Somatic Yoga: A Mindful Movement Practice
“The human body is not an instrument to be used, but a realm of one’s being to be experienced, explored, enriched and, thereby, educated.”
- Thomas Hanna
In Greek, soma means “of the body.” Soma is the fabric of your being. Your soma holds your emotions and expresses habits and thoughts. You are soma and you are made of soma.
Somatics is the practice of self-inquiry, exploration, discovery and understanding of your soma (the body) through internal awareness. The focus is on what you feel internally, while you’re in motion or exploring stillness. This internal awareness involves different kinds of perception.
Interoception is the awareness of internal sensations, such as emotions, hunger, heart rate, temperature, respiratory rate, pain, and so on.
Exteroception is another type of awareness where we use our five senses to provide information about the world around us. The sensory information that we receive can influence attitudes, beliefs, behaviors and our felt sense of safety within the body.
Proprioception uses sensory receptors that allow us to do certain actions and movements without looking, such as walking without looking down. We have an awareness of where our body is in space. This can be very useful for balance, coordination and overall ease of movement in the world.
Somatic movements invite you to get into your body. You have the opportunity to feel, sense and experience what’s happening internally. In doing so, you can start to unlearn and rewire habitual movement patterns that could be causing pain, discomfort, tension or unease in your body. You start to listen more attentively to your internal dialogue. You begin to feel certain feelings or emotions within your body. With time and practice, you are better able to identify what you’re feeling and where in your body.
Somatic practices can help you feel, acknowledge and express emotions that may have been stored in your body for some time. Somatic movement practices offer important insights in relation to your nervous system health. When you are aware of what is happening internally, you are able to respond in a loving, compassionate and nurturing way. For example, if you’re feeling sadness around your heart space, a kind gesture might be placing your hand on your heart.
Somatic yoga is an example of a somatic practice. Somatic yoga is essentially about finding what feels good in your body. It’s a practice that invites you to be a curious observer.
Somatic yoga classes usually involve slow and mindful movements. You may explore some movements that are quick, such as a shake and release technique. Some movements may feel really playful and interesting. Somatic yoga practices call upon the breath to help us move stuck thoughts, feelings, emotions and physical sensations along. This can help bring about calm and balance to the nervous system.
Somatic practices, like somatic yoga, invite you to turn towards your body for guidance and feedback. Your body holds the answers. Somatic yoga honors that your body has a unique story to tell. It can be such a healing practice.
I invite you to explore the following somatic yoga practices. I am in the process of creating more somatic yoga practices as I have felt the transformative power of this type of practice. So, stay tuned!