Rosslyn Kemerer takes us through an exploration of some of the common tensions we hold in our bodies. This piece illuminates how listening to our pain can be a powerful tool in our own healing.
In the West, we’ve been a bit slow to catch up with some of the age-old Eastern concepts about the mind body connection. Westerners have clung to the notion that the body and the mind are somehow separable, but the evidence suggests otherwise. We are now beginning to understand and slowly accept these connections. It’s clear that stress, for example, manifests in the body in an extremely tangible way.
We spend a good portion of our lives trying to avoid pain. But what if our pain holds the exact information we need for our healing?
Yoga and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) both share the same understandings about feelings and emotions within the body. They understand that our somatic experience is only a result of what occurs in the mind. So in other words: each area of the body holds very valuable information about our healing journey. Not all pain has a physical root.
There is a reason why so many family member of those struggling with Substance Use Disorders speak of feeling “heartache” or a “heavy heart.” It’s because the energy within the chest, heart and upper back responds to and resonates with certain types of painful relational experiences that are emotional in nature.
Let’s explore a bit further about what yoga and TCM teach us about emotions within the body:
Headache: Headaches are often associated with over-thinking and over-achieving (i.e. excess energy in the mind). If you regularly suffer from headaches, learning how to slow down and be present is key. Try developing a mindfulness meditation or visualization practice.
Neck Pain: Neck pain usually indicates frustration in communication or relating with people or problems…they literally become a pain in the neck. If you find yourself experiencing neck pain, practice expressing yourself truthfully and honestly. Even if it’s in the privacy of a journal or therapist, clear communication helps to move energy through the neck and throat.
Tight Shoulders: Tense, tight shoulders result from over-responsibility, feeling overburdened or literally feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders. Shoulder pain is so common in our people-pleasing culture! When you notice your shoulders clenching up, see if you can relax the muscles and bring your shoulders back to a neutral resting place. And take this cue as gentle reminder to practice your favorite type of self-care. Schedule a monthly massage if you can to keep that energy flowing.
Chest Tightness: Heart, chest and upper back tension are associated with our relationships – our experience of love and acceptance for ourselves and others. It’s where we hold grief and sadness the most. That tightness in your chest desperately needs a place to go. Lay yourself down with a rolled towel between your shoulder blades. Imagine allowing your lungs to stretch. Breathe softly and deeply from the belly (diaphragm) if you can.
Lower Back & Hip Pain: Lower back and hip pain is most associated with fear, often in relation to being our true selves, expressing our sexuality and creativity. When your lower back and hips need attention, try tapping in to your own creativity. We are all inherently creative in a wide variety of ways, so think outside of the box if creating art isn’t your thing. Try something new and give yourself permission to be yourself.
Abdomen: Tension congregates in the abdomen when we experience anxiety or are holding on to ‘undigested’ emotions. Learning how to breathe deeply and properly is key to strengthen the diaphragm and achieve more fulfilling, therapeutic breaths to calm the body.
If you find yourself being called to move through some of your emotional pain, here are a few questions to ask yourself to continue the conversation:
What is your body experiencing right now in this moment? And with that in mind, how can you better care for yourself today?
How can you practice feeling your way into physical discomfort without identifying with the pain? Try to bring a sense of curiosity to your sensations. Once you’ve brought this awareness into areas of discomfort, try then noticing what things feel like in other areas of your body.
Can you listen to whatever your body is saying today in a supportive, loving way? Just as you would listen to a loved one sharing their pain with you? Pain is the body’s way of getting your attention. Let go of any agenda, just as we do with reflective listening, and simply be open to hearing the messages coming from your own body.
How might you create a little more time or space to communicate with your body? To open, and soften, the lines of communication? To let your whole self know: I am here for you.
Hopefully some of this information resonates or sparks some curiosity for you. Next time, we will move deeper into these concepts in relation to the 7 chakras or energy systems within the body.
I’d like to leave you with this lovely quote to consider today:
“If you listen to your body when it whispers, you’ll never have to hear it scream.”
Rosslyn Kemerer is a yoga sharer, graphic designer, nature-lover and mentor to fellow entrepreneurs. She uses yoga along with her own brainstorming techniques and enthusiasm to inspire her students to step boldly after the pursuit of their dreams.
Rosslyn loves bringing her creativity in to private sessions with an eclectic mixture of yoga movement and philosophy, energy healing, Traditional Chinese Medicine, discussion and life-coaching techniques.
"Together, we uncover the layers to reveal the body as a metaphor for healing. My goal is always to leave you feeling empowered, inspired, and motivated to live wholeheartedly."