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How Somatic Yoga Helps Release Trauma In The Body


By: Sarah Reid

Clinical Mental Health Intern


Grab Your Mats!


After my mom passed away, while living in Los Angeles, I decided to take a hot yoga class. I was unsure about yoga, let alone in a 90-degree room, but the class I chose was 90 minutes of basically stretching. Not too bad, I thought. Wrong! During pigeon pose—a low lunge position where one leg is moved forward and the other leg back—I unexpectedly began crying. Let me rephrase I began bawling, and I did not stop for the remainder of the class. Thank goodness that yoga room was dark, and my sweaty hot tears were not recognizable. After the class, I approached the yoga instructor and asked, “What gives with the waterworks?” He laughed and told me, “Oh, you released the baggage.” He explained that women especially carry a lot of tension and trauma in their hips, and pigeon pose, being a hip opener, helps in relaxing and “letting go” of the built-up tension. I quickly learned that what I was practicing was somatic yoga.

What is Somatic Yoga?


Somatic yoga is a practice that combines slow, mindful movements with a focus on releasing specific muscle tension. This approach encourages practitioners to tune into their bodies and become aware of how their movements and postures affect their overall well-being.


Throughout our lives, we tend to store trauma, negative past experiences, emotions, breakups, low self-esteem, poor choices, and negative thinking in our bodies. This is often reflected in our physical disposition. For trauma survivors, these tensions are most found in the core of the body. Holding onto trauma for extended periods can affect not only our physical health but also our ability to function, cope, and even sleep. The old saying “Stress can kill you” holds true when considering how storing trauma impacts the body.


Benefits of Somatic Yoga


Incorporating somatic yoga into one’s lifestyle can lead to numerous benefits, including:


  • Reduced Physical and Psychological Pain: By releasing tension and stress stored in the body, somatic yoga can alleviate chronic pain and emotional distress.


  • Decreased Stress: The mindful movements and breathwork help calm the nervous system, reducing overall stress levels.


  • Improved Concentration and Sleep: As the body relaxes and releases tension, cognitive functions such as concentration and sleep quality improve.


  • Increased Hope and Sense of Self: Engaging in somatic yoga can enhance one’s mood and foster a greater sense of self-awareness and confidence.



How to Practice Somatic Yoga


Practicing somatic yoga can be a deeply personal and transformative experience. Here are a few tips to get started:


  • Find a Quiet Space: Choose a calm, quiet environment where you can focus without distractions.


  • Begin with Breath Awareness: Start by taking a few minutes to focus on your breath. Notice the natural rhythm of your inhalation and exhalation.


  • Explore Gentle Movements: Introduce gentle, exploratory movements. Pay attention to how each movement feels, adjusting to stay within a comfortable range.


  • Stay Mindful: Throughout the practice, maintain a sense of mindfulness and curiosity. Listen to your body and honor its signals.


  • End with Relaxation: Conclude your practice with a few moments of relaxation, allowing your body and mind to absorb the benefits of the practice.


The Bottom Line


Somatic yoga offers a gentle yet powerful approach to wellness, encouraging a harmonious connection between mind, body, and breath. By embracing this practice, individuals can experience profound healing, increased awareness, and a deeper sense of well-being. Whether you are new to yoga or a seasoned practitioner, somatic yoga provides a nurturing space to explore and enhance your relationship with your body.


*By integrating the principles of somatic yoga into your life, you can embark on a journey towards holistic health and well-being, discovering the profound wisdom that resides within your own body.


References

  • Eddy, Martha. "Somatic Practices and Dance: Global Influences." Journal of Dance & Somatic Practices, 2009.

  • Hanna, Thomas. Somatics: Reawakening The Mind's Control Of Movement, Flexibility, And Health. Da Capo Press, 2004.

  • Johnson, Don Hanlon. Body, Spirit, and Democracy. North Atlantic Books, 1994.



Written By: Sarah Reid

Clinical Mental Health Intern


To schedule a session with Sarah -- call (910)218-0006.

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