Local dancer supports community wellness through somatic dance

‘When we slow down, we’re able to respond instead of reacting,’ says Stellar Feels Embodiment founder Vanessa Woulfe.
Stellar Feels Embodiment owner Vanessa Woulfe sits in a park smiling.
Stellar Feels Embodiment founder Vanessa Woulfe designs movement sessions focused on embodiment education to regulate nervous systems, wellness workshops and somatic dance events. Photo by Brandon Giddens

To help Greater Kamloops (Tk’emlúps) residents manage stress and social isolation, a local dancer has launched a small business focused on somatic movement and trauma-informed wellness.

Vanessa Woulfe, 39, began studying somatic movement, also known as mindful or embodied movement, to get in touch with her body and increase her emotional awareness. 

In contrast to physical exercise where the goal is to push the body past its limits, the practice involves feeling the sensations of the body, even sitting with uncomfortable emotions, to re-establish the mind and body connection.

It’s a form of physical self-care that helped her personally overcome physical and social disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“When your body is in fear mode, or fight or flight, movement can feel dangerous,” Woulfe says about her realization that fear can trigger feelings of pain, suffering and even withdrawal.

Embodied movement invites participants to slow down, locate and understand the sensations and signals in their bodies.

“Mindful somatic embodied movement is slowing down and bringing your attention to your internal landscape,” Woulfe says. “It’s like an integration of the mind and body of what you’re going to do. You’re not just moving for the sake of moving, or without bringing any sort of cognitive awareness to it. You’re moving and tracking awareness of your moods and feelings. It really requires you to slow down and expand your vocabulary.”

Her outdoor community events and one-on-one sessions do not require any prior dance experience because the movements are small and generally draw movements from tasks in our daily lives, like walking or rubbing hands together to increase body awareness. The goal of embodied movement is to reduce mental fatigue and create transformative practices in natural environments.

“You’re building resiliency for future challenges, so we’re building our ability to deal with hard things,” Woulfe says. “When we slow down, we’re able to respond instead of reacting, which helps with relationships to yourself and to others.”

A group of people sit in pairs on the grass back to back.
Stellar Feels embodied movement sessions invite participants to slow down and reconnect to their bodies. Photo by Brandon Giddens

While the pandemic revealed to Woulfe the power of embodied movement, her connection to movement as a way to regulate her emotions began much earlier. Woulfe informally began exploring the concept as a contemporary choreography student in Toronto 11 years ago.

“[Embodied movement] started as a studio practice,” Woulfe explains, as a way to counter the competitive nature of being at an arts school. “I began using it as a starting point to build choreography and teach workshops.”

Woulfe completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2009 and a Master of Fine Arts in contemporary dance choreography from York University in Toronto in 2013.

Over time, she began sharing her passion for embodied movement with her peers. Today, Woulfe calls this mindful act of movement Pleasure Sourcing and offers services through her latest endeavor and business, Stellar Feels Embodiment, which she founded with support from Community Futures.

She advocates for individuals to take the time to reconnect with their bodies to manage health and wellness effectively, instead of overlooking personal needs. Woulfe feels the body is commonly overlooked as a sovereign being through the way it is socialized in North America.

“We’re told to wait when we have to go to the bathroom as children, so not only are we told to suppress the actions of our body, we are taught to do it growing up,” Woulfe says about the need for somatic movement in adults. 

A group practice embodied movement at Riverside Park in July.
Vanessa Woulfe leads an embodied movement workshop near Riverside Park in July. Photo by Brandon Giddens

Somatic dance and embodied movement is accessible to all ages

Intense emotions, stress and trauma can result in chronic pain when it is stored in the body for long periods of time, according to renowned psychiatrist Dr. Bessel van der Kolk.

Taxing emotions can impact the body over time, which result in manifesting symptoms like clenched jaws, poor digestion and dysregulated breathing. However, the connection between the mind and the body means the physical body can be an access point for healing and a way to navigate the complexities of self-care.

The use of small movements, like slowly improving posture or agility, to break existing learned patterns can improve consciousness, according to Woulfe.

Marilyn Puff began attending somatic dance workshops with Stellar Feels roughly three months ago at the age of 68.

“I think somatic therapies are currently one of the most important therapies, so that trauma in the body can be noticed without analyzing what the body is trying to release,” Puff says. “It feels like something that would be suitable for me at any age, and I love how it educates (everyone) to be more connected and grounded with their bodies. That’s health.”

She describes the Stellar Feels classes as accessible for those with mobility issues, and credits her increasing flexibility to the healing modalities being delivered to groups in the classes she’s taken with Woulfe.

“It’s very welcoming and self-directed with beautiful guidance to expand your personal experiences of pleasure and movement,” she adds.

Puff, who is a semi-retired family counsellor at Interior Community Services, believes the classes have improved her endurance for other forms of exercise.

But the benefits of somatic movement are immeasurable for Puff.

“It’s been a lifelong love of exploring my connection to my body and its messages,” Puff says, “And its desire for movement.”

Puff says that it’s fascinating how quickly children can move through their own emotions and embrace creativity, which is a behaviour that has motivated her to keep coming back for classes to apply the same set of skills to her own life.

A woman stands in a park with her hands together.
Marilyn Puff began attending somatic dance classes roughly three months ago. She finds the practice creative and accessible. Photo by Brandon Giddens

Brittany Gill, 27, started attending Woulfe’s classes about six months ago after seeing a coffee shop poster about somatic movement.

