Written by Shanna Willie, Yoga North ISYI 200+ Hour Teacher Training Program Student
“Help me describe this style : SomaYoga”
After lots of discussion about what SomaYoga is, Carol asked Ann M to give a one sentence definition. Carol mentioned that she often struggles with describing it to family and friends and longed for a concise definition. Ann, after silently pondering it for a moment, said it was “Somatic muscle reeducation blended with functional movement to enjoy yoga/asana.”
Breaking it into pieces.
Hurray, a simplistic, easy to digest, definition. I too, like Carol, have struggled to explain what type of
yoga teacher training I’m taking. I usually start with a deconstruction. I start with what it’s not. “It’s not like ‘regular’ yoga. It’s not a million poses strung together with exhaustive movement. It’s not
performed in a competitive fashion…” And then I move on to trying to describe it. I always use words like “subtle, slow, intentional…” I end up describing how I view mental health therapy: a safe space to share experiences and receive feedback to reflect on your own actions and intentions. But I might be making all this stuff up. I realized I might be projecting and hoping that was what SomaYoga was. So, I decided to do an inquiry.
I started by tracking down Thomas Hanna’s definition. I found what I was looking for after a quick google search. “Hanna Somatic Education (trademarked) (also known as Hanna Somatics) is a rapidly effective form of neuromuscular (mind-body training) movement re-education that goes directly to the root cause of most chronic muscular pain: the brain and the way in which it senses and organizes the muscles and movement.” (This is only the first sentence of his definition.)
Wikipedia sums it up as, “Somatics is a field within bodywork and movement studies which emphasizes internal physical perception and experience.”
What’s your experience?
All these definitions are great and helpful, but I wanted to know what my peers thought. I wanted to
know how they describe or think about SomaYoga. I asked a few of my fellow 200 hour classmates to offer me their definitions off the top of their heads, extemporaneously; without looking it up. Here’s what they came up with:
Portia said SomaYoga was “a way back to knowing your body.”
Nicole, a 200 and 1000 hour student, said SomaYoga is “neuromuscular reeducation. Reeducating brain to muscle to body.”
Lori said SomaYoga was about “getting back to your breath and your movement, your functional
And Shay said that SomaYoga isn’t like traditional exercise, “you don’t have to break a sweat.”
SomaYoga could be more than you thought.
Yoga North’s definition of SomaYoga is a blend of six key points:
- Traditional Yogic Philosophy
- Traditional Yogic Meditation and Training of the Mind
- Modern Systems Theory Practice and Personal Development
- Traditional Pranayama or Breath work
- Classic Asana, Traditional Therapeutic Yoga and the Neuromuscular Re-Education of Somatics
These many definitions seem to confirm my beliefs about SomaYoga and they teach me that my
definition may also be narrow. Like life teaches us: there is always room for growth. Moving forward I’m sure to see my own definition of SomaYoga forever changing, expanding and contracting. Each definition incarnating itself to fit my audience, and the day, and the weather, and everything else. Just like we change in our poses day to day too. How fitting.
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This is informative and great descriptions of defining SomaYoga. I have read two books written by Thomas Hanna and found them both enlightening on this subject: “The Body of Life” and “Somatics”. In “The Body of Life” he writes “creating new pathways for sensory awareness and fluid movement” through neuromuscular re-education. In “Somatics”, he writes,”reawakening the mind’s control of movement, flexibility, and health”. Hanna, also describes the myth of aging causing degeneration. It is a fascinating read about aging with flexibility and mobility and NOT losing bodily function. So much hope for our soma…mind, body, and spirit.