What is Holistic Yoga - Holistic Yoga Modalities
Yoga, Hanna Somatics and Anatomy in Motion
Below I introduce the three main movement modalities that I teach in private and group classes. In addition to these, I teach movements from Qigong, Pilates, Feldenkrais and Physical Therapy, as well as ball rolling for myofascial release. These extra additions appear as a compliment to tech following three main modalities.
- Holistic Yoga
- Hanna Somatics
- Anatomy in Motion
- Meditation Class
What is Holistic Yoga?
Yoga For Mind, Body and Spirit
Holistic Yoga is a style that I developed out of working with the stress, anxiety, tension, hypermobility, joint and back pain within my own body, mind and spirit. It’s important to note that yoga is more than the physical exercises, even more than the breath work and meditation. There is a particular state of mind and way of approaching the movement that is rooted in the yoga philosophy that makes all the difference. It’s not necessarily what you do, but how you do it. The explorations that we go through in the yoga classes are born out of many trainings, copious research and over three decades of personal practice. As such, Holistic Yoga is always evolving, you’ll be introduced to new ideas and practices as I learn and master them myself.
The word holistic means whole and is not only associated with human wholeness, but with our connection to the planet. We recognise we are not separate from the earth, the sun, the bodies of water and the air we breath. Honouring the elements, and our connection to the Earth is not only important for our wellbeing, but also for our survival as a species. Holistic Yoga reflects and embodies this truth.
Yoga for Unique Individuals
You are encouraged to make the poses “work for you”. We are all individuals with different bone structures, histories, injuries and temperaments. You may want to make the postures more or less challenging. Without disturbing the flow of the class you’ll be given ideas about how to do make the practices fit your unique body-mind (rather than the other way round). In Holistic Yoga, taking a posture is always a choice that you make, no one else. You are always encouraged to be guided by your own internal sensations.
You are invited to ask questions throughout the class (in both Zoom and In-Person classes). There are many ways you can make the practices work as a healing balm for your body, mind and soul. You are never required to “push through pain. ” If you do find an increase in discomfort, or a sense of “not feeling right” during the class, rest in a comfortable position instead. You are encouraged to ask for help with an alternative posture. There will be a way to modify the practice that enables you to find steadiness and ease. As students get more used to this way of practicing they discover and create their own modifications or alternatives to the practices, that work for their body better
Yoga Without Vinyasa
Holistic Yoga doesn’t involve repetitive vinyasa, although we do sun salutations occasionally. If you prefer a vinyasa flow style, there are many classes available that will suit you better! This is not a sweaty practice, although you will find new muscles you didn’t know you had. It is not a cardiovascular exercise although it will benefit your heart and circulation on the physical and subtle levels.
Holistic Yoga is focussed on healing. The practices are designed to help you understand your body better, regulate your nervous system, improve your posture, improve the circulation of prana (vital energy or qi) in your whole system. This this way, the yoga can help to support your joints, relieve back, neck, shoulder and knee pain. On a deeper level the practices help you to develop self awareness and self compassion. If we can be kind to ourselves, we are more able to be respectful and kind to our fellow humans from all places, of all races. Overcoming divisions along lines of belief, race, political affiliation, class, gender and income is key to creating a safe and peaceful world for us all. The healing that we are undertaking in yoga is not just for our personal benefit, but for our families, communities and the wider world. By making small, yet profound changes within our bodies, minds and spirits, we create a ripple effect of calmness and kindness that is felt much further afield and contributes to creating a better future for all.
Yoga for Planetary Health
Ecological and environmental awareness is an important aspect of Holistic Yoga. Our spiritual health and development depends upon our becoming more independent of our consumerist, extractivist society. In yoga we learn how to become content and deeply rested without external aids. We learn to calm the mind and become less critical of ourselves and others. We learn to see how all sentient beings are interconnected and interdependent. Such discoveries go against much of the programming we have received from our upbringing, schooling, advertising and the economic system which dominates our lives. Questioning what it means to be a human, what the purpose of our life is, is an essential part of creating change at a fundamental level.
Our physical health benefits from pesticide-free, fresh, whole food and uncontaminated water. In our practices we include and honour the Elements, the Earth, the Sky, Water Bodies, Light, Air and the Universe itself. In order to survive and thrive on this planet , we need to weave ourselves back into Nature. The practices gradually allow us to unlearn the destructive beliefs and habits that we have accumulated. In this way we can start to see and reverse our patterns of consumption and destruction. Yoga gives us the tools to do this, it is a truly revolutionary practice.
My Yoga Teachers
For those of you interested in yoga lineages, my main teachers were Jenny Beeken (Inner Yoga Trust; originally a student of B.K.S. Iyengar) and Sophie Hoare (taught directly by Vanda Scaravelli) who was my personal teacher for a number of years. I’ve also had the great fortune to learn from many other yoga teachers, anatomy experts, somatic educators, movement specialists who’s ideas I weave into the classes and courses.
Post Lineage Yoga
This type of yoga is known as “post lineage” it does not conform to an individual guru’s idea of how yoga should be practiced. Holistic Yoga is an evolving, creative approach. As with Vanda Scaravelli’s teaching, the practice is a process of responding to the body’s subtle language. So there is essentially no right or wrong movement. An important exception is that it is essential to avoid movement that causes or increases pain, discomfort or a feeling or “not right”. Instead of a fixed practice there are simply a set of choices to explore. The student is viewed as the expert in their own body, the master of their own experience. In this sense, the student is much more empowered to develop their own sense of what feels right and “works” for them as an individual.
