The last couple months have been filled with research and discussions and discoveries about stress and trauma, centered around the work of the non-profit I help direct.
One of the things we have discovered is the heavily body oriented nature of stress. It starts in the brain, but within seconds the whole body is activated. We all know what the flight/fight reaction is. It’s our eons old hard wired way of functioning. The stressors have changed, but not the response yet.
I was in yoga class, and the teacher chose to use a student as a teaching moment. This woman’s shoulder was frozen. At a certain height of raising her arm, her shoulder and arm froze and when pushed upon, moved as a single unit. When the teacher eased it down and pushed, the joint flexed.
Added to the flight/fight response is a third component we rarely hear about: freeze. That’s what trauma is. When danger escalates to fear, and an added ingredient of immobilization occurs, be it physical or otherwise, the human system begins to shut down. Withdrawal, disassociation, and actual paralysis can occur. I have experienced it in my own life.
While we were watching this rather generous woman be our example, I reflected on my own lack of shoulder freedom. Consult the image attached to this post. See the straight line of the shoulders? Mine didn’t use to do that. For the most part they still don’t. I remembered that morning my own sexual abuse, and how my shoulders were during that experience. I made a point to thank the woman, as I wondered if her shoulder triggered anything similar. That’s how trauma can work.
I went back to my mat. I wasn’t freaked out, or embarrassed. I have processed those events of my past enough where talking about them is far easier, I know they weren’t my fault, and it doesn’t mean I’m less than. What I did discover was that my body has been remembering that event for all this time. Now it’s time to loosen it up, and shake it all out, and re-wire the memories of mind/body connection with new pathways.
I felt a sense of joy, and it was because I felt a sense of freedom. There in that yoga class, with no intention, just an aspiration to awareness, I was liberated. I took another step into integration of my being.
I invite you to move your body more. Walk it, exercise it, make it fit in such a way that you develop connection. Connection to others who are safe, connection to outside, and connection between your body and mind.