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When did you first discover somatics & Body-Mind Centering®?
Just after college, I moved to NYC to pursue a career in dance and through my study there, I was exposed to the world of somatics via many dance teachers offering classes at the time. A few of my main teachers studied a variety of forms from Alexander technique, Feldenkrais, Skinner Releasing, and Klein technique. I was working with these principles as a dancer before I started practicing yoga. Much later in life, after retiring from dance and devoting myself completely to yoga, I met Roxlyn Moret, a BMC teacher who came to DYC to teach a workshop 5 years ago. I fell in love with BMC right away and knew it would help me to bridge the gap between all the things I loved about dance, with all the things I love about yoga.
What are the differences between yoga taught form a more somatic approach and mainstream yoga classes?
For me the field of yoga and yoga classes has changed since I first started practicing and teaching so I can only speak to the current differences between mainstream yoga classes and yoga taught from a more somatic approach.
For me, yoga from a more somatic approach invites the students into their bodies in a deeper, fuller way. One emphasis is to help students cultivate curiosity through inquiry. An inquiry into how we move, into how we inhabit ourselves moment to moment and in the process learning more about the nature of whatever it is we’re attending to. For example, moving from my bones is different then moving from my fluids and moving from my fluids is really different them moving from my muscles, etc… This process hopefully increases body intelligence, creates more complexity and has amazing healing potential. Yoga has taught me so much about myself, and with BMC as a lens to see yoga through, the learning continues in ways I couldn’t have imagined. All that to say, with this approach the content of the class might look really different.
In my experience, in a main stream yoga class there’s an emphasis on quantity…how much can we do, how fast can we do it, how hard can we make it, etc….. Yoga from a more somatic approach emphasizes embodiment as the key focus. Quality of movement, quality of attention, etc… Tempo, quantity, level of physical challenge, can all be by products of a more somatic approach but not the focus or the goal.
How has the study of Body-Mind Centering® changed your practice?
This one is almost impossible to answer! There is so much to say. BMC has really changed the course of my life and my practice. For one thing, it has helped me to re connect to the way I used to relate to my body through dance which is really exciting for me. The developmental study (which includes all the stages from conception to birth, to the first year of life) has helped me to connect to my own history in retracing my first movements and moments in life. This part of the study has informed my practice in this way, that I now bring more and more parts of myself to the mat so the yoga experience is even more resonant, even more profound. BMC has given me the tools to know how to actually let go, how to authentically be in my body, and to know more clearly what it is to be balanced. What being “balanced” really means on a moment to moment basis, and how to interact with the idea.
What changes do you see in students when they have a regular somatic / embodied yoga practice?
I have been teaching yoga for 12 1/2 years and in the beginning it took a while to see real change in people as I was developing my own voice. Eventually I could see people get more clear about the mechanics of the poses, or maybe they would generate more confidence, etc… but I wouldn’t say that I saw deep change in people over time, pre BMC .
I think that’s partly due to me not having the language or feeling limited in what I had to offer based any number of things, but since teaching from the BMC perspective I have seen real change in my students and in my teaching.
I’ve seen change in how they approach the practice as a whole. Students are more sensitive, more aware and more curious about how they might explore these poses that some of them have known for years, decades even. They are more playful, less rigid about whether what they are doing is right or wrong, and that alone feels like a really important change to me.
Through this work I can give them more choices, more tools about how to sense their own body in the practice so it’s not about me as the teacher telling the students how to do something, but rather giving them the tools so that they can discover how to inhabit the poses and decide for themselves what is right for them, based on how they sense and feel their bodies. Not all poses look the same on all people, and not all people can access each and every pose. It’s very personal, very individual and BMC has helped me to see the individual and how the practice might make sense for them, in the spirit of healing and transforming.
How does the understanding of somatic yoga expand your options in the classroom?
Refer to the above answer:
How do you personally incorporate BMC principles and somatic movement into your yoga classes?
Often I start with students lying either belly down or on their back. I’ll take them through a very subtle inquiry into their body to establish certain connections and pathways. I may work with a specific developmental stage or an anatomical principle. The quiet beginning helps students to connect not only to themselves but to begin through imagination and micro movements locate and make contact with these different places in the body and/or with specific tissues like organs or glands, so that later in the practice we can use that information to move in and out of the poses.
I very loosely use the vinyasa form to explore asana but I wouldn’t say it’s a typical vinyasa class. I do love moving and try to be as creative as possible in designing my classes so students can experience new ways of moving. Classes are also very spacious and in certain ways simple due to the fact that what we’re attending to can be complex. It can feel like a lot of mental work in that the students are asked to REALLY pay attention and that alone is a serious practice. In my experience it takes patience, and a willingness to really be with yourself, and with whatever arises in the process. I don’t think change happens quickly, but very slowly and over time. I don’t set out to change people or myself through this process, but through this deep inquiry, change seems inevitable.
Can you give us an example of a yoga pose you were able to return to practicing with ease thanks to your somatic studies?
Urdvha Dhanurasana..or full wheel/backbend. I had begun to shy away from this pose before studying BMC and it’s really cool to know that I can float up into a backbend now b/c I know what to pay attention to, and what to let go of, or add in if need be so that back bending is effortless and pleasurable.
What’s the best way to begin a somatic yoga journey if you’re a beginner?
Come to my Soma Yoga class! And also think about committing to the upcoming BMC Foundations In Embodied Anatomy program coming soon to The Dallas Yoga Center. Lisa Clark and Amy Matthews will be teaching this incredible program and they are among some of the finest, most sophisticated teachers you will ever have the pleasure of meeting and learning from. Truly!!!
Can you bring the principles of somatic yoga out of the classroom and into life? How does somatic yoga change your perspective in a larger sense?
Yes, yes, yes! These somatic principles particularly with BMC are to be applied in all aspects of your life. I have learned so much in particular about relationships, and how to be in them. How to inhabit myself and my responses when interacting with people in my life. I’m getting better at taking care of myself, like saying NO to the things that don’t really serve me and yes to the things that do. There are so many life lessons, this is just one of them but it’s huge!