices and perspectives on health that were outside mainstream/conventional medicine, because I so often felt unseen, unheard and compressed by so much of what I was told to believe and taught not to question about my experience of being female and relating to my own body.
I have clear memories growing up, able to sense the strain, closure, resentment and apathy of the women around me.
I struggled with eating disorders, over exercising and being shut down emotionally as a teenager.
I struggled with adverse effects after taking hormonal birth control.
Feeling a lack of education and proper support after having abortions.
Injuries and chronic gripping in my posterior pelvic floor…the list could go on.
But the point is, I found this profession, as niche as it is, because I was seeking to better understand myself and navigate the challenges that arose in my life.
My body has been my message as I’ve walked this path, each struggle guiding me to the next inquiry. This has led me to seek out and train with influential women in the alternative health sphere, who opened my eyes to new ways of being––Ellen Heed, Kimberley Ann Johnson, Michaela Boehm, Jenna Ward––to name a few.
Q: When should you consider seeking the help of an embodiment coach?
People come to me when they are having physical pain or challenges specific to their pelvic health, gynaecological health, relationship to their sexuality, self-expression, emotional regulation or body image issues. These are the main themes I work with, with women.
Embodiment coaching is for you if you feel any kind of discord with your experience of womanhood.
It’s about undoing ways we have internalized patriarchal/hierarchical constructs and projected them onto our lived experience, which is often a masculine paradigm that runs counter to the full expression and cyclic nature of what it means to embody a female physiology.
This work is about introducing women to themselves, to claim their identity, to discover a new relationship to their sexuality, to truly be in their body and reclaim their power.
Many of the women I work with find embodiment/somatic work after years of not knowing the right questions to ask, or the avenue of practitioner/therapeutic modality to pursue to answer the questions they’re coming up against.
Q: In what ways can embodiment coaching and somatic work impact a person’s life?
The greatest impact of this work is creating space for the female body to be seen, witnessed, honoured and understood outside of our masculine paradigms of self knowledge.
This work impacts the way women understand their own body, honour their cycles, rhythms, emotions, energy levels…to become more self-aware, discerning and confident in knowing who they are. The result is:
- Building body literacy to create greater intimacy with life, relationships and self
- Better boundaries and ability to communicate self with others
- Expanding perception, and ability to hold greater complexity both internally and externally (based off of regulating our nervous system)
- Feeling a sense of wholeness/self-acceptance
- Regulation of the menstrual cycle
- Emotional regulation
- Feeling a greater sense of aliveness
- Embrace their sexuality
- Healing relationship to food and exercise