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The Intersection of Yoga and Somatic Practices at Mary Borton Movement




Over the past few years, as I've incorporated more somatic language and processes into my teaching, I have refrained from using the term "somatic yoga" as a label for my offerings since I infuse multiple approaches into my movement classes. As somatics becomes a term used more broadly in the modern yoga and movement world, I get asked often about what it means. I've recently named my courses at The Therapy Collaborative "Somatic Yoga Explorations" to differentiate from the styles of teaching that I offer in large group settings and other yoga education programs. 


This interpretation and explanation of somatics apply to my understanding and use of somatic education offered in classes and personalized guidance sessions. I've had the privilege of studying with master teachers such as Elizabeth Silas, Lisa Clark-Emodiyoga®, and with Liz Koch-Coreawareness® and continue to integrate their wisdom and practices into my own experience and teaching. You may hear multiple definitions of "somatics"; as the process evolves the definitions continue to change and grow. Here is what I understand, practice, integrate and share these days. 


What is Somatic Yoga?

To fully understand somatic Yoga, we must first understand the general definitions of "somatics" and “yoga”, which seem similar in many ways.  Somatics means "of the body" and is about body-mind integration. It shifts our awareness from our thinking/reacting mind telling the body what to do, to body-based awareness for body-mind integration and responsiveness.

Yoga at its root, means "to unite." It too is a process of mind-body integration. We learn through the history of yoga that "yoga" began thousands of years ago as a spiritual practice. Over many years and across many continents, yoga has evolved into many things, primarily we think of yoga as a body-based practice. Most modern approaches offer yoga as an exercise or movement practice to reduce stress and promote well-being, which can certainly be beneficial. The benefits of both of yoga and somatics are widely accepted as modalities for wholeness and healing. 


Somatic Yoga combines the principles of body-mind integration within the context of yoga postures and philosophy. It is designed to help you become more embodiedor led by how you feel in your body—by relying on slow movements and minimal alignment cues. This approach includes sensing the whole body and its essential systems, such as musculoskeletal, respiratory, and circulatory systems, as well as more subtle systems of organs and endocrine systems, to understand and organize our bodily experiences. It can help you understand how you experience yourself and your life more wholly and fully. 


How it works: Our bodies (and minds) can become tight or restricted or feel unorganized and disconnected due to developmental interruptions, habitual patterns, emotional stress, injuries, or trauma. Small, slow, and gentle movements help re-inform the body, encourage the brain to relax, reset and regulate our nervous system and allow the body to move with more ease. Sensing and feeling the subtle cues, sensations, and impressions your body continuously provides gives you more awareness and information about yourself so that you can respond according to your intention. 

Somatic Yoga can soothe and restore an overtaxed nervous system, promote self-understanding and self-compassion, and help you step more fully and wholly into yourself and all you do in the world.

 

So, how is this different from other yoga practices? In my experience, it is challenging to separate somatic yoga from other forms of yoga because self-inquiry is part of the process of yoga and an integral part of how we experience somatic practices. I have been fortunate to be led and informed by teachers who included a somatic bodily understanding within each style and tradition of yoga or movement they shared. Many and various practices fall into the category of yoga, but it is challenging to speak in specific terms about "one" yoga. 

Many modern approaches and styles of Yoga have leaned towards a "fitness" approach, leaving out the aspect of self-inquiry. The reduction of Yoga to a type of exercise rather than a process for self-awareness and growth is the primary difference in what how Yoga can be perceived and expressed in many forms. However, there is no differentiation between mental, physical, emotional and spiritual "fitness" as part of the process of being more embodied. There are infinite doorways to the variety of styles and traditions of Yoga.


How are my offerings different and similar in style? The difference between the slow flow methods used mainly at Lincoln Center and the Somatic Yoga Explorations, primarily shared at my collaborative space, is that the LCC community yoga classes begin with somatic foundations, and progress with specific cues, attention to alignment, dynamic postures and an evenly paced, flowing, moving meditation which encourages intention, self-reflection and is offered to a larger group of participants, fostering a sense of community. These classes are based in slow flow styles with adaptations and modifications for most anyone.


Somatic Yoga Exploration classes are slow, experiential, explorative self-inquiries that stay close to the ground and offer a gentle, slow, restorative movement and stillness. These classes into a conversation with the body, responding to it's needs through movement and stillness.  The goal of a somatic approach to yoga is to create an advanced kinesthetic awareness in which you can feel interoception (the state of your body on the inside) and proprioception (a sense of where your body is in space), and you can find equilibrium between your internal and external experiences. You work within a comfortable range of motion where you feel stability and ease. Going inward, we focus on how the pose feels rather than how it looks- this brings body-mind integration.

These classes also provide individualized attention and guidance in a more intimate small group setting. 


All classes are based on self-inquiry, developmental, ground-up, and inside-out movement principles to meet individuals where they are, at all levels of abilities, with modifications and opportunities to learn, grow, and heal for all.


In addition, I offer all of these practices in one-to-one sessions for anyone who want a more personal approach, or has specific needs that can be addressed best with focused attention and care.



Please join me in practicing in various ways to learn more and benefit fully from all movement opportunities. 

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