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What Is Somatic Yoga?

Why not join my Yoga Mini Afternoon Retreat where we will be exploring Somatic Yoga Flow

Gnosall Village Hall, Saturday 11th May 12 - 4 pm



You may have heard the word “somatic yoga” and have been thinking what that might mean.

Somatics is its own physical practice that has been around for a while, it can be combined with yoga and will take your yoga practice to the next level.

Often called “Embodied Yoga.” Somatic yoga is a transformative practice that invites us into a deeper connection with our bodies, combining movement with mindfulness to unlock a deep sense of healing and awareness. The heart of somatic yoga is looking at tuning into the body’s intrinsic wisdom and allows us to release tension, and move with greater ease and intention to restore natural balance. By prioritising our internal experience over external appearance, somatic yoga empowers us to nurture our well-being from the inside out. It enables us to symbolise the philosophy of holistic health, and mindful living.

 

A Little Bit of History on Somatics

Somatics – the dictionary states that soma is a Greek word for the living body; a movement therapy that employs mind-body training to manage muscular pain and spasticity to improve balance and posture and increase ease of motion.

Somatic Therapy was founded by Thomas Hanna in the 1970s and is defined at a safe and informed practice. Hanna believed that the body responds to stress and trauma from everyday life with specific muscular reflexes which lead to involuntary and habitual contractions or movement that create stiffness and pain. 

 

Over time a person can develop contractions in the fascia and connective tissue in the body and this can lead to sensory motor amnesia (SMA) which is a loss of connection to how muscles feel and how to control them. Somatic Therapy applies an experiential approach to correct and unlearn these bodily responses. So how does that work when practising yoga?

 

How Somatics & Yoga Work Together

 

We look at an embodied yoga approach where the shape of the poses is not objective, it is about exploring how each shape feels in your body. The goal is to rediscover parts of your body you may have been disconnected from and safely reintegrate them. The aim is to soothe your nervous system and improve your mental health.

 

Traditional yoga styles and practices prioritise external alignment. A somatic or embodied yoga approach encourages you to explore and transform your body from the inside out.

 

 


 

 

Learning Somatics teaches us to cultivate a deep awareness of the body and its sensations. You pay attention to your internal experience. You connect with yourself, leading to a profound understanding of your body’s movement patterns, tensions, and imbalances: you get to explore your body with curiosity. You move to the beat of your own drum to release stuck or stagnant emotions or energy, all while getting more in touch with your body. You uncover your true wants and your needs and may have been buried. This leads you to feel more centered and aligned. 

 

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Tips to Make Your Yoga Practice a Somatic Experience

 

Here’s a quick list of somatic exercises you can start incorporating into your yoga practice NOW:

  • Say a feeling word aloud before you start, check in with yourself

  • TOUCH: touch your body… like stroking your thighs as you sit

  • Leading with the chin, expose the throat

  • Spiral your hips, wrists, ankles

  • Clench and release, fists, feet, legs

  • Think “loose joints” – pretend to be seaweed

  • Follow what feels pleasurable

  • Think of widening and softening…

  • NON-HABITUAL MOVEMENT – use yoga postures for inspiration but don’t get stuck stretching or in the poses

  • UNDULATION- in cat/cow, wide leg fold or halfway lift

  • Vocal activation – make sound, sing, chant, growl, raw

  • Shake if you feel like it

  • Start on the floor and move up, then back down

  • Think about residing in the “back” of your body rather than the front – starting on your back helps with this

  • Turn off the lights so you can go inward

  • Blindfold yourself, add a relaxing scent and make sure you have privacy

 

 

Somatic Yoga Poses

 

Use these poses as inspiration, but then connect with your body and move intuitively. Do what feels right in the moment for you.

  • Supine twist with snow angel arms

  • Seated hip circle

  • Wide leg fold – rising and falling in and out of the pose

  • Slow spinal flex – can be seated cat cow

  • Aura painting – refreshing the nervous system -standing hands to sky then lean forward head to feet arms spread out and away from the body

  • Cat/Cow

  • Moving bridge

 

 

Somatic Yoga Philosophy And Principles

Philosophy Behind Somatic Yoga

Somatic Yoga is rooted in several key philosophies and principles:

 

1. Embodiment: Humans are dynamic systems, and the idea is that our bodies hold wisdom and are a gateway to self-discovery. This practice encourages you to develop a mindful and intimate relationship with your body, fostering a deeper connection between mind, body, and spirit.

 

2. Mind-Body Connection: Central to Somatic Yoga is the understanding that the mind and body are intricately linked. Through mindful movement, breath awareness, and introspection, you gain insight into your mental and emotional states as they are reflected in your physical sensations.

 

3. Neuroplasticity: As you know the brain can rewire itself through repetitive movement and focused attention. By practising mindful, intentional movements, you’ll facilitate the rewiring of your brain and nervous system through neural pathways, leading to improved movement patterns and increased body awareness.


4. Release and Healing: Embodied Yoga focuses on releasing chronic muscle tension and patterns of holding that may have developed due to stress, trauma, or repetitive movements. By addressing these physical imbalances, you can experience both physical and emotional healing (because, as we all know, you store your emotions within your body.

 

Principles of Somatic Yoga

 

1. Slow and Mindful Movement: Somatic practices involve slow, deliberate movements that prioritize internal sensing over external appearance. Each movement brings you into the present moment and is an opportunity for exploration and self-discovery.


2. Breath-Centered Practice: Your breath is your power. Conscious breathing deepens awareness, releases tension, and facilitates the integration of mind and body.


