Most Yoga therapists I know face all types of challenges from clients. Chronic pain, incomplete recovery from surgery, problems due to disease and high levels of stress keep raising. Many clients can’t even do the most basic yoga without exacerbating symptoms. As a yoga therapist and someone who has been helping with bodily structure and function since the 1980s, I am always looking for what brings more ease and recovery to the injuries and limitations clients come to me with.
In my practice, the combination of somatic movement with therapeutic yoga yields the fastest and most lasting results. So what is somatics and how does it complement Yoga Therapy?
Somatic movement can simply be defined as living from the experienced body versus the objectified body (Thomas Hanna). It’s about moving naturally by recovering innate inner movement intelligence that is intrinsic to human beings but often obscured by injuries, compensation, bad habits, trauma and even cultural ways of moving. Somatics allows for movement liberation of patterns we may not even realize we have. This changes our approach to asana bringing both more effortlessness and more support to the body and breath.
Somatic movement is about feeling your body internally to support external structure and movement. Instead of conforming to outside demands as to what movement “should” look like, this inner intelligence is directing the show. It has innate, inner movement intelligence that is often obscured by injuries, compensation, bad habits, trauma and even cultural ways of moving.
If we approach asana and pranayama with a blind eye to the many movement limitations we are expressing we may find chasing symptoms from one place in the body to another or creating new types of rigidity and strain in asana.
When one student of mine reached her arms up, as in Warrior 1, she literally lost her balance. This can happen if there is some distortion in the first few years of life that inhibited a natural and healthy reaching pattern. It can also happen later through shock, injury or trauma.
I could have taught her her to stabilize her legs and focus on core strength as she reached and she would have improved but we would not have gotten at a very core issue that was affecting her life way beyond Warrior I
Rather than adjusting her or using blocks and belts (something she did not want to do), I tickled her hands and pushed on them in a way that accessed her bodies innate body’s desire to reach. I made her want to grab toys from me! This is part of somatic movement therapy and it is FUN even as it helps develop strength, balance and resilience.
Overcoming the deficit in reaching that was undermining her ability to do Warrior I changed her relationship to reaching out generally. When she found she could get feedback into her body from reaching it automatically connected to her her ground and core. Her core strength increased. He legs and feet no longer faltered when reaching. She reached out with more confidence in social situations too. She found part of the language of being human in a body.