Free Download! Creating Fluidity in Movement: The Healing Power of Somatic Yoga

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Donna Brooks

Donna Brooks is an ISMETA registered somatic movement educator and therapist and a certified Yoga therapist. She designs and teaches yoga-based therapeutic programs for diverse populations, especially baby boomers, the aging or injured, and people with chronic illness and chronic pain She has...

For people living with the chronic pain, strain, or even experiencing stressful times, it can be easy to lose sight of the world beyond tension and physical discomfort.

Stress and strain can have a narrowing effect on our focus, notes Donna Brooks, a Yoga Therapist and ISMETA registered Somatic Movement Educator and therapist. In this free download, Donna talks about how Somatic Yoga can offer a powerful path to healing by restoring fluidity and freedom in the extended mind-body.

We all have some degree of tension and restriction in the body. Wilhelm Reich, one of the founding psychologists, referred to it as our ‘body armor,’ i.e. that which holds us back from a full, free expression in mind and body, and hence in life.

What somatics can help us do is peel away layers of chronic strain and tension to allow the natural intelligence of the body to emerge and flourish, notes Donna.

Having a sense of fluidity in the body can make a difference for everyone. Particularly for people with chronic pain, Donna notes, it can make a world of difference. People in chronic pain often engage in protective movement patterns and may even be inhibited in their breath.

Finding fluidity creates a place of support for movement, as well as an allowance to move intuitively in a fully embodied way. When you find a freedom of expression of movement in your body, such as the flow of reaching out and moving back in, feeling the flow of it happening guides you into where you need to be in asana. This is what Brooks calls, “The delight of your body.”

Donna also describes her work with clients who live with serious conditions like chronic pain, MS, Parkinson’s and other pain-related conditions. To help them create a bigger picture, Brooks employs the practice of Somatic Yoga. “In some cases, it’s not that we can erase pain,” she says. “In some cases, it’s about really being able to have a broader experience of your body than just the pain.”

To understand the difference in approach between a traditional yoga class and a somatic approach, it’s helpful to consider somatics pioneer Thomas Hanna’s distinction between the experience body vs. the objectified body, Donna notes. An objective approach to a yoga pose might be to rotate the right foot at a 45-degree angle and the left at 90 degrees, toward a very directive and specific shape. A somatic approach instead encourages an exploration of the experience of moving into and out of the range of the pose, promoting an internal, interoceptive awareness of your body.

But giving up one kind of structural approach does not diminish the importance of structures in the body. Rather, it recognizes the multiple layers of structure in a three-dimensional body, another key component of the study of somatics. “In my experience, people often think of free and fluid as having no structure,” says Brooks. “And what my experience of that is instead is that there are a lot of different structures in our body. There are developmental movement patterns, there are flows of fluid, there are ways of organizing through the nerves. They all have a kind of rationale to them. There’s a truth of their experience.”

Looking at the different layers and levels can reveal habits and patterns that control us–an important aspect of helping to free the body and releasing tension patterns at the root of chronic pain. Says Brooks, “We have all these habits. … And when we can unwind these habits there’s a richer palette of movement potential. And as that movement potential arises, you just feel freer. And you find support from more places.”

Also, check out Donna's course, Freeing the Body to Heal Pain: Tapping Into Your Body's Wisdom with Somatic Yoga