Have you been practicing yoga for a while and feel like you’ve got a great mind/body connection? What if I told you that it can go even deeper. That by adding somatic movements to your practice can take your body awareness to new heights and heal trauma and chronic pain. I know what you’re thinking: YES PLEASE!!

Adding somatic movement into your yoga practice is going to the next level. When you do what is called “somatic yoga” you’ll work with your breathing, focus, muscles and nervous system in an entirely new way. 

What I mentioned above are only a few of the somatic yoga benefits. Keep reading to learn more…

What Is Somatic Yoga?

Somatic yoga is the unification of movement and mindfulness within your yoga practice; opening the door to your awareness and innate ability to heal. Somatic yoga is your bridge to full intuitive movement

While this might sound new to you, somatic movement practices have been around since the 1970s. In fact, Eleanor Criswell Hanna, cofounder of the Novato Institute of Somatic Research & Training with Thomas Hanna, started teaching somatic yoga classes around that same time. She’s written several books on the topic and I encourage you to continue your education by reading them. For example this one: How Yoga Works: An Introduction to Somatic Yoga.

Another word for somatic is embodiment. I LOVE this word. It’s why I like to call this practice embodied yoga(and even created an entire course around it. Check out Embodied Yoga Life Coaching). It’s all about listening to the innate wisdom of your body; tuning in to your internal cues rather than the external in order to restore balance in both the mind and body.

Basically the goal is to turn off the thinking mind and bring energy into the body and connect with your primitive, instinctual self. This is going to be done through super personalized and exploratory non-linear/non-habitual movements. Once you embrace this form of movement you’ll start noticing changes to your habitual patterns. Not only the physical ones but your emotional/behavioral patterns as well.

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8 Holistic Somatic Yoga Benefits

Somatic yoga has many benefits. From emotional release to improved body function there is a lot somatic yoga has to offer. Another amazing thing about this practice is that it is cumulative. Meaning, that it builds upon itself. The more you do it the more you’ll start to notice the changes in your joints, or even in your mindfulness capabilities. And the easier it will get too!!

Here are just a few of the benefits:

1. Increased Body Awareness

Somatic and intuitive exercise encourages a deeper sense of connection with your body. You are truly listening to your body and moving in the ways it desires. The beauty of this is it will give you a greater understanding of where you have any imbalances or tension that need correction or release. Making you an even better body detective.

2. Decreased Stress & Anxiety

Somatic yoga can improve overall health by reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety. The soothing movements combined with the breath activates the brain and body’s relaxation response, which aids in alleviating feelings of anxiety or stress. Bonus, this decrease in stress and anxiety can lead to better sleep too!

3. Improved Mobility

When moving the body in ways that feel more natural and balanced you’ll decrease stiffness and muscle tension. This can lead to overall improved mobility and flexibility. Somatic exercises also work toward releasing chronically tight muscles. This means reduction of chronic pain and a lower risk of future injury.

4. Heal Trauma

Gentle and soothing somatic movement gives the brain and body a safe space by triggering the parasympathetic nervous system. This allows the body to release stored tension and trauma responses. This makes it ideal for persons who have experienced trauma.

5. Gain Self Compassion

You might feel a bit self conscious once you start incorporating somatic awareness into your practice. But you’ll soon connect with how beautiful you are and release all judgment, gaining more compassion and acceptance for yourself and your physical body ❤️.

6. Release Stagnant Emotion/Energy

Moving with intuitive or somatic movements allows emotions and energy to fully flow through you. After all, if emotions are energy in motion, you need to keep them MOVING to release them right? Somatic yoga will allow you to feel these emotions fully so they can be released. 

7. Enhanced Mind-Body Connection

Somatic movement is like a body mind centering. Somatic experience nurtures the connection between your mind and body. Allowing you to easily decipher your physical body’s wants and needs and giving you a greater capacity for healing.

8. Individualization

Somatic yoga involves catering the poses to your body and adding in the movements and poses that feel the most nourishing to you. This leads to you learning how to personalize your practice on an even deeper level.

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5 Examples Of Somatic Yoga Poses

I know you’re itching to start your very own somatic yoga practice. So here are 5 moves to start incorporating somatic yoga into your routine. You might be surprised to find you’ve already been doing some of these!

1. Cat/Cow

From hands and knees, brace the belly slightly to ensure a long spine.

Inhale, draw the collarbone back, drop the belly and send your gaze forward for cow pose.

Exhale, bring the head down to gaze at the belly as you send the spine to the sky and drop the tailbone between your knees for cat pose.

Continue to move back and forth with your breath.

2. Hip/Wrist/Neck Circles

Stand with the shoulders down and back, belly braced, slowly roll the hips in slow, gentle circles.

Start to roll the neck in sync with the hips, ear to the shoulder, exhale as the head rolls forward Inhale as the opposite ear meets the shoulder. Move back and forth with the breath.

Slowly add in circular motions with the wrists. 

Go at a steady pace that feels comfortable for you.

3. Forward Fold with undulations

Stand with your feet hip width apart. Inhale the arms up overhead.

Microbend the knees as you exhale, hinging at the hips and bringing the arms to the floor, torso folds into standing forward fold.

Stay here for several breaths and then add in undulations.

Round through the back, slowly roll up one vertebrae at a time. Make sure your head comes up last. If you need to take the feet wider do so. Open the chest to the ceiling, rolling it forward to lead you back down in a fluid motion. Roll back up and repeat for several rounds. 

NOTE: If you need extra support use your hands by placing them on top of your thighs or knees.

4. Sufi Grind

sufi grind

Come to a comfortable seat. Rest your hands on your knees or shins. 

Inhale as you circle your torso forward in whichever direction you choose. 

Exhale as your torso circles around and back. 

Move with the breath like this for at least one minute and then switch directions. 

5. Moving Bridge

Lie on your back with the soles of your feet on the ground, hip width apart. Arms lay down by your sides.

Inhale, engage the glutes and you lift the hips up into bridge pose.

Exhale, curl the tailbone between your knees as you roll back down one vertebrae at a time. 

Continue to move up and down with your breath. Or you can pause at the top and do some hip circles.

When the pose is done, with the back flat on the ground let the legs relax as the knees gently fall into each other. Place the hands on the heart and belly and just take a few relaxing breaths.

If you’re looking for more, another great resource for somatic movement is Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen. From anatomy videos, books, and live classes you’ll definitely find something to help you incorporate more somatic movements into your practice. 

Or experience somatic yoga now with me in this class: SOMATIC YOGA FLOW WITH MUSIC | Neck, Shoulders, Lower Back Pain

YouTube video

Closing Thoughts

Having a somatic yoga practice is like having your cake and eating it too. The benefits of somatic movement and a somatic yoga practice can range from improving posture, relieving neuromuscular pain and headaches, to easing symptoms related to a frozen shoulder or depression. You’ll even feel like you’re getting a nervous system reset.

It’s not just about deep stretches, it’s about self sensing, really paying attention to the way your body feels and responding accordingly. You may often hear yoga teachers say in their yoga classes “do what feels good here”. This is your moment to add somatic movement. And the more you start paying attention to this mind-body connection the more you’ll relax and reap the rewards of this amazing yoga practice.

Next Steps

FREE Embodied Yoga Workshop (usually $67) Somatic Techniques & Cord Cutting Ritual