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  • Writer's pictureAino

What is somatic movement?

Updated: Apr 29

What about somatic yoga? And isn’t all yoga somatic? 




If you are following anything in the wellness world right now, there is a great chance you have heard about somatic movement, somatic yoga or something else "somatic". And while it might first seem like just a new trendy word describing the same old things, that's not really the case, at least most of the time (of course someone might describe their classes "somatic" just for the sound of it, but that is other topic).


So I have been hearing a lot questions related to somatic movement recently, and I wanted to try and answer some of them, or at least to give my point of view. 





First, what does “somatic” mean? 

Soma, coming from ancient Greek, means “body”. So all somatic practices are focused on the body, and therefore using bottom to up -methods (body-first approach) in bodywork, movement and psychotherapy to treating things like stress, trauma or nervous system disregulation.


What is somatic movement then? 

This depends on a teacher, but if you go to a class just advertised as “somatic movement class”, it probably involves a mix of movements inspired from other practices (like yoga, martial arts, dance etc.), and the teacher has created their own sequences related to the theme of the class. And then there are specific somatic movement methods from different teachers, in which case the classes follow sequences and practices from that specific method. 


Isn’t all yoga somatic? 

Yes and no. In yoga, the purpose indeed is to be “in the body” and to cultivate deeper connection and awareness within oneself. But, at least in my experience, not all yoga classes fully encourage this kind of inner exploration. Somatic yoga is highlighting the somatic approach, to make it different from more fast-paced, technically challenging yoga classes, where the attention is easily shifted outside of oneself. When I teach somatic yoga, I avoid strict anatomical cues and encourage students to follow their own natural rhythm instead of making the whole group move together as one. 


So it is like yin yoga then? 

Not exactly, as Yin yoga is its own system based on some principles coming from Chinese medicine. Although in somatic yoga we often start very slowly, at some point we also want to add more active (Yang) quality to the movement - we don’t want to stay only in the Yin! 



What means somatic approach?

 I like to think movement in 3 different categories, just to make it simple. 


  1. Aesthetic approach: Movement which you are doing with focus on how it looks like, rather than how it feels like. The attention is outwards, you might check your posture on the mirror and probably follow strict anatomical guidelines like “place your foot on 45 degree angle”. Think about ballet for example.


  1.  Movement with focus on the results: Movement that you do with a specific result in your mind. This could be doing push ups, for example. You are not doing them because it feels particularly good at the moment, but you want to get stronger  upper body. Your attention is already in the future, and you are probably also thinking about your technique with great detail. 

  2. Movement with somatic approach: When you are doing the movement, you are fully concentrating on how the movement feels in your body, at the moment. Attention is inwards, deep in the body. You don’t care how the movement looks like or what results it will give you, you are fully in the experience of here and now. 


What makes somatic movement so special?

Somatic movement is very much related to neuroscience, and therefore part of an interesting field of study, which keeps bringing more scientific point of view into the things that in many movement practices the practitioners have always known to be true, but haven’t been able to explain it. For example, there is a lot of data that dance is one of the most (even the single most) efficient way of treating depression, and neuroscience and research in somatics is bringing to light the reasons why it is so efficient.


In somatic movement classes we are often working on themes like: releasing tension from the body, creating a good and safe feeling within yourself, getting reconnected with forgotten parts of your body, releasing and hydrating fascia, regulating nervous system, activating vagus nerve, fine-tuning your movements, increasing mobility and fluidity, practicing interoception and understanding how we store trauma or joy in the body. 


So, if you would attend a somatic yoga class, there is probably going to be less talk about the full moon, Hindu deities or manifestation techniques (not that there is anything wrong with any of this) and more talk about how your nervous system works, how to increase body awareness or what to do if you tend to go towards hypoarousal in stressful situations. It is very science-based approach to these movement practices that we know are healing, we just haven't always known how to really explain it.


And with this I hope I have answer some of the most popular questions related to somatic movement and somatic yoga. Did I forget something? Have you have any experiences with somatic movement or somatic yoga? Let me know what you think! 


Lot of light,


Aino


P.S. Are you interested to learn more and become an instructor with somatic approach?


Somatic Essentials online course starts May 6th, and it takes you to a journey of exploring somatic movement, nervous system regulation, understanding fascia and trauma-informed approach.










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