Using the Mindfulness of Somatics in Yoga
“If you have mastery over your physical body, 15% – 20% of your life and destiny will be in your hands. If you have mastery over your mind, 50% – 60% of your life and destiny will be in your hands. If you have mastery over your very life energy, 100% of your life and destiny will be in your hands; every moment of your life can become self-determined.” ~ Sadhguru
Glide your shoulders gently up and back to help free restrictions there
Attend to the rotation of your spine, leading first with the head, then the low back on the return
Feel your hip open with slight pressure on your thigh
Tighten your quads to inhibit the hamstrings
Notice your quads, pelvis, sternum and throat as you lift
Release your spine, ribs and skull into gravity in increments
Increase ease in your back muscles by changing the position of your knees
Gently press your knees out with your elbows and release
Feel the connection of your head and neck with your low back
Alternate dropping your belly with lowering your spine
Alternate lifting your back with lifting your belly
Gradually drop your pelvis and spine towards the floor
Connect your quads to your pelvic floor and diaphragm
Gently slide one arm forward, then the other as you notice your sacrum
Lift and lower gradually to reset back muscles; start small and move smoothly
Notice what a slight rotation in your wrists feels like in your shoulders
Somatic Education has the potential of liberating the system of many layers and types of restrictions. Its principles can be applied to almost any other movement art or practice, as long as it’s done with conscious awareness. They have been traditionally incorporated in ancient practices like t’ai chi or chi kung where subtle sensing of every move in a very specific way was the underpinning of building energy, strength, and control. Yoga is another tradition that has built into it the development of postures that open the body’s innate intelligence and flow of energy through the channels that help determine one’s access to one’s broader, enhanced potential.
Done correctly with devotion, it can foster deeper awareness and awaken dormant energies that facilitate the path to union with one’s divine nature. Used for stretching, the postures are fantastic for opening up the ‘diaphragms’ and/or ‘kuas’ in our bodies where major blood vessels and nerve supply leave the core for the extremities. These major ‘intersections’ also house numerous lymphatic vessels that support detox and immune functions. As discussed in Volume 4, consciousness, thought, and energy are powerful sources of organizing communication that can have a tremendous effect on well-being of the body and its emotional imprints.
Sensory awareness is not new, but with its rediscover in the 1940’s and subsequent exportation to the Western world, numerous healings and enhanced performance of every kind have followed in its wake. Volume 5 of Somatic Intelligence™ describes in detail how to enhance and awaken sensory information during movement, but this page offers a primer on how to tune in. You can get a ‘sense’ of which areas in any posture or position that might be producing sensations which you’ll gradually begin to recognize and understand if you don’t already.
Whenever you try something new, there may be a sense of awkwardness accompanying each new request from your body, but the brain will be in rapt attention with enhanced firing and increased blood circulation to fulfill the desired outcome. Practice makes perfect! Stay with it as your body adjusts, whereby the sensations will change and neutralize. Try to find adjectives for those sensations so you can contrast them as they change.
You can start a dialogue with yourself and your body that identifies what you’re feeling. “This feels like….” and “Now it feels like….” You’re going for a sensation of lightness, transparency, openness, ease, weightless integration as your body begins to cooperate with gravity in its balanced relationship with itself and the surrounding field. You can start with you hands. Spread them wide and feel your knuckles – just the joints on each finger. Then compare the fingers and discern which knuckle on which finger carries the most sensation. It doesn’t have to be pain or soreness, we’re just looking for any recognizable sensation that distinguishes the knuckle from the skin or the muscle tissue. Now bend or rotate the finger with the most sensation and sense it again for any changes, however subtle they may be.
There are many ways to change the structure and function almost anywhere in your body by focusing awareness and listening to sensation. A key in this process is to notice 3-dimensional relationships in your body as you move or reposition yourself. There can be a restriction at one end of a fascial plane or line of force that has an impact on an area at the other end of your body. Restrictions around internal organs can also limit motion in the thorax, hips, shoulders and back, so when you’re sensing your extremities notice the interior core at the same time.
Using the Mindfulness of Somatics with Gym Workouts, Pilates, or Stretching
“The body is understood as the original musical instrument, the one through which everyone first realized music in both of its senses: apprehending and creating. Movements set up a circuit of information and response moving continuously between brain and body which, with training and experience, rise to ever higher levels of precision, coordination, and expressive power.” ~ Emile Jacques Dalcroze
Back pain is often connected to tension in the hips and legs, sometimes lats or psoas.
Posture has a tremendous effect on internal organs, neck, and back pain.
You can retrain your posture by sensing 'straight', then confirm in the mirror.
Tension in deltoids can be related to the brachialis, biceps, and thumb use.
Working both posterior and anterior deltoids along with the triceps can be significant.
Controlling light weights as your arms drop can open the chest and anterior deltoids.
Ease your way down, then straighten your elbows slowly, bend them again and lift gradually
Remember that sit-ups tighten the psoas and diaphragm, so lengthen them again afterwards
Tight quads can also compress the abdominal area and diaphragm and tilt the pelvis.
Stand tall with lifted chest and long spine when using weights, taking pressure from the knees also
Remember to stretch the external rotators (hips) and psoas after cycling, and avoid leaning onto your wrists
A slight contraction of your entire body lends great support and balance to push-ups.
Keeping the muscles between, on top of and behind the rib cage helps the neck, shoulders, lungs and heart
A slight contraction throughout your body helps prevent localized strain in this or any exercise position
End 'long' with eccentric contractions, working the muscle throughout its length
Somatics principles can be applied to sport stretching, gym workouts using machines and free weights, or any other type of exercise that lends itself to increasing safety, injury prevention, or performance enhancement. Working with equipment, if you add the concept of moving slowly and consciously, controlling the motion and making it as smooth as you can, you’ll be not only gaining strength throughout all of the fibers in any given muscle group, but you’ll also be recruiting and awakening them so they’re all on board to support the best execution of the motion. It’s best to end with a few reps of eccentric contraction so that you end ‘long’ rather than reinforcing a shortening of the muscle that adds tension to the connective tissue. Adding mindful control of your body during your workout provides many benefits:
- It wakes the muscles up and brings them on board consciously rather than in an unconscious pattern
- Being awake sensitizes them and you to alterations in tension, tone, alignment, ease of use and other telling sensations that help you to correct what you’re doing on the spot
- Being mindful during any workout increases exponentially your ability to understand your body and what helps it to flourish
- It insures that your body is learning healthy habits rather than reinforcing unhealthy ones
- You will be much less likely to overdo any particular exercise and risk hurting yourself
- The increased network of communication rolls over into everything else you do, making all of your physical life easier, like having a stronger signal on your cell phone meaning you can use it more often and in more places with ease
Being mindful of your posture throughout the day or even during half the day will help your body do its job much more efficiently and support the wakefulness you’ll gain by opening up lines of communication. Communication for the body happens within and between many systems, such as the nervous system, the circulatory system, the energetic pathways, brain frequencies, fluid systems, biochemical signals as well as thought and other more subtle means. All of these systems are able to function more freely when you maintain good posture.