Somatic yoga is the mindfulness practice burnt-out Londoners are loving

The Human Method
The Human Method

Feeling constantly fatigued or just find it impossible to switch off? Bikram, power, rocket, begone. There's a new way to get your zen on and it's slower and more conscious.

Burnt-out Londoners are turning to gentle somatic movement, and as many of us hit pause on the HIIT sessions in favour of something a little lower intensity, you're likely to hear more about this technique.

I first heard about somatics through Elise Loehnen, Gwyneth Paltrow's right-hand woman at Goop, who named somatic yoga among her goopiest pursuits along with other wellnessy things like intuitive acupuncture.

Interest piqued, I went along to meet yoga instructor Nahid de Belgeonne and founder of Good Vibes, one of London's OG boutique fitness studios, who is now teaching The Human Method, a new mindfulness practice rooted in somatics, which is helping burnt-out celebrities and city dwellers to reset.

It blends breathing techniques, somatic movement, restorative yoga and meditation, and is designed to reorganise the central nervous system, ground and realign the body and mind. It'll help you sleep, improve your posture, digestion, and help to clear brain fog, according to Nahid and her well-heeled client base. ​

Somatics is an umbrella term for lots of different practices that deal with the felt sense, Nahid explains, which, put simply, involves tuning in to how something feels.

“When you are guided by what it feels like rather than how it looks, you start to develop a practice that chimes with where you are at right now.”

The beauty of somatic movement is that it stops you pushing yourself beyond what you should, she adds.

Nahid teaching The Human Method
Nahid teaching The Human Method

Nahid says she designed her practice in response to issues she has seen in her classes over the past decade. "I just saw my clients were really wired and tired and had really collapsed bodies, so The Human Method uses somatics and some aspects of Pilates, restorative yoga and yoga Nidra, which is a guided meditation, to kind of wake you up, make you more conscious and have a a really strong powerful practice that’s very in the moment," she says.

"Often pain is caused by learned habit rather than structural damage, like the 'tech neck' which leads to neck and back pain. So this method, through a series of interrelated exercises will unravel the tension that causes that habit and introduce a new and more balanced way to be.'

"It emphasises moving with the least effort and at a pace where the brain is registering the movements and forming new neural connections that make the movement feel easier."

It all sounds a little deep, but after spending just over an hour one-on-one with Nahid, in which she guided me through each breath and pose typical of a private session with her, I was surprised by how much I learned, things I'd failed to pick up in quite a few years of yoga classes. It felt like something finally clicked.

The session began with some deep breaths while lying on a yoga mat and bolster. Nahid instructed me to make gentle rocking movements, while keeping certain parts of my body in contact with the floor, and I eventually moved into a flow involving familiar postures like downward-facing dog, cobra, cat cow, chaturanga dandasana and child's pose, but all performed slowly and with exacting technique and alignment. Nahid, for example, ensured I led with the correct part of the sternum (breastbone) in each pose.

By taking things back to basics and slowing everything down, it was easier to focus on the position of each part of the body at any given time and, crucially, how it felt, from each toe to each vertebrae, small things that actually make a big difference in the effectiveness of your practice.

The golden nugget of my session with Nahid? A hack for doing that awkward jump from a downward dog to lunge position.

The trick to doing this gracefully – and really the only way to do so – is simply to have your fingertips on the floor on that side rather than the full palm of your hands. Try it, and you'll find yourself suddenly able to step back and forth from dog to lunge almost weightless. Genius.

My session with Nahid didn't focus on sweat count or calories burnt, but I still left with a post-gym like glow and slept like a baby that night.

Whether it's practising The Human Method with Nahid or enlisting in a restorative yoga or stretch class at your local studio, focusing on less may well mean you take away more. Self-care at its finest.

Nahid teaches classes and workshops at The Life Centre, Re:Centre and on retreats globally.

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