What are the main differences between traditional yoga and Gentle Somatic Yoga?
1. Pandiculation Not Stretching…
The first and most obvious difference is that there’s no emphasis on stretching, which can seem strange at first! Instead, in Gentle Somatic Yoga, we pandiculate – which is a simple 3-step sequence: firstly engage the muscle or muscle group, slowly moving through your natural range of motion, then slowly disengage that muscle / muscle group, again to its natural range, and then pause, while completely releasing all muscular effort. We repeat this 3-step process around 3-5 times and in this short time we can experience profound changes to muscle tension and flexibility.
The reason for this immediate effect is because it’s our brain that controls our muscles, instructing them how to function. The pandiculation engages the nervous system to re-educate the brain, helping it to regain control of the muscle(s), also communicating that it’s safe to do so.
2. Sensory Motor Amnesia
Sensory Motor Amnesia is the root cause of most chronic muscular pain. The brain has lost the ability to relax certain muscles, resulting in tight, chronically-contracted, and often
weakened muscles. The brain has essentially forgotten how to coordinate a certain area, perhaps due to stress, injury, or habitual postural habits leading to overactive primitive
motor patterns (protective reflexes). We can’t fully relax or contract so we experience tension. Strength and performance are compromised & our wellbeing is also affected.
When we practice GSY we are actively seeking out these areas that we can’t sense or control fully – you may notice skipping, jerking or jumping or be unable to sense the area. By slowing down and performing small, subtle movements mindfully, giving full awareness and attention to the movement and the sensations you’re experiencing, you’re re-setting the brain-to-muscle connection – resulting in Sensory Motor Awakening.
This process is effectively re-writing brain ‘maps’ & improving movement patterns,
regaining control over muscles and movements. Brain maps are responsible for how we do everything – breathe, walk, drive, cycle, play an instrument, cook dinner, play sports etc.
We have a lot to map so if we aren’t using or sensing a part of our body then the brain map shrinks – this is a use it or lose it situation, but it is reversible!
The brain also loves to learn something new! As well as pandiculation, GSY involves fluid integration flows and includes complex movements and combinations that challenge the brain to develop new pathways. GSY not only helps regain what we have lost, but also enables us to improve, challenging the myth of aging. We are re-training the brain with incredible results in both the short and long term.
In Gentle Somatic Yoga we are wholly focussed on the inner experience – the definition of is experiencing your body from the first person perspective, as only you can!
There is no end-result from the outside, no pose to achieve, and in fact, you can even practice & get results when you cannot even move a certain area using pure visualisation!
This practice of deep self-awareness leads to self-correction & results in freedom on a physical level, but also on profound spiritual and emotional levels too. We erase pain and stiffness, regaining conscious control over movements and muscles with the restorative sequences, but in the process of slowing down and bringing our attention inwards we reconnect to enhanced levels of peace and wellbeing: nourishing, liberating and enhancing the vitality of the Soma (whole self).