Doing yoga in a mindful way
There are so many different forms of yoga out there. Which one is the best for you – a more energetic Ashtanga, slow Hatha, mindful Kundalini, sweaty Bikram or stretchy Iyengar? Regardless of what style you choose it is important to do the exercises in a mindful way. Somatic yoga refers to the way in which you do the poses, not a particular style per se. By working somatically you access the yoga poses from the first-person awareness of your body sensations. This prevents stretching and pushing beyond your physical limits as you are mindful of what is in the remit of your body in each moment. The aim is not to get stronger and more flexible but to gain more awareness of one’s body in the process of moving mindfully, which can be learnt more about at Mindinsoma.org. The yoga poses are just there to help have some exercises and a framework from which you can practice this mindfulness from.
Basic somatic yoga sequence
These 5 somatic yoga poses can be done as a complete short sequence to increase awareness or as a start to your normal yoga practice to help become somatically present to yourself:
- Constructive rest: Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet planted on the floor, arms comfortably out to the side. Close your eyes and begin to release any tension held in your legs, shoulders and back to the ground. Breathe deeply and allow it to support your relaxation. Notice how your lower back makes more and more contact with the ground as you do so.
- Stretch your arms out to each side in a T shape. As you breathe out roll your bent knees to one side as you roll your head in the opposite direction. To add an additional stretch twist your arm on the side of your legs downward and the opposite arm upwards. Repeat on the other side and do this another 3-4 times on each side.
- Remain lying on your back with your legs stretched out. Bring them in together so that the soles of the feet meet and place your hands on you lower belly. Allow your knees to lower to each side and feel the stretch in your inner thighs. If you want to come up to sitting and repeat this stretch this time taking hold of your feet and folding forward as you breath out.
- Sit with you legs extended straight in front of you. Breathe in and reach your arms up to the sky before folding forward to grab hold of the soles of your feet (or your ankles). Stay here for 5 deep breaths, feeling the deepening of the stretch with each exhalation.
- Make your way up to standing slowly raising your hands up towards the sky from the standing forward fold position. Reach upwards from the feet whilst feeling an opposite force rooting you towards the ground. Bring your hands together and lower them to your chest. Breath for a few moments in this mountain pose.