Holistic Somatics and Hanna Somatics
Hanna Somatics is a movement practice devised by Thomas Hanna, who studied with Moshe Feldenkrais, who in turn, studied with F. M. Alexander of the Alexander Technique. Thomas Hanna introduced the idea of neuromuscular re-education into these previous two somatic movement practices.
What is the Somatic Nervous System?
The Somatic Nervous System (SoNS) is comprised of the motor (or efferent) nerve and the sensory (or afferent) nerve that connect the brain to the myofascia (muscle surrounded by fascia). Fascia is embedded with sensory nerves that relay information to the brain about how the muscle feels (pressure temperature position etc). Motor nerves send signals from the brain to tell the muscle fibres to contract or relax.
Hanna Somatics is a system for helping us gain better awareness and control of the muscles (and therefore our movement) through the SoNS. It is a really safe and accessible way of working with injuries, tension, postural problems and pain.
Sensory Motor Amnesia (S-MA)
Hanna discovered that we have areas of our body that suffer from what he called sensory motor amnesia or S-MA for short. This amnesia is due to the lack of signalling through the SoNS. This means we either can’t sense a muscle very well, even though we might be able to move it. Or we can’t move a muscle vey well, even though we might be able to sense. More often than not we have difficulty in both sensing and moving certain muscles. This happens due to the principle “use it or lose it”. The body likes to conserve energy, so if we don’t use a certain muscle or part of a muscle for a while, the body will down regulate the communication between that muscle and the brain. The problem is there is no built in “up regulation” that kicks in after a certain time. We have to use specific techniques to re-ignite the communication between brain and muscle fibre once more.
How S-MA Leads to Pain
When we habitually don’t use particular muscles or parts of muscles, other muscles get over used in compensation. This means that we develop habits and patterns of movement that create more strain in the over used muscles. This can lead to aches, pains, stiffness, headaches and tension. If left, these patterns can create wear and tear in the bones, known as arthritis. Stuck patterns of movement can also put more pressure on particular intervertebral discs or other joints, causing pain and an increased susceptibility to injury.
Unwinding Habitual Movement Patterns
Thankfully Hanna devised certain exercises and sequences to explore and discover areas of S-MA and to enable us to remove it through awareness and slow mindful movement. The practices are very accessible (mostly practiced lying down on the floor) and offer a gentle way of creating strength and resilience in the body. These practices are also very relaxing and soothing.
Somatics and Restorative Yoga
Holistic Somatics is a class based on Hanna Somatics practices with some restorative yoga practices and breath practices to help soothe and calm the nervous system further. These are ideal classes to choose if you are stiff, in pain, working with an injury or simply prefer to practice in a gentle, restful way.
Anatomy in Motion
An Anatomical Template for Movement Practice
Anatomy in Motion (AiM) devised by Gary Ward offers an incredible model for how the human skeletal structure moves in walking. By looking at how the body moves in walking we can work out what is moving as it should and what might be impeding the natural walking gait. Gary’s amazing work has revolutionised how I see movement and teach movement as it explains how the structures of the body move in relationship to each other in an ideal situation.
What The Foot?
Gard Ward’s book is called What the Foot? Although AiM offers a systematic approach to looking at the whole body in motion, there is a slight emphasis on the feet. This is because there are some misunderstandings about the biomechanics of the feet that have led to many movement puzzles to remain unsolved. Our feet are sadly ignored throughout our every day lives. Most days they are stuck in shoes, and even if barefoot, they only get to walk on flat surfaces. Each foot has 33 joints and 26 bones. Sadly, our feet do not get the diversity of movement they require to develop both mobility and flexibility. AiM is about waking up our feet and realising how we use (or don’t use) our feet affects how our structure moves all the way through up through the body. Yes the movement in the foot affects our ankles, knees, hips, spine, shoulders, elbows, wrists, neck and jaw.
AiM in Combination with Hanna Somatics
AiM and Hanna Somatics works very well together as their principles are similar and aligned. What Thomas Hanna calls Sensory Motor Amnesia (S-MA) Gary Ward calls “the dead zone”! Gary also recognises that certain areas of the body need to be “woken up” in order to get a better co-ordination of muscles and joints working together harmoniously. We need to create this balance around centre in all three planes of movement, in order to walk well, breathe well and live well. What AiM adds to the piece is the framework of how the skeleton moves in gait (called the flow motion model) and the standing work that is needed to integrate movements in joints of the feet, with movements in the spine and the other other joints in the body.
Moving and Static Assessments
AiM work is assessment based, we will look at and track how your movement changes as you go through the practices that are relevant to your particular needs. First lesson is often totally assessment based. As Paul Chek a famous movement specialist has said: “unless you’re assessing, you’re guessing.” This more technical way of working is not suitable for everyone and works best with people who already have a movement practice, who are willing to do regular self-practice in a methodical, patient and curious manner. This type of practice will inspire your inner scientist! Perhaps even more so that yoga and somatics, AiM is for curious students who wish to participate fully in their own healing process, which includes doing regular home practice!
Online Meditation Class
Free Online Meditation Group- All Welcome!
Every Monday at 8am, students of Holistic Yoga gather to meditate together. This is an open group, suitable for those who are new to meditation or those who wish to practice in a group online with some gentle guidance.
We work with visualisations from the yoga, qigong and other traditions and also explore breath exercise for balance, energy and calm. We often work with practices that ground us, centre us and connect us to our soul and all that is. The meditations have both a calming and uplifting effect.
Join us! It’s a lovely way to start the week. 🙂
OK This All Sounds Great… Where Do I Start?
There are three choices of how to access Holistic Yoga classes online. Choose what suits you