There were several moments in my practice tonight where self-compassion emerged victoriously. One was when I was forward folding. My knees were bent to a 45-degree angle. My mind churning up the content, “oh man, look at how tight my hamstrings are, I am so out of practice, how could I let myself get like this, I used to be able to have my legs completely straight, I am so far from where I used to be” among a flood of other thoughts that are difficult to put into words. Exhale. “It’s okay,” a different mind mixtape began to play. “It's because you’ve been sitting so much from your long commute and long hours at the clinic. You’ve been working so hard. Good job, and welcome back.” Inhale. It was a simple 25-minute yoga routine, and it hit the spot, or shall I say spots.
I don’t know how long it has been since I practiced yoga asana, but it has been a while. I felt it in my twists, folds, and lunges. I felt flesh against flesh hat I had never felt before, a few stress pounds from the past few months I suppose. I felt the tension of daily stresses in the dull aches between my joints. I felt the tangles of fascia in my muscles, residual from the subtle emotional hits either self-inflicted or collateral. It was like my body was an old friend that I hadn’t talked to in a while. It told me it’s been going through some tough things, but it was so happy to talk again, and it hopes to see me again soon. Presence and space. It reminds me of when I am with patients, and I just listen. Holding space I’ve learned is to witness people just as they are, as they present themselves. And today I held space for myself and my body.
Energy. It’s real. And we are made of it, and it flows through us. Sometimes it doesn’t and we have a backlog, and our bodies aren’t meant to hold energy for long, they are meant to receive and release. So when we hold onto energy that is intended to move on, our tissues react with pain and inflammation. "It’s too much", our cells say, "it’s gotta go!" “Ouch!” they cry.
What are we holding on to? If we take it back a bit, the disruption of energy flow can be a result of trauma in many forms, physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, or all of the above. Sometimes as early as we can remember. There it is, frozen in the neck, back, shoulders, or hips. It is too easy to just say, “let it go.” Although that is the goal, the question is, “how?”
This is an introductory inquiry into a trauma-informed segment that I hope to continue during my time here on PEAKD, among other topics. I am two weeks away from completing a Masters of Social Work and am currently practicing medical social work in a primary care clinic. I witness the effects of trauma every day. We are being traumatized on a daily basis and are very conditioned now to the fear response as a state of being. But our bodies will never be conditioned to this. It is not their natural state. All our bodies know how to do is heal, and many of our illnesses are a response to the body’s natural healing processes, inflammation, and auto-immune diseases being one of them. We have to meet our body’s halfway, through our thoughts and intentions. We can use them to change how we feel, and the body WILL respond. The more I practice the more I recognize trauma as a common denominator among patients with chronic illness. This echos the research, and according to a Kaiser Permanente study in the late 1990s, adverse childhood experiences (ACES) correlate with chronic illness later in life as well as early death. Although trauma can last a lifetime, and its effects can be far reaching, it can also be treated and overcome. This of course is a process and one that can begin at any moment when we are ready. I hope you consider joining me on this journey of unpacking trauma and how it relates to our human experience.