Even as a regular practitioner of yoga, I often move through my day without recognizing or acknowledging my body. I operate from the neck up, utilizing my overdeveloped intellectual functioning to defend against discomfort by ways of denial or distraction.
As a therapist, I often find myself also focusing heavily on "thinking" by helping others re frame cognitive distortions or inviting others to be curious about how they may have initially developed a certain way of thinking.
Let me be clear, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with engaging our intellect and playing with ideas in the context of a therapeutic relationship (or any relationship for that matter) however, I find that in addition to our minds, the body comes to therapy too!
I am slowly entering into a new way of being that involves both awareness of thought AND awareness of body. This was the reason why I led a six week-long yoga practice series called "Trauma Sensitive Yoga" this past spring. Because trauma and toxic stress are often stored in the body, yoga-based interventions are a way to approach healing through a somatic experience in an effort to rebuild a sense of connection to the self by becoming curious about the experience of being.
An embodied practice has helped me to remember that my body can be of service to me. This embodied practice utilizes movement and breath work as a way to experience the present moment, feel empowered to make choices, take effective action, and to experience the flow of creating rhythm or synchrony with your breath and body. Specifically, the impact of taking effective action is a concept that I have grown to appreciate.
Most recently, I had a conversation with a fellow social worker about trauma. She said, if our bodies are unable to fight or run away from the threat to our safety, we often freeze. This freeze response is useful in that it often keeps us from experiencing further harm, however, it also is problematic because it does not allow us to complete the action needed to keep us safe.
With that, we often find that there is an excess of energy stored in our bodies that was discharged during the experience of a threat. Taking effective action through the process of yoga, restores our sense that we can protect ourselves and make choices that allow us to feel more comfortable. These actions are often based on a deep listening to the body and paying attention to what our bodies need in that moment. This action creates an opportunity to have what some psychoanalysts call a "corrective emotional experience!"
Yoga can serve as an adjunct form of treatment in facilitates a deeper relationship with our bodies by learning to trust that we can take effective action to make the right choice for us and find comfort in the synchrony of our breath and movement of the body.
I invite anyone who is struggling with connecting to their bodies in a positive way to consider taking the trauma sensitive yoga series. The practice is intended to create a more compassionate, non-judgmental relationship with ourselves.
Click here to read this month's complete newsletter.