Discovering Consciousness Through Soma Yoga

Discovering Consciousness Through Soma Yoga

Yoga

Discovering Consciousness Through Soma Yoga
By Sage Johnson

When our modern lives stress our bodies, we react in a myriad of ways. For example, working long hours at a computer can cause slumped posture, which in turn results in neck and shoulder pain, TMJ, carpal tunnel and a long list of other issues. Our bodies respond to this stress with unconscious reflexes that, when triggered continually, can cause habitual muscle contractions that can’t voluntarily release.

 

Somatic movement (or somatics), on the other hand, is performed consciously and with intention. It incorporates sensory motor awareness to recondition muscles with the goal of releasing habitual contractions. It is focused on the internal experience of the movement rather than its external appearance or result.

 

Soma yoga incorporates the principles of somatics with classic yoga asana in a practice that invites us to identify – and reverse – unhealthy or harmful movement patterns that have developed over time. Soma yoga is gentle, exploratory and conscious, focused on the internal experience of movement. Soma yoga can help:

  • Develop healthier movement patterns in order to let go of tension, reduce pain and increase mobility.
  • Unwind old stress-holding patterns in your body to unlock your body from chronic pain and increase your flexibility.
  • Change chronic tension patterns by realigning the body’s innate ability to self-correct to ease and efficiency.
  • Gain awareness of habitual moving, thinking and attention patterns; with awareness lies freedom.  
  • Expand your movement – and therefore, improve daily living – by releasing layers of involuntary holding patterns.
  • Strengthens the mind/body connection by building awareness and consciousness.

When our bodies function in the inherent brilliance intended they are limitless and empowered to heal themselves. Soma yoga is ideal for anyone interested in finding a more free, curious, and awake relationship with their interconnected mind/body/spirit.

Experience Soma Yoga in a special workshop series with Replenish guest instructor Angela Fulghum of Nomad Wellness.

by Nov 30, 2017
Your Brain on Meditation

Your Brain on Meditation

Yoga

LeBron James does it. So does the entire Chicago Cubs baseball team. Other well-known personalities such as Anderson Cooper, Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, Oprah, Steve Jobs, Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, and Jennifer Anniston also have committed meditation practices. At its most basic, meditation is the ancient practice of mindful breathing and guided imagery used to clear the mind and find focus in the present. Its physical benefits are relatively well-known and accepted, from helping your body enter into a calm, relaxed state, to slowing respiration for longer, deeper breaths and boosting your immune system by slowing the production of the stress hormone cortisol. But did you know meditation has pretty mind-blowing psychological benefits, as well? Recent research has even shown how the ancient practice can actually change the brain.

End Monkey Brain
The Research: A study by Yale University found that mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the part of the brain responsible for mind-wandering, or “monkey mind.”
So What? Since mind-wandering is typically associated with unhappiness and increased worry, it’s good to dial it down. Through its mind-quieting effect, meditation appears to do just this.
Super-cool Factor: It’s been shown that meditation actually forms new connections in the brain, so even when faced with “monkey mind,” meditators are better at snapping back out of it.

Rival Antidepressants
The Research: A Johns Hopkins study looked at the relationship between mindfulness meditation and its ability to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain. Although the effect size of meditation was moderate, at 0.3, it’s the same effect size for antidepressants.
So What? Although meditation isn’t a magic bullet for depression (no treatment is), it can be used as one of the tools to help manage symptoms.
Super-cool Factor: Contrary to popular belief, meditation is not a whole lot of nothing, but rather an active form of brain training.

Change the Brain
The research: A Harvard study found that mindfulness meditation can actually change the structure of the brain.
So What? Eight weeks of practice increased cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory, and decreased volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety and stress. These changes matched participants’ self-reports of their stress levels, indicating that meditation not only changes the brain, but it changes our subjective perception and feelings as well.
Super-cool Factor: A follow-up study found that after meditation, participants’ subjective experiences – improved mood and well-being – seemed to be shifted through meditation as well.

