“I am not my body.”
This has been one of the common mantras the past month. It is a reminder that I refer to “my body” and “my mind” because they belong to me but they are not who I am. I am more than the space I occupy or the thoughts in my head.
Nonetheless, our bodies are a very nice place to stay while we are here on earth. They are our homes and should be treated with our care and respect. Although we are not our bodies alone, these vessels carry our experiences and can offer a gateway to healing from pain. One of the biggest insights for me this month has been growing in my understanding of how our bodies store the tension, fear, and heartache of our true selves. Yoga asanas (postures) are one physical approach to healing. In many cases, yoga asanas can help people reconnect with their bodies after disembodied experiences like sexual assault. Yoga asanas can show us that we are capable of more than our minds would have us believe and they can teach us to recognize and respect our limitations.
The asanas were a gateway for me to think about this body-mind-soul connection this month and I became especially interested in this idea of healing through the body. In Rishikesh, I had the opportunity to learn about some additional approaches to healing that complement the asanas. During breaks from our yoga training, I completed an Ayurvedic massage course, a myofascial release and yin yoga workshop, and received an emotional deblockage treatment. Each experience has given me invaluable insight into our body’s capacity for healing.
The first lesson in our Ayurvedic massage course was that the role of the therapist is to be a channel of positive energy, to be fully present in mind, body, and spirit for the client. When the therapist is present like this, the client can tell on a subconscious level and their body and mind are more receptive to healing. When a therapist is not present, the client can also tell—anyone who has had a bad massage has personal experience with this phenomenon. Beyond just massage, this reminds me that kind, present touch (when appropriate and welcomed) can be a source of healing whether it’s a hug or a formal massage.
In the myofascial release workshop we learned how the fascia that surround our muscles often bind to the muscle making us tense in instances of physical trauma or chronic bad posture. It is possible to heal and open these areas by activating trigger points in our bodies that allow the fascia to release. After a short workshop, I have been able to apply these trigger points in a handful of situations already when friends are in pain. Last week I relieved a friend’s blurred vision and migraine after applying pressure in the right point in her shoulders. While our bodies certainly store pain throughout our lives, it has been remarkable to me to see how my own body can also be used to relieve the pain of others.
Finally, during my last week in Rishikesh, I went to get an emotional deblockage treatment. I was very skeptical at first and only decided to go after many positive reviews from friends. The best way to describe this is an uncomfortable and sometimes physically painful release of trigger points akin to a deep tissue, full body massage (though it is in no way a massage). During the treatment, you also receive insights into the emotional blockages stored in your body. Everyone who did this had a different experience, but mine was very positive. Although I do not have many blockages now, it reminded me of a time when I was less in touch with my body and it still allowed me to release something I had been holding onto. Some people released by crying after the treatment, others experienced feeling physically lighter. No matter the release, it’s powerful to let go of tension in our minds and bodies.
It’s true, we are not our bodies alone, but there are some incredible ways we can heal our mind and soul through body-centered therapy. Although I didn’t intentionally set out to learn about those strategies this summer, I am incredibly grateful for them. I hope I can continue to apply these healing techniques for myself, my friends, and family in the future.