Yoga is evolving at a rapid pace. What once began as a spiritual practice in the East is shifting to accommodate the needs and desires of a diverse Western population. There have been huge advances and understanding in Pain Science, Movement Therapies, Breathing & Relaxation techniques, Neuroscience, the nervous system, anatomy and particularly fascia. All of this plays an important part in the design and delivery of a safe and effective yoga practice.
Many of the current styles of yoga involve challenging postures, vinyasa (flow), and intense stretching that may not be appropriate for new students, elderly, or anyone with physical limitations. There is an aging demographic who could benefit from a gentler, more therapeutic yoga practice.
This is what led me to synthesize a practice that I teach and refer to as SOMATIC YOGA.
Somatic Yoga blends somatic movement principles with gentle yoga to release muscle tension, increase flexibility, reduce or eliminate persistent pain, improve alignment/posture and restore vitality.
Although the practice draws from the tradition of classical Hatha yoga, it does not focus on Asana (postures). It is less about stretching and static postures and more about pure, healthy movement. This can be defined as process-oriented rather than goal-oriented.
Somatic Yoga encourages practitioners to focus on function rather than form. This distinction makes the practice accessible to all body types, abilities and levels of experience because it allows anyone to move within a range that is appropriate for his/her body.
The “Somatic” component of the practice is based on the work of Thomas Hanna. Hanna was a movement educator and neurophysiologist who demonstrated, that, in order to create lasting change in the body, it is necessary to involve the brain and nervous system.
Somatics helps to awaken the sensory motor system of the brain so we can regain voluntary control of our muscles and bodies to allow them to move the way they were designed to do.
The synergistic combination of Somatics and traditional (Hatha) yoga is neuromuscular re-education that anyone can do to help improve functional movement, reduce and eliminate pain and improve overall well-being.
What is Kripalu Yoga?
My early training in yoga was deeply influenced by Kripalu Yoga. (see definition sidebar)
Kripalu Yoga, like Somatic practices, focuses on slower conscious movements that encourage a
deep listening and trust in the wisdom of the body.
The Kripalu philosophies and methodology are still infused in my practice and teaching of Somatic Yoga.
Ultimately, I see the aim of yoga as a means to live our lives fully everyday “off the mat”.
“Kripalu Yoga is an integrated system of self-transformation that empowers you to realize your full potential. The journey begins as you revitalize the body through postures, breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques. It deepens as you learn to focus awareness, enabling you to enter meditative states that awaken compassion and clear the mind.
Through the practice of Kripalu Yoga you discover how to nurture the roots of health, catalyze personal growth, live with greater skillfulness and joy, and transform your sense of what it means to be alive.”
– Kripalu Center For Yoga and Health
Somatic Yoga group classes that I lead incorporate the Kripalu spirit and methodology along with Somatics exercises to help release chronic tension. There is a strong focus on sensation of movement and breath awareness.
Each class is designed to activate the parasympathetic nervous system to calm the mind and relax the body. From that place, the body and brain are more responsive to the sensory feedback of the movements. You will be guided through a variety of movements systematically sequenced to release commonly held patterns of tension.
Participants are encouraged to listen to their body and take the practice to the level of challenge that is right for them, moving only within their pain-free range.
Classes are open to all body types and levels of experience. Particularly geared toward those with an interest in alleviating pain, improving range of motion, increasing flexibility and restoring vitality.
Soulworks Body Wisdom