Updated: Feb 24
In a modern culture where many movement options are mechanical and linear, somatic yoga practices are rising in popularity. There is a deep calling to come home to intuition, receptivity, and a living sensuality that can only be found in the quiet moments of our own attention.
This level of practice cannot be found in a book or a forms of yoga practice that have a rigid structure. We can create our own context in which to meet ourselves with a brave and gentle heart, learning to trust the way inward over time.
As humans, we long for a sense of trust, beauty, and belonging when we sit, lie, or stand in the presence of our bodies. You may feel called in these fast cultural times to become a vessel, a conduit of embodiment. This is where somatic yoga practices can offer us guidance.
What Does Soma Mean?
In Ancient Greece, the word “soma” referred to a body, human or animal, in any state. Over time, it evolved to mean "a living body.” In somatic yoga, “soma” specifically refers to the first-person, felt experience of living in one's own body. No one outside of you can truly understand how it feels to be in your body.
My Experience With Somatic Yoga
Somatic yoga developed from my deepest longing to recover my embodied life. Having been in the yoga traditions for 37 years and then spending 23 years committed to a continuum practice (a somatic practice of movement, sound, breath and silent listening, learn more here), In ongoing discovery, continuum helped change and inform how I practice yoga.
My somatic yoga practice is a daily, ever-evolving journey. The postures, breathing techniques, meditation, and ideas from other teachers continue to reshape themselves in the ways I explore them.
For many years I listened only to the voice of the teachers I studied with. When I quieted those voices, I began to listen to the wisdom of my body. I reconnected to the fluidity already moving within, informing my body’s movements - since the beginning of time - like the sea's changing tides. This is the real teacher in somatic yoga!
My yoga practice has changed from specific techniques to an open meeting with what I feel moment-to-moment on my mat. As I honed my “in-powered” way of feeling what lies beneath everything I learned, words like strength, core, grounding, fluidity, flexibility, balance, and spirituality took on new meaning and began to shape my somatic yoga practice. I continue to explore these concepts on a sensory level in my own body as territory for being present.
In meeting myself this way within my somatic yoga practice, I let go of ideas about the way I thought I should be. I stopped seeking to become something more than what I already am and gradually felt my own transformation, pleasure, health, and delight. It has been a miraculous journey so far!
Embodied Movements Of Somatic Yoga
In somatic yoga we use "somatic explorations" to observe into our relationship to our breath, gravity and the space around us. (Watch an example in the video below.) Since our body is about 60% water we also openly explore movements that are water-like: waves, pouring, spiraling, undulating, spreading, etc.
Somatic explorations awaken an embodied "fluid intelligence" that becomes our guide as we move in ways that range from very small and slow to quite dynamic, directing us towards what is most helpful in the health and well-being of our biological selves we call a "body."
Using sound in a somatic yoga practice creates internal vibrations that diffuse tension and help us to track increasingly more subtle levels of sensation. With patience and mindful attention, we can allow these subtle internal sensations - our “fluid intelligence” - to teach us when, how, and what to move rather than molding our body into specific shapes based on outer standards and demands.
The Benefits Of Somatic Yoga
Somatic yoga improves our mind-body connection. Two of the most important components of this mind-body connection are interoception and proprioception.
Interoception is our awareness of internal sensations and emotions that indicate “how we feel”: whether we’re tense, relaxed, tired, thirsty, hungry, happy, concerned, excited, etc. Sensations include internal awareness of respiration, muscular tension, heartbeat, digestion, etc. The emphasis on tracking internal sensation in somatic yoga improves interoception.
As interoception improves, we experience:
● Better emotional regulation
● Ability to positively influence our nervous system
● Improved stress management
● Better breathing
● Greater mental and emotional resilience
Proprioception is our body’s ability to sense where it is in space as well as where any part of the body is in relation to the rest of the body. Practicing somatic yoga “posture preparations” as well as yoga postures place varying physical demands on our bones, soft tissues and joints resulting in positive physiological adapation and improved proprioception.
As proprioception improves and resulting adaptations occur, we experience:
● Improved mobility
● Better balance and reduced fall risk
● Decreased pain
● Reduced muscular tension
● Better breathing
● Improved coordination
● Joint lubrication
● Greater physical resilience
Begin Your Somatic Yoga Journey
Ready to begin your own somatic yoga journey toward greater physical, mental and emotional wellbeing? Learn more!
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