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The yoga landscape is changing, and it’s changing quickly. Jayne Nicholls shares insight into the transitory nature of modern yoga, how perspective is key when navigating your place in this world and the rise of somatic practices.

When we practice yoga, we take a process of steps commonly referred to as the ‘yoga journey’. The eight limbs of yoga lay out a set of ethical and moral criteria by which yogis should live their lives and within these limbs lies the opportunity to dive deep into who we are, making positive changes with the ultimate goal of self-actualisation. This process of learning to trust, love and heal ourselves just keeps on evolving, generating a power that, when experienced, we cannot turn back from.

I am speaking about the movement towards somatic practices that cultivate embodiment, awareness, healing and transformation. Soma recognises that our thoughts, beliefs and history shape our physical experience. This process of learning aims to get rid of the deep-rooted patterns that limit our potential. The rapid emergence of soma reflects the human condition post pandemic and the fact we are still not acknowledging the full extent of the lockdown process. We live in a society that has numbed pain and sensitivity in favour of resilience, when around us is a chaos that makes us vulnerable and unable to trust, empathise and communicate in the ways that contain us in good health.

Mental health statistics in 2024 reveal that:

  • more than one in seven UK adults say their mental health is currently either bad or the worst it’s ever been
  • more women than men are currently struggling with poor mental health (18.5% of women vs 12.5% of men)
  • young people, aged 16-24, are the most affected by mental health struggles, with nearly a quarter (23.5%) describing their mental health as either bad or the worst it’s ever been
  • in 2023, NHS England spent £217.5 million on medication to treat depression and anxiety
  • total NHS spend on medications used to treat anxiety and depression was highest at the start of the pandemic, with the total spend for 2020 being £346.4 million
  • more antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication are dispensed in the North East and North Cumbria than any other part of England
  • in the UK in 2024, the term ‘How to reduce stress’ is searched on Google once every 10 minutes, on average.

These bullet points alone identify the need for a new approach to health that is not simply physical but an amalgamation of mind, body and spirit that it is healing. A process of understanding our bodies, a process of noticing how our mind and body connect to create both positive and negative responses. A journey of endorsing the positive and reducing or changing the negative. This change in focus from the physical to the internal involves creating techniques to release trauma and develop mental and physical resilience.

Here are a few of the methods used to help people move out of their heads and into their bodies, learning to trust their own intuition with the result of making more informed health choices:

MINDFULNESS is a foundational element of a somatic practice. It creates the space or platform for embodiment. It’s about being aware without judgement of what’s happening in the present moment. Mindfulness helps us to make changes when we step back from habits, reactions and impulses driven by a non-mindful response to daily challenges.

CENTRING is the process of bringing awareness to the core of our being – being present and aligning our physical, emotional and mental states. In short, this is the skill of moving out of the predominant head space into the body, creating a new equilibrium that thrives on emotional intelligence.

EMBODIMENT happens when we become aware (mindful) and have the capacity to respond to what our mind and body are telling us – learning to sense and react to our body’s subtle cues and signals such as breath, heartbeat, muscle tension and instinct. We learn to sense them and respond to them authentically. Embodiment bridges the gap between conscious and unconscious. We are learning to listen and trust the inner intelligence of our bodies.

SOMA is a Greek word meaning body; it represents the embodied somatic experience, the intricacies of physical, emotional and cognitive experience. The source of vitality, creativity and intuition.

So, this kind of yoga is not really yoga when it comes down to it. It is simply that yoga has cultivated an environment where everything mentioned here is palatable and, to many, the next stop on the journey. The somatic movement focuses on healing, trauma release and mind, body health. My prediction is that it will stand alone from yoga in our industry as its popularity rises. David Lloyd clubs have introduced Spirit Flow Meditation, their in-house version of Flow Dance Meditation created by Lindsay Jay and Nathan Burrows. This non-prescriptive method of movement involves dancing to great music curated to help us connect deeply with ourselves, culminating in a shift of energy and a release of everything negative that is stored in the body and holds us back both mentally and physically. It’s a bold step for a mainstream operator to introduce such innovation.

This is just the beginning and it’s the beginning of something that everyone reading this might want to get on board with. If you feel it, it will work its magic.

Read more on yoga, meditation and mental health here on the FitPro blog.

About the Author

Jayne Nicholls

Yoga | Mindfulness and Breathwork

Jayne Nicholls, multi-award-winning owner and director of GXT, commands a unique position in instructor education. Never content to follow conventional methods, her passion for original thinking is the foundation for the Freestyle Yoga brand, now in its third decade, and Freestyle Fitness Yoga. Jayne provides an occupational journey from entry level to full yoga teacher training for anyone who loves yoga and is keen to share it. Jayne’s biggest and best learning journey happens in front of her classes, continually defying what she has been taught, which is reflected in the content she offers via articles, courses and online classes. Jayne pioneers mindful communication with an opinionated and personalised approach, has a wonderful, fascinating relationship with her horse and, she says, she never ages!

Key expertise:

  • Owner and director of GXT
  • Founder of the Freestyle Yoga brand
  • Founder of Freestyle Fitness Yoga
  • Co-owner of iGuru Athleisurewear Ltd
  • Long-term sponsorship by Nike as a fitness athlete and Red Bull
  • Presenter and speaker at conventions and events nationwide
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