Imagine stuffing a jar with playdough. The more playdough you put in, the less space there is for anything to move.
Trauma works in the same way. We get used to contracting our muscles to the point that the muscles forget to breathe. It feels stuffy, dense and heavy. I am sure that you can relate to the feeling. I know I have felt like this for years.
In my last blog “Stuck” Trauma into the Body, I wrote about various impacts on the body as a result of trauma. What I realised was that releasing my body of trauma was a multi-level, multi-faceted approach. It made more of a difference when I combined many things together. Some of the things were as simple as taking a deep breath and others as complex as hypnotherapy and other bodywork.
So I am starting with the simple things that matter. This is something we can do every day (with some discipline of course) and it starts with creating space in our bodies so that they can move freely and being prepared to release tension and trauma that we hold in our bodies.
I am using the word “space” because this gives me the sense of openness and freedom and liberation. When our muscles can move, they can also release.
Before we know where to create space, we need to be aware of where in our body space needs to be created, so here is a simple check for how stiff you are.
How Stiff are you?
The best test for knowing how stiff you are lies in finding how you sit and stand naturally.
Stand in front of a full-length mirror and close your eyes. Take a few breaths and try to relax. When you know that you have relaxed, open your eyes.
Are your shoulders falling forward?
Is your chest collapsed?
Is your weight balanced on two feet or are you favouring one or the other?
Is your neck straight?
This should give you ideas about where you store your tension. Shoulders, neck and your pelvic floor are some of the primary areas where we hold our traumas, but your body may be different. Take a note of what you see and feel.
Next, try and move your limbs and body and see what your range of motion is. Can you make a wide circle with your arms and legs? Turn your head right to left and see if your neck has a full range of motion?
For me, I have always shut my legs tight so my inner thighs don’t have a normal range of flexibility. My shoulders are falling forward and that limits my range of motion. When I stand, I am bent to my right (I have a bend in my spine – called scoliosis)
You can do this a few times and you will start to see a pattern on where you are holding your tension or trauma.
Our Body is a Barometer of “Space”
I know it can be quite daunting to realise how much tension and trauma we are holding but look at it this way. Unless your body tells you, you just won’t know. So I think this is more of a blessing than a curse. By observing our bodies, we can see our patterns; we can become aware of what happens to us when we feel unsafe, when we have anxiety and when we are afraid.
Then, by working on the body, we can start to prepare and release these tensions.
Here are two very simple yet extraordinary fun measures on your path to healing.
Creating “Space” by Stretching
The first rule of creating space in your body is to simply stretch your body. Wherever you are tense, try and stretch those muscles. I stretch my shoulders (they are the main culprits) two to three times a day. This does two things:
- My body keeps getting the message that it needs to relax
- It gives me a few moments of break and I can take deep breaths, creating more space for healing.
I know it sounds simple but I can tell you, the more you do it, the more you will make your body aware of how much tension it holds and it will guide you in releasing this tension.
Creating “Space” by Movement – Closed-Eye Dancing
Do you feel self-conscious when you dance? I know I felt like that for years so we are definitely not going to attempt that. When we dance in such a way, we become more focused on how we look rather than how we are moving our body.
So the primary rule of this dancing is that “no one is watching”. So we are going to do this with closed eyes. I know it sounds weird but there are many dancing circles that focus on the movement of the body rather than “how” you look. 5 Rhythms, Ecstatic Dancing, Silent Disco and No Lights No Lycra are a few such examples of this type of dancing. You can also do this in the comfort of your own house.
To do this, put on a kind of music that really moves you. It doesn’t have to be dancing music – just something you connect with. You can be bare feet and be wearing your PJ’s, it doesn’t matter.
Take a few deep breaths and close your eyes. Simply listen to the music and allow the music to connect with your body. Don’t move, unless you are called to move.
When you feel you wanna move, simply move with the music. It doesn’t really matter how ridiculous you look (your eyes are closed, so no one is looking 😉
Moving in this way allows the body to open up and move those contracted muscles that have been clenched for years. I have done this for years and dancing this way has allowed me to open up to healing and be more connected with my body.
One of the other benefits of doing this form of dancing is that you would start to form a relationship with your body that you probably have never done. You will start to see and feel the places that you shut down when you are feeling unsafe and anxious. You will start to notice where you are at and by noticing, you will start to dissolve some of these tensions in your body.
So simple yet profound wisdom.
I would love for you to try this form of dancing and stretching and let me know how you go. The more of these successes we can share, more of us can dare to try and we can all start to heal together
How about now?