Yoga and the Somatic Experience Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 2

What is Somatic Movement?

15 min - Talk


Somatic practices are about feeling and being with the body. Suniti shares a talk on somatic movement, inquiry, and how somatics relates to the yoga practice.
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Oct 27, 2019
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The word soma means body or of the body and that in and of itself is a big idea. I mean what is body? Body is way more than any of us think it is. It is vast and mysterious. A lot of what we know about the body has come to us through studying dead bodies.

So what is this living body? And of course in my own experience I've stepped into my body more and more and more. My body isn't just here but my body is in dialogue. So that's where the element work comes in. My body is here drinking this water, part of this water, part of this air.

My body is the earth. So yeah so that in and of itself it's like whoa soma what is body? And we could just be in that question. Sematic practices guide us into knowing what the body knows of itself. So yoga asana is a somatic practice but oftentimes it's practice in a way that it doesn't actually guide us to knowing more of ourselves.

It's more of a doing practice where we're moving through a variety of shapes but actually not getting to know ourselves very much. So somatic practices are about feeling and being with the body. And I actually think about it in a couple different ways. So one is proprioception. So knowing where our body is in space.

And we've all had like a momentary like hiccup in that or loss of that when some part of our bodies fall in the sleep. So like if your foot is asleep and you can't tell where your body is in space. Or if you're really flexible your arm can be out in space but you actually don't have a sense of where it is. So proprioception, knowing where your body is in space. And then kinesthesia, so knowing your body in movement which is basically like knowing you're alive, feeling life, knowing life.

And then in somatic practices I also kind of think of it happening in three different layers and they dance around each other. That one layer is more the gross layer. And it's feeling hand, feeling legs, feeling your head, just feeling your body. And then your experience of the soma can get more and more subtle. So feeling underneath your skin.

Feeling bones. Feeling three layers of bones. Feeling joints. It becomes more and more subtle. And you can see even I'm getting a little bit slower and a little bit more dropped in and a little bit more curious.

And then there's this essential quality that arises from somatic practices. And that's this essential nature of feeling the body in present time with no distance. It's like the koan level or the mysterious level of feeling like there's nothing to grab or nothing to hold because it's all movement. And we hear this in so many ancient teachings. It's like we're putting our hand through a cloud.

It's just movement. It's just change or putting your hand in a stream. So there's this essential quality which is boundless and mysterious. Yeah, so somatic practices bring us to that. Quite beautiful.

Inquiry is about being in the question and not having the answers. When we already know, we close the door to finding out new things. We close the door to discovery. So somatic inquiry is being in the question or being in the not knowing. As an artist, I ask questions.

I look at the world and I ask questions. And I enjoy being in the question. I prefer being in the question rather than having a definitive answer. There's aliveness in the question. We could call the felt sense our sixth sense.

It's the sense that brings us into what the body knows. The felt sense is part of our proprioception, knowing where our body is in space. And our felt sense also feels our body alive. So it feels our body in movement. I always think how different our world would be if we were taught this sense as children.

That we would actually be staying with the sensations of the body and staying with our experience and giving it as much weight as hearing, seeing, tasting, touching, but to feel what the body feels in space and alive. Being able to feel very deeply into the body is very mysterious. And in my experience, it is never what I think it's going to be. I recently asked one of my teachers to teach a class on the embryological development of the midline. And I had this idea that it would be very stabilizing and strong and I would be able to feel my midline.

And as we were studying the work, it's all fluid and it's all movement and it's changing constantly. And I was swimming in a sea. It reminds me a bit of dropping down underneath the waves of the ocean and being carried in a current that is new and fresh and surprising and never what we think it is. Being in the body deeply feels full of potential and full of possibility. I think a lot of times when we're outside of the body, there can almost be a hardening around a story or an idea, an identity.

And when we drop into the body, into mystery, it's like the view gets so wide and anything is possible and anything can arise from that space and anything can fall away from that space. Our practices are a way into present time experience. We enter into our life without any distance. And I think that there's a habit to be in our life with a little distance. It's almost like we're observing our lives from outside of ourselves or learning about ourselves by looking at ourselves in the mirror rather than knowing ourselves from the inside right here, no distance.

And it is a really beautiful way to be in a relationship. There isn't any reaching, striving, trying to like connect way out here and there also isn't a lot of holding back. It's just right here, present time sensation, no distance. So the body is always sensing and in different ways we, I mean for different people at different times this isn't true for everyone but I guess I could speak for myself in saying that there have been different times in my life where I've turned my sensing volume down. And when we engage with the body in somatic practices, it turns the volume up.

So we sense, it's not like we're sensing more, it's just that we're feeling more. And the body's always sensing and there's this appetite of the skin to touch and to be touched. There's an appetite of the skin to drink in the sun. There's an appetite to breathe. So feeling, sensing, or maybe I would say being in somatic practices turns up the volume of sensing.

I feel so excited that this course is available like this. I don't know a lot of places where you can find a course like this which guides people towards discovering their own bodies and there's a creativity involved in this practice that makes me so excited. I also feel really excited about the homework and feeling how yoga is about being with the night sky, is about looking at things that you're not looking at. I feel like my own yoga practice is so much about being in the world. And I know that is said a lot in different ways and can feel kind of like a cliche, but it's so powerful to actually be showing up for your life in your own creative way as the unique, powerful, beautiful human that you are.

I have a question about what does it mean to be human? How are we being human? Knowing that how we're being human is actually not sustainable. We need to find a new way to cultivate creativity in this world so that we are looking at what's happening being really, truly in our life, showing up for each other in relationship. And it happens in these formal practices.

It's like an incredibly beautiful place to show up for ourselves and to learn how to be with our sensations and to learn how to cultivate this personal agency and creativity that of course then shows up and what kind of work we're doing, how we're showing up for our children. It echoes out in such a profound way. We all have a different feeling around what yoga is for us and how yoga is showing up in our life. For me, yoga is intimacy, yoga is about being close to this, this moment right here, whether it's sitting here near the ocean, talking, or whether it's being home with my family. It's how am I showing up for my life and being really close, not somewhere else, not wishing for something else, but right here in whatever is arising.

Can I be with the material of my life? And that's yoga. In our asana practice, it guides us towards being here in present time, knowing ourselves, being ourselves, showing up wholeheartedly for our practice.


Kate M
7 people like this.
Oh my gosh. What you're describing -  is yoga - union with all that is - with complete clarity of awareness. What the great sages also describe in many ways. Your voice is so authentic, and what you say obviously comes through lived experience. I'm very excited about this course.
5 people like this.
Kate, I am so glad this resonated with you. Isn’t amazing, what the great sages described lives in your body!  I look forward to practicing with you in this course! 
Rachel S
4 people like this.
Wow! I can't believe this is online! Yahoo! Thank you, and I can't wait to begin this course!
Catherine D
I am going to love this course  and am yet to begin.. I loved your talk 
Catherine wonderful! Glad you found this course! 
Andreina V
1 person likes this.
Beautiful!!! Listening to you was like a guided meditation, beautifully inspiring guided meditation. Thank you for sharing. 
Jennifer F
1 person likes this.
Wonderful! I'm so excited by this. I just watched the first episode. I can't wait to practice. Thank you!
Seyi A
2 people like this.
That was such a beautiful talk. Thank you so much!
Jennifer wonderful! I hope you enjoy the practices! 
Rebecca M
2 people like this.
This is amazing. You put words to a process I have difficulty describing but totally practice and teach. Is it ok if I quote some of this to my students?
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