Help Kids in School
The Research: Studies have confirmed the cognitive and emotional benefits of meditation for schoolchildren.
So What? A school district in San Francisco saw suspension decrease and GPA’s and attendance increase when they began offer twice daily meditation programs.
Super-cool Factor: In addition to yoga classes at more studios across the country, educators are starting to bring meditation into schools in lieu of, for example, detention.

Relating to Others
The Research: Studies have found meditation may be linked to increased activity in two areas of the brain involved in empathy.
So What? It appears that people who meditate regularly are better able to respond to the feelings of others and empathize.
Super-cool Factor: Not only are meditators more empathetic, they are better able to relate to others’ feelings without feeling overwhelmed.

Where to Begin
If you’re new to meditation or simply curious about how it works and its benefits, Christa Heibel is leading an Intro to Meditation workshop at the Replenish Yoga & Wellness studio in International Falls, MN on December 2, from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. And, according to research, a little mindfulness can go a long way.

Deepak Chopra’s go-to 3-minute meditation to stay focused

by Nov 20, 2017
Your First Yoga Class: What to Expect

Your First Yoga Class: What to Expect

Yoga

Your First Yoga Class: What to Expect

By: Sage Johnson

The barista at the coffee shop, your hairdresser, everyone in your book club, even your mother-in-law is doing yoga, and why not? The benefits are countless: increased flexibility, decreased stress, relief from minor back pain, the list continues. By now it should be clear that yoga is not just for super-bendy people with perfect bodies and a closetful of tight, strappy clothes. You can do this. All it takes is signing up for your first class and then following the steps below:

Take Your Shoes Off
Yoga happens barefooted, and most studios will post a sign designating a shoe-free area. (At Replenish, it’s at the front door, you can’t miss it). Although a pedicure is not a class prerequisite, you’ll be more comfortable if you come prepared. Give your feet a quick rinse, or swipe them with a moist towelette beforehand. I made the mistake of putting lotion on both my hands and feet before class once, and I was literally sliding off my matt. Go au naturel.

The Three Bears Rule of Proper Yoga Clothing
Comfort is key in yoga class, since you’ll be stretching and bending, twisting and turning. But there are some caveats. PJ’s are comfy, but they don’t work for yoga because they don’t stay put. When you go into a Downward Dog your will perform a gravity check and end up over your head. Choose clothing that’s not too tight, not too loose.

Hush Y’all
Through yoga, you become aware – of your breathing, your diaphragm, limbs, eyelids, everything. For that reason, class is usually quiet. Talking to your neighbor is considering rude. That said, some yoga classes incorporate chanting or drumming, which you can take part in or simply observe. Obviously, ringing (or picture-taking) cell phones are frowned upon in every class.

What’d She Say?
Beginner yoga teachers will explain basic poses in easy-to-understand language, but they may also use some of the traditional Sanskrit names like Savasana (laying on your back with eyes closed at the end of class) and Namaste (“the light within me bows to the light within you),” is said aloud at the end of class to express gratitude to those sharing the practice.

I Can’t Do That
There may be poses you won’t be able to do, and that’s OK because yoga is a personal journey. The studio is a space where you connect with self, not compete with others. Simply chill in downward dog or child’s pose and concentrate on your breath until you’re ready to move to the next pose.

A Hands-On Experience
Yoga instructors are trained to help their students not only experience all of the benefits of yoga, but also stay safe and prevent injury. Don’t be surprised if your yoga teacher touches you in order to position you correctly in a pose, correct your alignment or assist with a new move.  Ideally, most well trained instructors will first ask permission to perform a hands-on adjustment.  If you feel at all uncomfortable, just let your teacher know.

Rest and Reflection
At the end of class, the instructor may lead a meditation or chanting practice in order to help you relax your mind and focus your attention to the present moment. If the traditional lotus pose (crossed-legged) is not comfortable, adjust so that you are in a position that feels good. This is an opportunity for you to be still as tension and stress leave your body and mind. You probably won’t be offered a moment like this during the rest of the day, so take advantage of it.

Beginners and experienced yogis alike should always enter their practice with an open mind and heart. Do this, and you will enjoy every moment of class.

by Nov 14, 2017