Learning through contrast
The somatic movements we do in Gentle Somatic Yoga are a body and brain education. In somatic movement classes we bring ourselves into a relaxed state so that it's easier to focus on the internal sensations of the body (the soma) and this is to bring awareness to how we are at this moment. I've talked about the benefits of the pause, or body scan before and today I want to add another layer to the wonderful benefits of bringing awareness to the body, by noticing contrast. Part of the method of somatic movement is to notice contrast in the body during the body scan. In this state of awareness we bring our attention to differences we can sense in the body before, during and after doing movement flows.
Before we even begin to do any movements, the first thing we can bring awareness to is contrast in different sides of the body as we lye on the floor, sit or stand. Are the two sides of the body feeling the same, or are there differences? For many of us the answer will be an obvious 'no , there are differences'. In fact, for all of us there will be differences as we are never the same from side to side, even if at first it doesn't seem like it. Allowing these differences, even very subtle ones, to come into consciousness will teach you so much about your own body. Even if you don't notice any differences, this is still good information for you and you can celebrate that you feel balanced.
Another area of contrast is noticing how the body feels before and after movement flows. As you pandiculate your muscles in the somatic movements your re-pattern your muscles lengths and you begin to notice how you have released muscular tension after several repetitions. This is why we take body scans before and after doing the pandiculations as it gives your brain a chance to notice and learn what it feels like to release muscular tension and come back to recognising the true function of a particular muscle or muscle group.
The other area I want to mention about noticing contrast is during movement flows. When we are doing a somatic movement flow, we can contrast how one side of the body moves through the flow as compared to the other side. You may notice contrasts in: more or less range of motion, stiffness or perhaps even discomfort between your arms, legs, hips, back or any part of your body.
Noticing contrast is about just that, noticing, bringing awareness and accepting that this is how the body is right now. It's tempting to judge one side or the other as being bad, not good enough or possibly even broken, but if you can put aside these judgements in the body scan you will be less tempted to force change upon yourself and instead allow yourself to just notice what your body is doing.