For those who have attended my classes you will know that a message I often share with students is that “we are not just walking heads”. Our bodies are not just a servant to our overactive, thinking minds. Our bodies are our true home – where our feelings live. And as our emotions are constantly responding to our environment, so too are our bodies- we get knots in the tummy when we feel nervous, our heart jumps when we are startled , we clench our jaw when we are holding back anger, back pain is known to be linked to depression – and this list goes on (and on!).
According to author and somatic therapist Judith Blackstone, these patterns of tension are almost always unconscious. When they are repeated over time, they become set in the body become unconscious holding patterns. The physiological stress response impacts every system of the body, ultimately interacting with every cell. It is therefore no wonder that the habitual holding patterns of stress are expressed through body language, posture and expressions, or may manifest as physical symptoms like pain, digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, immune dysfunction, medical issues, depression, anxiety and addiction. These long-held patterns of tension continue to shape and constrict our bodies unless we make an effort to release them.
Our bodies record and remember stress and wait for the opportunity to repair what has been disrupted.
In recent years neuroscience has emerged with evidence that supports somatic psychology, showing how the mind influences the body and how the body influences the mind. So whilst our bodies are well equipped to handle stress in small doses, when that stress becomes long-term or chronic it requires an attentiveness to the habitual patterns of the mind and body in order to successfully bring the whole bodily system back into balance.
Therapeutic mind-body techniques to help address chronic tension and stress
Current evidence recommends a wide range of active interventions that help address chronic stress held in the body, including the following:
- awareness of bodily sensations
- breathing exercises that encourage a full, free breath
- physical exercise such as dance or yoga
- healing touch or massage
- grounding mindfulness exercises that anchor the attention in the body
- focusing techniques that access the body as a resource
Michelle Seelig works as a Counsellor, Coach and Mindfulness Educator. She holds a Masters Degree in Creative Arts In Therapy, a Graduate Diploma in Counselling and a Bachelor of Education with a double major in Dance and Media Studies. She is a Senior Meditation Teacher registered with the Meditation Association of Australia, a Level 2 Yoga Teacher registered with Yoga Australia, and a registered Coach.
Michelle’s work combines the wisdom of mind-body medicine with evidence-based counselling approaches, mindfulness techniques, positive psychology tools and therapeutic art-based strategies to heal the whole person and achieve a true sense of wellbeing.
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