Written by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan
SomaYoga Therapy works with all eight limbs of yoga, this article focuses on the asana part, which is one path inward. SomaYoga Therapy from the asana perspective is a blend of Somatics, Therapeutic Yoga and Classic Asana. This blending is used to get better function in a person’s soma, the Greek word for the living body, which Thomas Hanna re-defined as the body experienced from within, where we experience mind/body integration, something the Greek’s knew inherently not to separate by using separate words, and what Yoga aims to unify. By growing the function and ease of the soma, pain releases, as well as chronic contraction/habits that cause pathology or dis-ease in the soma, which allows free spontaneous movement.
The methodology of Somatics originates from Thomas Hanna in the 1980’s. It uses small curious movements, going further into the muscles that are chronically contracted to release them consciously with gravity to reeducate the muscles bringing them back to zero tonus. It is a neuromuscular reeducation of the soma moving habitual movements from the lower cortex into the frontal cortex of the brain to make the movements novel, new and conscious. Somatics restores greater mobility in a soma to release unconscious reflexes.
Therapeutic Yoga allows for a person to grow their awareness of functional movement, using specialized props to become more aware of planes of movement in their body. It addresses the peripheral muscles into the deep core muscles around their spine, shoulders and hips, using external props with the purpose to grow deep inner awareness. A person then becomes more aware of their front to back body, their right to left sidedness, top to bottom body, letting the whole of the mind rest in the body. It heightens awareness around a person’s growing consciousness with their reflexed habits that are contracting to cause them pain or disease, e.g., Are my ribs flaring when I breathe? If somatics brings mobility, therapeutic yoga brings that mobility into greater stability, which creates greater function.
Classic asana is what we begin to means where-by, step by stepping the exploration of an asana to explore the capacity of its expression in our soma. This exploration brings the person into greater, truer freedom, expression, movement and strength. We are somas that long for an expression. And to bring consciousness to these poses so that we may reap the benefits of this ancient science allows for a greater awareness to grow from our insides outward…allowing us to be more present in the moment and expressive from within.
Ideally, SomaYoga Therapy moves a soma from unconscious incompetence to conscious competency, to unconscious competency bringing ultimate freedom of the Soma. This Soma is supported by not only western medicine, but by growing awareness of their higher divine Self in bodily form. Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, allows our constitutions to be better supported by the intake of right energy, foods and herbs that strengthen us, stabilize our energies and allow us to move with more effortless ease in the world. Our doshas require a sensitivity to feeding them with whole foods, whole thoughts, and in harmony with the outside world, nature, and our interior world and nature. Western medicine is wonderful for emergency situations, or acute trauma, and sometimes it doesn’t address as well, the nuanced dance of the gunas–light and darkness mixing with movement to create spirit and form; our divine beings in human form. One might even make an infinity sign of western medicine passing through SomaYoga Therapy to Ayurveda science–being conscious somas will allow for greater discernment of what is needed in each moment to keep us whole, in our full potential and health as a divine human being taking the expansive journey inward.
AUM shanti, shanti!
Many of our teachers at Yoga North are trained in this therapeutic approach to Yoga and weave it into their classes and workshops as well as private sessions. We offer weekly classes, registration series, workshops, private sessions, intensives, and professional certification.