Since practicing and training in Nia (www.nianow.com), I became very aware of the interplay between form and freedom, especially while teaching and dancing a Nia routine. And having more recently trained in Somatics (www.gentlesomaticyoga.com; www.essentialsomatics.com) I have begun to understand and experience more deeply, why these two aspects of movement are so important to me.
Form – the yoga class where students follow particular sequences, postures; the somatics class where students learn specific somatic exercises; dance, where students learn specific choreography. This form is often dominated by the ‘left brain’ (left brain being conscious self, linear, logical, linguistic; right brain holisitc, creative). The left brain is a processor – it doesn’t feel or sense or experience anything directly. It is connected to the right brain through just a few neurological pathways (The Awakening Body, Reginald A. Ray). If you find yourself thinking about what you ‘should’ be doing and trying to work things out in your mind, you can be sure the left brain is dominating.
It is our ‘right brain’ that is the ‘physical, emotional self’ (The Neuroscience of Human Relationships, Louis Cozolino), it is the direct experience of the body, with no judgement or evaluation – it receives experience in the moment, without filtering – this is the Freedom.
More interestingly, these two very different functions of the brain are no longer seen in neuroscience as simply located within the two hemispheres: the function of the conceptualizing, conscious ego mind (left brain) is primarily located in the left hemisphere, but the other function of holistic awareness is not limited to the right hemisphere, but includes the entire subcortical neurological system (The Awakening Body, Reginald A. Ray), including the limbic system, the brain stem, the heart, the gut, the organs, the bones, the fascia, down to every cell in our body – in other words, the Soma.
Consequently, the body, as Reginald Ray puts it, ‘is the realm of direct experience’. It is an intelligent system in and of itself. The intellect only processes what the body is receiving. This is why I find it important to move freely and in an unthinking way, so that I can tune in to the intelligence of my body or Soma, and explore that vast realm of spaciousness, bliss and delight. This is not to deny the form, or learning new patterns, postures, choregraphy. But rather to integrate new learnings and also to tap into a different way of learning – from the inside out.
20 years ago I began a practice of meditation that focused solely on ‘soul consciousness’. Like many meditation practices it set mind as separate to body, and aimed to go beyond mind, in fact to surrender the mind to God. Through Somatics, I have come to sense and know, that the body, instead of being set to one side, and far from being separate to mind, but one and the same thing, is the key to spiritual enlightenment! It is a portal through which we can access much larger domains of our being, it is a gateway to our Totality.
So, I encourage you, to spend time in stillness and silence, and extend your awareness in to every part of your body – bit by bit – slowly. Stay with areas where you may ‘think’ you have no sensation. Linger with your awareness and experience yourself from the inside – not from a concept of what you think you ‘ought to’ feel, or from a visual image in your mind of what parts of your body look like, but rather from pure sensation.
“Being within our Soma in this way enables us to meet our experience directly, to receive the pure experience of our life, and this, right away and without our doing anything else, plunges us into a process of spiritual discovery that is inspiring, compelling and deeply fulfilling.” (The Awakening Body, Reginald A. Ray)
by Amanda Franklin, Radiant Star Yoga