Yesterday I tried something amazing. And by amazing, I mean uh-mazing. It’s called yoga therapy. For some of you, this may sound a little confusing. Haven’t I already tried this before? I mean, I do frequently use my personal yoga practice as therapeutic exercise. However, this was different. This time I finally buckled down, shelled out a little more money, and treated myself to a session with a trained yoga therapist. It was part talk therapy session, part thai yoga massage (which, for those of you who don’t know what that is, I recommend you google it!) and completely wonderful.
But enough about me going on and on about the qualities of that session. Let’s get to the real issue. An issue I had never considered before, but that became very clear to me as the therapy session progressed: the issue of my “protector.”
Every time I would do a pose, whether independent or assisted, that would require my injured leg to be pushed a little further than normal, my back locked up like a fishing wire being drawn in, pulled in tight with a big old fighting fish hanging on the end of the line. My fists would clench, my eyebrows would tighten and my shoulders would hunch and cramp into a protective posture. I could feel the sweat gathering on my brow as my breath shortened into panicked, rushed intakes of air.
My back is my protector. When I was younger, I had a horrible back, I slouched as low as I could in my chair when I sat upright. I used to think it was just because, growing up as a tall girl, I was ashamed of my height. But then I made the connection. When I lay in my bed at night, I curled as tightly into a fetal position as I could force my body to squeeze and lay buried under the covers. I was in protective mode. I curled inwards to protect my internal organs, to protect my heart, to protect my genitals. In other words, I used my back to block my abuser from everything he liked to hurt. My back became my shield, my armor, my warrior that stood in my defense.
And it showed. When I was younger, I had a horrible back. And by horrible, I mean HORRIBLE. Muscles spasms, knots that lined my spine and entwined around my bones like crushing vines, like pythons trying to strangle my breath, to strangle my life away. My back was where all the hurt, anger, and emotions stowed away. To this day, my worst flashbacks occur when people sneak up behind me, when someone touches my back, or moves quickly where I can’t see them.
The body holds on to emotional trauma and stress more than we like to think sometimes. It can be painful to pay attention to where those patches of hurt store themselves in our physical body. Sometimes when I stretch my hips, I cry because so much bad seems to seep out of my tightened joints.
But once the stretching’s over…wow! what a difference. I feel release and sadness mingled with the happiness that some of the poison finally got drained. So here’s where I challenge you reader. Lay down on the floor, flat on your back, with your arms outstretched by your side and take a few minutes to breathe. Really breathe. Deeply breathe between your eyebrows and into your toes. Take note of where you feel the most tension, where you hurt the most. Then take a few moments to stretch that part of you, to really give it some extra love, extra kindness. Breathe slowly and deeply, the kind of breathing that you never feel that you have time for normally. Pay attention to where the trauma has stored itself in your body. Then release it.
Your body will thank you for the attention, and so will your heart.