Asked Questions

Gentle Somatic Yoga FAQs

What is "Somatics"?

The “Somatic” portion of the name “Gentle Somatic Yoga” has its origins in Hanna Somatic Education, as developed by Thomas Hanna. Thomas Hanna coined the term Somatics as “experiencing the body from the inside out”. In other words, self-sensing from a first person perspective, as opposed to a third person perspective found in the traditional western science model. 

Hanna Somatic Education engages the Soma (Whole Self) in a manner that assists it with unwinding from deep patterns of holding stress and pain within the body. Specifically, Somatics goes to the root cause of muscular pain by repatterning the brain-to-muscle connection. The result is freedom of movement and complete restoration from head to toe.

What are the benefits of Gentle Somatic Yoga?

Practicing Gentle Somatic Yoga can bring:

  • Freedom from bodily pain, head to toe
  • Dramatic increase in flexibility
  • More resilience and ability for self-healing
  • Increased mental clarity and focused thinking
  • Improved reaction time and coordination
  • Reduced fatigue and improved sleep
  • Reduced symptoms of physical and mental stress
  • Happiness and peace of mind
What is the difference between traditional Hatha Yoga and Gentle Somatic Yoga

The main difference between traditional Hatha Yoga and Gentle Somatic Yoga (GSY) is that in GSY our main intention is to not stretch a muscle. Instead, in GSY we intend to reprogram and strengthen the brain-to-muscle connection. We accomplish this through a technique called pandiculation.

Why do we do this in GSY? Because most often the root cause of muscular pain (Sensory Motor Amnesia) is found in the brain, therefore the Somatic Movement Flows (corrective therapeutic exercises) in GSY repattern muscles from this level. 

When you stretch, you create tension through applied force to lengthen a group of muscles, placing stress on the surrounding connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, etc.). Science is now proving that the muscles don’t particularly like to be stretched as a means of correcting pain and postural imbalances.

When you pandiculate a muscle, you alternate between mindful muscular engagement, then slow disengagement, followed by returning to a neutral position. The technique of pandiculation resets a muscle group, from the level of the sensory and motor cortexes of the brain, to its optimal length in a resting state. The immediate effect and lasting results includes dramatic increase in flexibility, mobility, coordination, and peace of mind.

What are Somatic Movement Flows?

Somatic Movement Flows®  are therapeutic corrective exercises, arranged in a particular sequence, with a specific anatomical focus in mind. SMFs are designed to erase the cause of chronic pain and tension (Sensory Motor Amnesia) and empower the brain-to-muscle connection.

Somatic Movement Flows are a synthesis of traditional hatha yoga postures, Hanna Somatic Education movements, Core Energetic exercises, meditation, and visualizations inspired from quantum mechanics.

How often should I practice?

If you are practicing Gentle Somatic Yoga to maintain freedom and flexibility, we recommend practicing Somatic Movement Flows several times a week. These Flows are available as: on-demand though GSY’s Vimeo Page; hard-copy DVD sets; and, hard-copy as well as eBook versions of the GSY Encyclopedia (outlining step-by-step instructions). See the Store Page for more details.

If you are recovering from pain or injury it may be sufficient to perform Somatic Movement Flows with specific anatomical focus once a day for one month or so. It is recommended to consult your physician or health care provider before starting a new exercise routine.

The benefits of Gentle Somatic Yoga are cumulative. Each time you practice the Flows, you will be reinforcing the new neuropathways that will bring you out of pain and into greater freedom of movement. Even if you practice occasionally, you will notice improvement.

What is Sensory Motor Amnesia?

Sensory Motor Amnesia is the root cause of most chronic musclar pain. It is when the brain has lost the ability to relax tight, contracted muscles that are in effect functioning on “cruise control”.

With Sensory Motor Amnesia the brain, which controls the muscles, forgets how to relax our tight muscles. When the brain forgets how to engage the muscles, it also forgets which muscles are even involved in the pain. The muscles stay contracted and we feel muscular pain even when we think we are “relaxing”.

The sensory and motor cortexes are the aspects of the body’s nervous system (brain and nerves) that instruct your muscles on how to function. For example, the sensorimotor system informs you on how to ride a bicycle, play a musical instrument, and how to rebalance yourself when you’re about to fall. Your brain receives information from your environment in the form of sensory input, and sends motor information to the muscles telling them how to move.

How do you reverse Amnesia? Through practices like Gentle Somatic Yoga, you can retrain the brain to notice (sensory) how to move – or not move.   From here you can make the decision to mindfully contact chronically tight or contracted/frozen muscles and instruct them about how to release or “unwind” (motor). We do this through practicing therapeutic corrective exercises called Somatic Movement Flows. Through slow and mindful movement, your pain and stiffness can be erased and new neuropathways in the brain will keep it this way.

What is pandiculation?

Pandiculation is the science and main technique used in Gentle Somatic Yoga to erase Sensory Motor Amnesia. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, pandiculation is “a stretching and stiffening especially of the trunk and extremities, as when fatigued and drowsy or after waking from sleep.” Think of a yawn, or the movements you make upon waking, or even the way our pets move and stretch their bodies. In Gentle Somatic Yoga, pandiculation is the intentional and mindful contraction (engagement) of muscle groups, followed by a slow disengagement of the muscular contraction, and then ending the movement with no muscular effort (full relaxation, or neutral).

    What is the difference between pandiculation and stretching?

    When you stretch, you create tension through applied force to lengthen a muscle or group of muscles, placing stress on the surrounding connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, etc.) Whereas, when you pandiculate a muscle, you alternate muscular engagement with relaxation to release muscular tension. The explorations within the Somatic Movement Flows help to permanently reverse chronic pain and postural misalignments. The immediate effect is increased flexibility, mobility, and coordination.

    What is the primary intent behind Gentle Somatic Yoga?

    Freedom on every level! The more voluntary choices we have in our bodies, the freer we are. The freer we are, the more we can manifest our dreams and desires. The more we create, the more passionate we become. This all leads to an enlightened state of supreme quality of life filled with joy, peace, and contentment.

    According to author and spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle, “The word enlightenment conjures up the idea of some superhuman accomplishment, and the ego likes to keep it that way, but it is simply your natural state of felt Oneness with Being [the definition of yoga is union]. It is a state of connectedness with something immeasurable and indestructible, something that, almost paradoxically, is essentially you and yet is much greater than you. It is finding your true nature beyond name and form.”

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