3. Sensory Awareness: How does your body feel? Acknowledging any areas of tension, discomfort, or ease. This heightened awareness forms the foundation of a Somatic Yoga practice.


4. Non-Judgmental Observation: Observe your sensations without judgment or the need to push yourself into any specific shape or pose, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!!! This attitude of non-judgment fosters self-compassion and reduces your risk of injury.


5. Exploration and Playfulness: Somatic movement encourages an attitude of curiosity and playfulness. This mindset encourages you to make your own choices of movement and rediscover your body’s potential. Think about the way children move their bodies whether for fun or in frustration. They explore the movements that can be made and let the energy flow how it wants to through their bodies. 


6. Integration into Daily Life: The insights gained through a somatic approach to yoga can be applied beyond the mat. Bring mindfulness practices and body awareness into your everyday activities, and harnessing this mind-body connection enhances overall well-being.

 

A lot of time in traditional yoga you’re concerned about liberation. About raising Shakti UP to meet Shiva. You want to move beyond the physical body and reach Samadhi. 

 

When you add somatic cues into your yoga practice you are focusing on the current of manifestation, bringing energy and awareness down and in rather than up and out to connect with your emotions fully. You’re doing this in order to fully feel and integrate it, rather than transcend it. The goal is to live life as you were born too, pleasurably.

 

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The Benefits of Somatic Yoga

 

Somatic Yoga offers a wide range of benefits that will positively impact not just your physical body, but your emotional and energetic bodies as well. 

Here are some of the key benefits of practising Somatic or “Embodied” Yoga:

 

1. Improved Body Awareness: When incorporating somatic exercises into your yoga practice, you’ll cultivate an enhanced sense of body awareness, allowing you a deeper and better understanding of your movement patterns, tensions, and imbalances.


2. Stress Reduction: The slow, mindful movements and focus on breath help activate the body’s relaxation response, leading to reduced stress and anxiety levels thus improving overall mental health.


3. Pain Relief: A somatic practice can help relieve chronic muscle tension and alleviate chronic pain caused by poor posture, repetitive movements, or injuries by releasing muscles and correcting obstructive movements.


4. Enhanced Flexibility and Mobility: By addressing muscle tension and promoting balanced movement, Somatic Yoga can lead to improved flexibility and overall mobility.


5. Mind-Body Connection: This practice fosters a strong connection between your mind and body, enabling you to recognize and address emotional and mental states through physical sensations and move through those sensations with more ease.


6. Neuroplasticity: Somatic Yoga leverages the brain and nervous system’s ability to rewire itself, promoting the development of healthier movement patterns and habits. Your body has so much to teach you!


7. Increased Relaxation: The focus on gentle, flowing movements and relaxation techniques can induce a deep sense of calm and relaxation. Who doesn’t want that?!


8. Emotional Release: Somatic Yoga can bring about emotional release as you begin to confront, and release stored emotions and tension held in the body. This can feel liberating.


9. Postural Awareness: You’ll become more attuned to your postural habits and can work towards improving alignment and balance.


10. Enhanced Breath Awareness: Somatic Yoga emphasizes breath awareness, which can lead to improved respiratory function and increased oxygenation of the body.


11. Self-Compassion: The non-judgmental attitude encouraged in Somatic Yoga practice fosters self-compassion and self-acceptance. It’s an amazing compliment to talk therapy or many other modalities you may be exploring.


12. Trauma Healing: Somatic practices can be gentle and nurturing for individuals who have experienced trauma, providing a safe space for healing trauma response, and releasing stored tension.


13. Mindfulness: This is a mindfulness practice, that encourages you to be fully present in each movement and sensation.


14. Improved Body Function: By addressing movement imbalances and tensions, you enhance overall body function and prevent future injuries.


15. Better Sleep: When stress is reduced, and relaxation is increased your sleep patterns will improve as well leading to better overall wellness.


16. Holistic Well-being: Somatic Yoga supports holistic well-being by integrating physical, mental, and emotional aspects of health with a focus on YOU being the expert of your own living body.


17. Empowerment: Through self-exploration and self-discovery, you’ll notice your sense of empowerment and agency over your own well-being increases. You stop giving your power away to other people or even teachers.


18. Joyful Movement: Somatic Yoga can be fun and encourages playful movement. Explore your body and get reacquainted with it like you would as a child! It takes concepts like “love” from being abstract to having a felt sense in the body.


19. Long-Term Benefits: The benefits of Somatic Yoga often extend beyond the mat, enhancing overall quality of life and promoting a sustainable, mindful approach to movement and self-care.


20. Energy Flow: The practice of Somatic Yoga helps unblock and facilitate the flow of energy throughout the body. Because you’re turning inward and listening to how you want to truly move: You practice personal agency.

 

It’s important to note that everyone will have a different experience when practising somatic yoga. Because it’s a practice of paying attention to YOURSELF. Don’t judge yourself. Try to practice this body-mind centering a little bit each day. A consistent practice over time tends to yield more profound results.

To sum it up, Somatic or “Embodied” Yoga will make you more intuitive, more IN your own body, and less in your head. In today’s world, we all need to get out of our heads a bit. You’ll direct your focus on your breath down into your body. You’ll tune into your own energy, feel your emotions, and get grounded in your true feelings and desires. Which, as a yogi you already know, is going to have a plethora of benefits in your life.

 


By integrating the principles of Somatic Yoga into your practice, individuals can embark on a journey of self-discovery, healing, and personal growth that extends far beyond the physical aspects of yoga. This is where true healing occurs and you can start living in your highest expression. 

 

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