At that time, Gill says Woulfe’s handle on Instagram used to be @PleasureSourcing, which triggered a “burst of excitement” for her as a performing artist and dancer. Today, her moniker on Instagram is @Stellar.Feels to align with her new business.

“For me, after having my son, I was very disconnected from my body, and this practice helped me to release pain and trauma from giving birth,” Gill says. “It also improved my connection to myself, and to my son.”

Gill believes the mindfulness practice has helped to regulate her emotions and improved her ability to be present for others.

“The biggest benefit is taking time out of your day to be in your body and find pleasure,” Gill says about finding pleasure in daily tasks. “It’s helped me take things in my day that were unenjoyable, like doing the dishes, and removed the frustrations or burdens to find pleasure in the practices.”

Gill added, “It’s helped me as a parent to have connections outside of motherhood and feel good in my body.”

A woman stands in the park with her hands clasped mindfully.
Brittany Gill, 27, regularly attends group classes with Vanessa Woulfe at Stellar Feels and credits the practice for reconnecting with her body after giving birth. She feels somatic movement has made her a more compassionate and connected mother. Photo by Brandon Giddens

Occasionally, Woulfe assists families to attend the workshop by providing a safe space for participants to have their children nearby. Gill has appreciated the extra support as a parent who wants to regularly attend the classes.

“Not having child care for your children shouldn’t prevent you from accessing programs,” Woulfe says with a smile.

This offering, too, comes from personal experience. Roughly three years ago, Woulfe relocated with her daughter Levi from Toronto to Kamloops. Having the extra support from family, as a single parent, allowed her to study somatic therapy and trauma-informed wellness in more depth than previously possible in Toronto.

A girl hugs her mother around the neck seated in a grassy park.
Levi and her mother, Vanessa Woulfe, relocated to Kamloops from Toronto during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Brandon Giddens

Sourcing pleasure in a name

The practice of embodied movement has been dubbed by Woulfe as Pleasure Sourcing

While Pleasure Sourcing conjures up a wide variety of images, Woulfe finds humour in being met with resistance due to the convention of the name it’s been given when telling others.

“I don’t remember how, or when, or where, or why the word pleasure came up,” Woulfe says with a chuckle. “I think I just used it to reference something that feels really good. I remember getting resistance pretty quickly, and resistance just meaning a lot of questions about, ‘Is this about sex?’ and that kind of thing. Many times, I kind of considered changing the name.”

She confessed that Pleasure Sourcing constantly needs to be defined to blend a wide variety of worldviews into her practice as an artist and an educator to make it work effectively for the community of people she serves.

But Woulfe could not find a suitable alternative name that resonated for her in the same way.

“Joy sourcing and comfort sourcing didn’t have the same ring to it,” Woulfe says. “Then it became an empowerment thing. Pleasure Sourcing is not only about sexual pleasure. I began to enjoy the word. Pleasure has so much complexity.”

Two women sit and smile side by side in a grassy green park.
Brittany Gill, left, says somatic movement has made her a more compassionate and connected mother. Photo by Brandon Giddens

Pandemic move fuels performer’s passion for somatic dance

With 20 years of experience as an international performing artist, Woulfe felt the pandemic stirred up emotions of fear and anxiety that she hadn’t needed to manage since her graduate program, which ultimately pushed her to upskill and regulate her own nervous system through what she calls Pleasure Sourcing.

“My own embodiment practice of searching for pleasure and surveying the internal experience brought more joy into my life, and connected me to the world of somatics and trauma-informed wellness,” Woulfe says. “For me, the missing link in my own healing has been connecting my experience with the innate knowledge of my own body.”

“Soma is the Greek word for the soul,” Woulfe says. “It’s about a belief that we’re not just our body, we’re not just our mind and we’re not just our spirit. We’re an integration of all those things. In modern society, especially in North America, the way that we move through the world, you use your brain to make your decisions and your body is your brain’s taxi. It’s always about doing something for your brain to feel better, rather than looking at your body as a complete piece of the puzzle.”

Most recently, Woulfe completed a Certified Integrative Somatic Trauma Therapy course at The Embody Lab in 2023 and The Toolkit for Resiliency at Lumos Transforms in 2022.

Members of the community are being invited to explore the mind and body connection at an outdoors event this summer. Woulfe is hosting an hour-long workshop for all ages and all physical abilities to learn about the importance of embodied movement outdoors between 6 and 7:15 p.m. on Thursday, July 20. The location will be released to those who register to participate in the event.

You can register to participate in the Mindful Movement in Nature workshop for $20 by contacting Woulfe at: 647-309-8509 or drop her a line at info@stellarfeels.com.

So do we. That’s why we spend more time, more money and place more care into reporting each story. You’ve told us through reader surveys you want to read local journalism that goes beyond press releases and problems. You want community reporting that explains, connects and uplifts.


“The Wren’s news is refreshing, not depressing, reporting info that is negative and hurtful. It encourages positive thought, not amplifying prejudice and brutality,” wrote one reader.


This kind of reporting is made possible thanks to financial contributions, big and small, from readers like you. Together, these contributions help ensure The Wren’s reporters and contributors are paid fairly and their in-depth reporting remains freely accessible to everyone.


Will you invest in the future of in-depth community news, by and for the people of Kamloops (T’kemlúps)?

If you've read this far, you likely value in-depth community journalism.


Subscribe to The Wren.

Receive local, in-depth Kamloops (Tk'emlúps) news each week.

Your support is crucial to our journalism.

Story tips, questions about Kamloops (Tk'emlúps), and financial contributions help us tell more local stories that matter to you.

This site uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy.

Scroll to Top