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Gentle Somatic Yoga for Beginners: How To Get Started

Gentle somatic yoga, often described as a healing and restorative practice, focuses on your internal experience of movement rather than external form or posture.

It’s especially beneficial if you’re new to yoga or looking to ease physical discomfort.

By practicing somatic yoga, you encourage your body to release tension and regain freedom of movement. It’s a great way to get both immediate and long-lasting relief, for both your physical and emotional aches and pains.

As a beginner, you’ll appreciate how this practice emphasizes gentle movements that are adapted to your body’s unique needs and capabilities.

Through a series of fluid exercises, you’ll learn to recognize and respond to the subtle signals your body sends, promoting self-healing and enhanced body awareness.

Gentle somatic yoga can be particularly effective if you’re dealing with chronic pain, looking to reduce stress, or even working through some past trauma.

The approach is accessible to all levels and requires no special equipment, making it easy to incorporate into your daily routine.

With movements done seated or lying down, these videos can guide you through the basics at your own pace, in the comfort of your home.

So let’s get started!

A woman practices somatic yoga by stretching on her mat in child's pose
somatic yoga exercises for beginners

Understanding Somatic Yoga

Somatic Yoga is a gentle and holistic approach that emphasizes internal physical perception and experience. It’s designed to help you release tension and improve mind-body connection.

Defining Somatic Yoga

Somatic yoga focuses on the soma, or the body as perceived from within. This form of yoga incorporates slow, mindful movements that allow you to explore the sensations in your body. It is not about performing poses perfectly but about feeling the subtle changes as you move.

The Philosophy Behind Somatic Yoga

The philosophy of somatic yoga is based on the principle that mindful awareness of the body can lead to profound healing and well-being. By tuning into your body’s wisdom, you can identify and release patterns of tension and stress.

Benefits for Beginners

For beginners, Somatic Yoga offers several benefits:

  • Increased body awareness: You become more attuned to subtle cues from your body.
  • Improved flexibility and mobility: Gradual movements help to reduce stiffness and increase range of motion.
  • Stress relief: The practice encourages a state of relaxation, which can reduce anxiety and promote mental clarity.

Preparation for Practice

Before diving into gentle somatic yoga, it’s important to set yourself up for success. Here’s how you can prepare effectively, making sure your experience is both enjoyable and beneficial for your body and mind.

peaceful room with a yoga mat and pillows
setting up your environment for somatic yoga

Setting Up Your Space

  • Choose a quiet, calming area with enough room to move freely.
  • Clear your space of any clutter to avoid distractions and make room for your yoga mat.

Choosing Your Equipment

  • Yoga Mat: A non-slip yoga mat is essential for stability.
  • Props: Have pillows or yoga blocks available for support during poses, if needed.

Warming Up for Somatic Yoga

  • Start with gentle neck rolls and shoulder shrugs to release tension.
  • Proceed with slow, mindful movements to gradually warm up your body.

Basic Somatic Yoga Movements

Embarking on your gentle somatic yoga journey helps you connect with your body’s internal sensations. This practice includes specific movements aimed at heightening bodily awareness and releasing tension. Let’s explore some foundational techniques.

Pandiculation Techniques

Pandiculation is a process of contracting and then slowly releasing muscles to reset muscle length and reduce tension. For beginners, an easy way to experience this is by:

  1. Tightening a muscle group, like your fists or shoulders.
  2. Holding the tension for a moment.
  3. Gently releasing the tension, noticing the sensations of relaxation.

Grounding and Centering

To ground and center your body, engage in exercises that promote a sense of stability and presence. A simple way to practice this is by:

  • Sitting or standing with feet flat on the ground.
  • Taking deep breaths and feeling your body’s weight anchoring you to the earth.

Releasing Muscle Tension

One effective technique for releasing muscle tension is through small, gentle movements that encourage muscles to relax. Begin by:

  • Lying down comfortably.
  • Slowly moving a limb or muscle group, like rotating your ankles or gently turning your head side to side.
  • Noticing areas releasing as tension dissipates.

By regularly practicing these basic somatic movements, you’re set to experience a deeper connection with your body’s natural rhythms and a reduction in physical stress.

Core Gentle Somatic Yoga Sequences

Gentle Somatic Yoga focuses on internal awareness and the mind-body connection. By practicing these core sequences, you can release tension and increase body mobility.

Spinal Movement Series

Your spine is crucial for overall body function and flexibility. Begin with a sequence that encourages the fluidity of spinal movements, such as the ‘Cat-Cow’ stretch, which warms up your spine. Focus on the sensation of each vertebra moving in harmony with your breath.

Hip Mobility Flow

Hips are often a storage place for stress and tension. Practicing hip-opening sequences can improve your range of motion and alleviate stiffness.

A simple and effective exercise is the ‘Standing One Leg Raised Pose Wall Hip Hike Exercise’, targeting the hip flexors and extensors for better mobility.

I’ve posted a video from one of my favorite YouTube yogis, Yoga with Adrienne. I also invite you to review my post, “5 Somatic Exercises for Hips,” which is all about using movement to release stored trauma in the hips.

Shoulder and Neck Relaxation

Tight shoulders and neck can lead to discomfort and reduced movement. Engage in sequences like the ‘Shoulder Circles’ to ease tension.

Make your movements gentle and deliberate, rotating your shoulders slowly to nurture relaxation and release in these areas.

Breathing and Mindfulness in Somatic Yoga

Understanding the link between your breath and movements is essential in somatic yoga. Your experience in this practice is deepened through mindful breathing which helps you cultivate a more profound sense of presence.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

This foundational technique involves deep abdominal breathing, which promotes relaxation and activates your parasympathetic nervous system. To practice:

  1. Lie down comfortably with your knees bent.
  2. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.
  3. Breathe in slowly through your nose, feeling your stomach rise while your chest remains relatively still.
  4. Exhale gently through your mouth, noticing your stomach lower.

Ocean Breath

Ocean breath, or Ujjayi Pranayama, creates a sound reminiscent of waves. This method:

  • Enhances concentration
  • Generates internal heat

Instructions:

  • Inhale deeply through your nose.
  • Constrict your throat as you breathe out through your nose, producing a soft “ha” sound.
  • Maintain a steady, rhythmic pattern.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

This technique, known as Nadi Shodhana, helps to balance the left and right hemispheres of your brain and calms your mind. Steps include:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight.
  2. Rest your left hand on your lap and use your right hand to gently close your right nostril.
  3. Inhale through your left nostril, then close it with your fingers.
  4. Open your right nostril and exhale slowly.
  5. Inhale through the right nostril, close it, and exhale through the left.
  6. Continue this alternating pattern for several rounds.

Establishing a Regular Practice

To fully enjoy the benefits of gentle somatic yoga, consistency is key. Discover how to make it part of your lifestyle with a routine that suits you and daily somatic awareness.

Creating a Somatic Yoga Routine

Begin by choosing a specific time of your day for practice, aiming for the same time each day to build a habit.

This could be in the morning to awaken the body or in the evening to release the day’s tension. Your somatic yoga home practice can serve as a structured guide.

Plan sessions that are realistic for your schedule, starting with shorter durations and gradually extending them as you grow more comfortable.

Design your practice space with minimal distractions and comfortable surroundings. The space need not be large but should be inviting and conducive to relaxation and movement.

Even practicing a 10-15 minute somatic yoga flow each day can make a big difference when done consistently.

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