With so many different styles and practices of yoga out there, it can be tough to understand what each one means and whether it’s right for you. There’s Ashtanga Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Prana Yoga, and so on, among which is Soma Yoga.
Soma yoga is a blend of somatics and yoga. It’s a therapeutic and healing form of yoga that focuses on releasing tight, restricted muscles through neuromuscular retraining.
Sounds complicated? Don’t worry, we’ll break it down for you.
What Even Is Somatics?
To understand what Soma Yoga is, you should first know what somatics is all about.
First developed in 1970 by a philosopher called Thomas Hanna, somatics is a term that describes an alternative therapy that increases bodily awareness through relaxation and movement.
Essentially, the idea of somatics is that the more you work to connect your mind and body, the better you can observe your internal signals about imbalance, pain, and any other issues. Somatics teaches you to listen to your body.
When you have a keen awareness of your body and how it responds to positive and negative experiences, you can work more efficiently toward healing it.
Somatic therapy varies from country to country, but many practices are rooted in ancient techniques, such as qi gong, tai chi, aikido, pilates, and yoga.
What is Soma Yoga?
Soma Yoga is a hybrid of somatics and therapeutic practices with asanas mixed in. It’s not fast-paced or challenging to do. The focus is on healing rather than gaining strength or flexibility.
Let’s look at asana poses and therapeutic yoga in a bit more detail. That way, you can see how they can be successfully combined to create the unique practice of Soma Yoga.
What is Asana?
Asana, in its most basic form, is the practice of physical yoga poses and is what most people are referring to when they say “yoga.”
Asana is one of the eight “limbs” of yoga. And each limb refers to a unique principle that can help the practitioner gain a satisfying and healthy life. Each limb builds upon the one before and outlines the path yogis should follow to reach enlightenment.
Asana also incorporates pranayama (breathing regulation) and other elements, including meditation and self-observation.
If you ask, “How many asana poses are there?” you will get different answers from different teachers. The number differs depending on which version of asana you practice (there are many variations). However, traditionally there are 84 poses that include all the common poses we hear of constantly, such as downward facing dog, crow, Shavasana, child’s pose, etc.
What is Therapeutic Yoga?
Therapeutic yoga refers to the practice of yoga with the intention of healing. The healing can be for any issue, whether in mind, body, or spirit.
The practice combines gentle (asana) yoga poses, meditation, and pranayama specially tailored to the individual to address their problems. Sounds a bit like somatics, right?
Hopefully, you can see how asana, somatics, and therapeutic yoga are somewhat intertwined. Soma Yoga is a more refined version of everything these practices have in common.
What Happens During a Soma Yoga Class?
As you can imagine, a Soma yoga class is not a fast-paced, energetic activity involving challenging poses. Nor is it held in a boiling hot room such as Bikram Yoga or, more popularly, hot yoga.
Slow and steady is the name of the game for Soma Yoga, with the aim of reaching a deep state of relaxation and focus. Your teacher will ask you what you would like to focus on and will then guide you into the required position or pose.
Poses are held for a long time, sometimes up to twenty minutes. During this time, you will focus on your pranayama (breathwork), relax, and release all your muscles as you sink into the pose. This works to release all the tension in your muscles so you can find peace within the stillness.
Throughout the session, your nervous system is calmed, stress is released, and negative thoughts and energies are dispersed while you reconnect your mind with your body.
Sounds heavenly, right?
Who is Soma Yoga For?
Here’s the great news. Soma Yoga is for just about anybody. Even if you’re the least flexible person in town, you’ll still find great benefits in Soma Yoga.
If you don’t have any apparent ailments or issues you’d like to work on, Soma Yoga gives you a break from the chaos around you. And, let’s be honest, we all need a little vacation from life now and then.
What Are the Benefits of Soma Yoga?
Aside from just feeling pretty darn good after a session, Soma Yoga is particularly beneficial for the following:
- Releasing stress and tension
- Alleviating anxiety and depression
- Alleviating chronic pain
- Working through and releasing trauma
- Developing inner awareness and connecting the mind, body, and spirit
- Helping people overcome substance abuse as an addition to the standard psychiatric treatment (not a standalone treatment option)
Soma Yoga is beneficial to all, so if you’re on the fence about it, why not give it a go? Since it doesn’t include any complicated moves or require any strength or flexibility, you don’t run the risk of getting injured. In fact, it’ll likely do the opposite and make you feel better. And who doesn’t want that?