Somatic Yoga – Unwinding with Deirdre O’Connor

Re-wire patterns of muscular tension

Somatic Yoga Unwinding teaches us through slow, mindful movements how to re-wire our patterns of muscular tension effortlessly and without pain

It dissolved many tight knots for me, so that not only was I able to breathe deeper, but my yoga practice deepened and I let go in places I wasn’t able to up to that point.

It also has a powerful effect in resetting the muscles of anxiety in our bellies and chest and our nervous systems helping me cope with my old familiar anxieties, releasing sluggish breathing patterns so that our whole body get washed with prana-filled enlivening breath.

Body Rolling

Combined with a practice of Body Rolling, a powerful self-therapeutic technique, using our own body weight on a small ball,  we roll our bodies out, muscle by muscle, joint by joint. The result is a total decompression of the body creating more inside space, allowing our ribs to expand and our wings to take flight!

Highlights of my course

  • Alleviate chronic muscular pain and stiffness, in the back, neck hips and shoulder
  • Reduce your stress set-point to rest mode and recover your sleep patterns
  • Resolve  ‘text neck’, and improve your bad postural habits and  slumped shoulders
  • Improve your breathing, reduce anxiety and increase your energy
  • Reverse  stiffness, pain  and aches associated with  ageing

We’ve all experienced plateau’s in our Yoga practice –  times in our practice that no matter how much work or effort we put in we just cannot seem to make any forward progress in our practice.    

Sometimes we put this down to being tight or stiff in certain areas or perhaps it’s that we experience pain and can’t find a way out of our old patterns of muscular tension. Or we just put it down to us being kind of klutzy and awkward because that’s always how we’ve been.


During the 23 years of practising yoga and movement-based therapies I have come to this plateau many times, and often had thoughts like ‘oh, I’m just not cut out for this’ or ‘I’m just not a proper Yogi –  I need to be thinner, younger,  fitter … ‘. In other words, thinking that I needed to have a body that I just didn’t have.

Over time I realized that no matter how much alignment I practiced, no matter how much I pushed my body, rather than achieving this fantasy body, I was actually getting stiffer and my body was rebelling in the form of a frozen shoulder and lower back ache that I put down to possible arthritis and to simply getting older.


I started to look around for some answers to why my body wasn’t ‘behaving’ and came across a movement practice of slow, mindful movements that talked of resolving painful muscular tensions long-term. I signed up for the weekend course thinking perhaps it might help and it did, quite dramatically.

It gave me a lot of answers as to why my body was continually reverting to old patterns of muscular contraction, despite my yoga,  and it thawed out a frozen shoulder problem that my yoga practice alone was unable to shift.

Hanna Somatic Movement

This practice, called Hanna Somatic Movement,  taught me that my habituated patterns of holding and tension were caused by muscles that had forgotten, literally,  how to lengthen and relax. What this means is that they are no longer under our conscious control, and so no matter how much we try to relax them we can’t. This is called Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA).

Sensory Motor Amnesia

No matter how effective our yoga practice is, if you have SMA (and we all do sDeirdreomewhere in our bodies) you will continually come up against the same stuck places which need constant attention.

 Why? Our tension patterns are maintained within our nervous system, not just our muscles. Muscles don’t do anything that the brain doesn’t tell them to do. Without sufficient interruption of the habitual brain impulse to contract a muscle, the tension will be maintained. We will unconsciously maintain the brain-to-muscle pattern that has been programmed into the nervous system unless it receives new sensory information.

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