Somatics derives from a greek word ‘soma’ meaning body.
It is a modality within bodywork and movement field which bring emphasis on individual, interoceptive experience of the practitioner’s body, as perceived from within rather than focusing on external stimuli.
Somatic practice is a gentle form of exercise which is used to increase self-awareness through mindful movement and brings the practitioner into relationship with their own body. It has reflective and meditative quality and brings focus to how the movement feels inside the body connecting to the interoceptive sensing. During the practice the students are asked to move slowly although the practice can be as simple as lying on the ground and feeling the floor beneath the body. Moving slowly however can give an opportunity to deeply sense into the body. The student might be asked to bring their awareness to internal sensations or how the movement is initiated and to embrace the inner witness.
Often due to old injuries, trauma or unhelpful movement habits, certain parts of our bodies can forget how to relax because a connection between them and parts of our brain responsible for that movement can be lost. In a slow somatic practice the muscles are gently contracted and released to retrain the nervous system to let go of learnt patterns and allow the muscles to relax so that new patterns of movement can be created.
Benefits of practicing somatic movement include improvement in posture, flexibility and range of motion. It can also elevate feelings of anxiety and stress and also relieve chronic pain.
Restorative yoga is a nourishing and soothing style of practice. It is a passive, meditative, restful practice that calms the nervous system and allows to ease tension held in the body. The students are asked to take time to get comfortable in the poses. The restorative poses are held for longer than in a regular Yoga class, five or more minutes. The body of the student is supported by bolsters, blankets and blocks to allow full release of muscular tension and achieve more opening and softening as it relaxes into the shape of the pose. The idea is that the students allows themselves to ‘receive’ rather than to ‘do’ the pose.
The purpose of Restorative Yoga is to allow body and mind to heal through relaxation and rest, balance the nervous system and return the body to homeostasis. During the practice the heart rate slows down, the blood pressure lowers, the energies in the body are balanced and the mind becomes more peaceful.
The benefits of Restorative Yoga can be significant, and although it might look easy it also can be challenging for people with very busy minds. It is important to validate different experiences that the students can have during the practice and welcome also the uncomfortable parts and become aware and curious about them. In order to help the student with challenges arising in the body an mind, the students can be guided to bring their awareness to their breath, as an anchor for their minds, or sensations of the props and the floor against their body to keep the mind in the present moment.