somatic yoga for weight loss

Are you struggling with your weight loss goals? Like no matter what you try there are still a few stubborn pounds that just won’t give? Or you’re seeing the changes in your body composition everywhere except your belly but don’t understand why.

Weight loss can be a very individualized and complex formula. There are many factors that play into it. If you feel like you’re leading a healthy lifestyle but still aren’t seeing results there might be one piece of the puzzle missing…somatic exercise. 

That’s right, there is somatic yoga for weight loss. Somatic exercises can address certain factors in your life to allow you to finally shed pounds you thought would never go away.

What Is Somatic Yoga?

The purpose of somatic yoga is to use your internal experience, creating intentional movements, in order to restore balance to your entire body. Somatic yoga offers the ability to turn off the thinking mind and activate your innate primal healing capacity. This is the main difference between somatic yoga and traditional yoga. 

Traditional yoga sees your body as an obstacle to overcome. It uses asana and meditation to try and calm and tame the mind. When doing somatic yoga you bypass the mind completely and focus on felt sensation. You break free of the traditional repetitive movements you might find in a regular yoga class in favor of non linear body movement. Movements you find in nature like spirals, shakes, and undulations.

Although somatic awareness is not a new concept, somatic healing is a fairly modern practice with many benefits. Now, you’re probably wondering how on earth this can help you with your weight loss goals?

Somatic Movement And Weight

somatic movement for weight loss

If you are looking for a holistic approach to shed pounds, adding the benefits of somatic movement and somatic therapy into your practice can help. Keep in mind there are many factors that can play into weight. So, although somatic exercise can be a great holistic approach to weight management, this practice alone might not get you to your weight loss goals. Yes there are physical benefits to increasing body awareness and there are ways somatic exercises can assist your weight loss journey. However, you should check with your doctor on your overall health and what your unique body may need. Working with a somatic educator is a great way to get a personalized plan for losing weight too.

So, how does somatic exercise help? Incorporating somatic exercises and somatic release aids weight loss by: 

Improving sleep – as you regulate your system more you’ll notice you are better able to relax and get better quality sleep. Because your body knows how to tap into your rest and digest system more easily. Better quality sleep leads to better physical function and mental well being.

Relieving pain and physical tension – somatic workouts often include tuning into your bodily sensations and moving in ways that are nourishing to you. This is great for nervous system regulation and can greatly reduce tension, relieve tight muscles, and reduce chronic pain.

Reducing stress – somatic exercise activates the parasympathetic nervous system. Leading to better stress management and hormone regulation. Hormone imbalance can often prevent you from maintaining a healthy weight.

Healing trauma – somatic movement allows you to safely process trauma letting it to move through your body to promote healing.

Increasing emotional regulation – when you become better at recognizing your physical cues of becoming dysregulated you get better at self regulation. Thus improving your emotional well being and your emotional resiliency.

Creating greater bodily awareness – mindful movements give you a deeper understanding of everything – including how you’re fueling your body, move your body, and what your body might need.

If you’re confused on how these benefits play into weight loss it’s actually pretty simple. It’s because stress, trauma and pain can all play a role in weight gain. 

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Stress On Weight

It’s common knowledge these days that excessive stress can lead to weight gain. This is due to cortisol’s effect on food cravings, eating behaviors, and sleep patterns. Chronic stress disconnects you from your body leading you to overeat and seek out comfort foods like high calorie, sugary snacks or ultra-processed foods. As your calorie intake and intake of high inflammatory foods goes up so does your weight.

Pain On Weight

Being overweight and chronic pain often seem to coexist. Being overweight can lead to pain, but sometimes being in pain can also lead to weight gain. Pain and mobility issues may lead you to be less active/lead a sedentary lifestyle. When you are less active you aren’t using as many calories day to day. And if your caloric intake remains the same, or in some cases increases due to frustration with the pain, this can lead to weight gain. 

