Moving More Than Muscle

stress & mental health Feb 25, 2020

I am coming back after a year of maternity leave, a journey into joy, challenge, change and heart bursting love.

The most salient observation in having a child is the dynamic forward motion of life. We live inside of this force; it moves us, and we are continually navigating how to work with the ups, the downs and everything in between. Our bodies are the place we record all the feels; we absorb, hold, transmit, block, boundary, act, numb, filter and ultimately make our lives through our bodies. I have experienced motherhood as MORE: more emotions, more feelings, more people, more responsibilities, more love, more stress and more joy. I have been curious within all this fullness, (which can sometimes feel like overwhelm), how to process so much. Once again, it has led me to the resource of my body.

I believe stress that we do not transform will be transmitted into our tissues, planet, and people—ultimately contributing to the culture of our families and society. We move through our day encountering and creating a multitude of experiences. Our bodies house these memories and our lives take shape around them.

We all have our very own body and so many feelings inside. Most of the body’s physical, emotional and sensorial complexity, we cannot see. Our culture is fixated on the body as wrapping paper and yet it misses most of its magic. Getting to know the inside of your body has much to offer you, including a pallet of sensations and many resources for support and transformation. Movement can be a power tool for processing stress; it literally MOVES you, and it can move much more than your muscles. 

Your body is the primary witness to what happens simultaneously on the inside and outside of yourself—it is experiencing both! It is the tension bridge and congruency checker between what is happening and how you are feeling about it. Stress has a huge range of impact, but it is always experienced in your body.

Stress is a physiological process and has to be processed bodily.  Reducing stress is actually a different process than reducing the stressor that created it. Say, you have a deadline at work that you’re anxious about. Even after you hand in the project and the stressor is gone, your body is still charged with that stress. You go home, drive in traffic, make dinner, have a glass of wine and flop at the end of a long day. You know the stressor is gone but your body often does not. When your body is stressed it sends a soup of hormones into your tissues and blood to your muscles in preparation to act (fight, flee, freeze). After the threat (perceived or real) is over, this concoction of stress is still in your body and it needs to be used, to complete the stress cycle response.

The biggest detriment of a sedentary population is not the lack of fitness but the fact that physical movement is essential in processing stress. Stress is not bad unless it gets stuck. The primary way of processing and completing the physiological response to stress is movement. There is much more individuality and complexity in application (including the importance of rest, restorative movement, co-regulated movement etc.), but at the most simple level completing the cycle requires some movement. Breathing, crying, laughing, affection, play and self-expression are also documented to assist in completing the stress cycle.

The good news is we do not need to do this alone or all at once—actually, it is imperative that we don’t. The ability to feel good in our bodies requires feeling and processing a full range of feelings, from little frustrations to grief, excitement to joy. This process is often not a giant release, but a titration of working with feelings and sensation over time. Essentially, we are all learning how to better be able to feel and since feelings happen inside our bodies, bodily practices can help us to do this. Safe connection, supported environments, art, and therapeutic modalities can also greatly support us. The next time you look in the mirror, look beyond the surface to the inside, and know that your stress, but also the possibility to transform, is there within you. 

Looking forward to moving and learning together.

 

With love,

Erin

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