Trauma On Weight

Yes, stress can contribute to weight gain, but did you know that physical and emotional trauma can increase your chances of obesity? That’s right, studies have shown, traumatic experiences, whether they stemmed from childhood trauma, chronic stressors or an experience as an adult can contribute to weight gain for one of two reasons: 1. Similar to stress it leads to excessive emotional eating and 2. Trauma can lead to other psychological difficulties that contribute to weight gain.

By addressing and healing these aspects of your life the way somatic experiencing does, you not only release tension but perhaps unwanted weight your body has been storing as well.

Best Somatic Yoga Exercises For Weight Loss

Without safety no healing can occur. Therefore one of the biggest aims when choosing somatic movements for weight loss is finding moves that have you feeling relaxed and safe. It’s that feeling of safety that is going to allow you to connect deeply and release what’s built up in your body.

Somatic exercise for weight loss can also be a form of aerobic exercise. Research suggests that aerobic exercise can actually be more beneficial in weight loss than other forms of exercise. Some of the best somatic exercises for weight loss include:

Constructive Rest

Instructions:

  • Get yourself into the most comfortable position possible. Like you would in restorative yoga
  • Relax deeply and let your body melt into the ground.
  • Add in the somatic practice of body scanning. This is where you check in with all parts of your body, starting from the head and moving down. Try to notice what sensations you feel. Where in your body feels tight with tension, or where it feels relaxed and good. 

Constructive rest connects you to your body, triggers the parasympathetic nervous system and starts regulating hormones like cortisol that might be causing stubborn belly fat. Yoga Nidra is also an amazing practice for constructive rest.

Intuitive Movement/Dance Incorporating Yoga

Instructions:

YouTube video

Dance is a great way to incorporate somatic movement/intuitive exercise into your routine getting you connected to your body quickly and deeply. Since somatics means “of the body” it makes it the perfect somatic yoga movement practice. It’s also a great method to release some of that feminine rage a lot of women may be harboring.

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Forward Fold with Undulations

forward fold with undulation
forward fold hands on knees

Instructions:

  • From standing or seated, start with a tall spine and hinge forward from the hips into your fold
  • Gently, one vertebrae at a time, start to roll up. You’ll round lower, mid, then upper back until you rise.
  • Lead with the chin and chest arching the back in a cow shape to roll back down.
  • Support yourself with your hands and move back and forth fluidly with the breath.

When you undulate you are moving in wavelike motions. Wave and spiral motions are soothing to the nervous system. Again, helping to regulate those stress hormones. You can do undulations in any type of fold, from prasarita to child’s pose.

Self massage

self massage

Instructions:

  • From easy seat sit tall and take a deep cleansing breath
  • Take your hands and start massaging your feet. Touch the toes, the arches, the heels.
  • Move up the calves, legs, belly. All the way until you are massaging your scalp

Incorporate touch and massage into any pose to help increase your interoception, your mind body connection. This will make it easier for you to recognize your body’s cues. Like are you actually hungry or do you maybe need a nap? Self massage is a major theme of my fascial fitness series.

Asymmetrical Cat/Cow

Instructions:

  • Come to hands and knees, wrists under shoulder, knees under hips
  • Move one hand and one knee forward an inch or two
  • Inhale, lead with your chin as you drop the belly and draw the shoulder blades down the back for your cow
  • Exhale as you draw the tailbone down between the knees and push the floor away to round into your cat
  • Explore between these movements. Make it a rainbow cat or lean into the hips. There are great examples of this inside the Uplifted membership

Adding in asymmetrical movements is a simple way to make your practice more somatic. It creates a greater awareness of your body, its cues/movements and helps improve balance and stability. Just like the self massage improves the interoceptive system, these movements will improve your proprioceptive system.

Closing Thoughts

Weight is a concern for a lot of people. But I just want to offer that how you feel is more important than the number on the scale. And as a yoga teacher I know you want your students to feel their best too. My Somatic Yoga Training Certification will not only give you the tools to feel great about yourself but teach you how to guide your students to feel their best too. Through the combination of yoga and somatic movement you’ll discover a beautiful new path forward. Can’t wait to see you there!

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