Sarah talks about her path of re-inhabiting her body, bringing her awareness back down, getting out of her head, and getting on with life.
I’m a fit 34 year-old woman, never been pregnant, very active, healthy, and generally a happy individual. I have been experiencing some unlikely symptoms lately, including incontinence. I have trouble holding my urine. It’s something I’m slightly embarrassed about, because of how our society treats incontinence. (Walk down the ‘incontinence isle’ in your local grocery store to see the message we are sent, the products we are sold.) Many physicians say there is simply nothing you can do, it’s just a part of growing older. (Not true!) But what about me? I’m not old enough to fit into that category yet. Some physicians even suggest surgery, which will likely just exasperate the problem. Lucky for me, I have already gained some knowledge and tools to heal myself.
I started practicing internal and external pelvic floor massage in 2012, after taking my Pelvic Floor Yoga Teacher Training with Leslie Howard in New York. I’ve been practicing abdominal massage since 2014, when I attended a training in Maya Abdominal Massage with Cindy Aspromonte in Denver.
Both of these practices do a lot for my tissues, and the tension in them. I am able to bring my awareness, gradually and sweetly back into my body with simple self-massage techniques. This in turn, increases blood flow, lymph movement, cleansing of toxicity, and fascial stimulation (energy flow, lubrication and regeneration). My proprioception builds with each session, which gets me closer to being able to unite my mind with “down there’, often a place where we lack body awareness.
My teacher Leslie, Pelvic Floor Yoga guru, is an incredibly talented yoga teacher and teacher trainer who has been working with the University of San Francisco on the efficacy of pelvic floor work and yoga on incontinence. They’ve seen some huge positive results, way more than anticipated in this study. Incontinence is an obvious one, but imagine all the other ways this helps women: after or even before birth, after car accidents, sexual abuse or trauma, after falling, after a family member dies or gets injured…
What the belly and pelvis go through is important, because this is where we store emotional trauma and disempowerment.
What are the ways we as a culture experience some sort of trauma to our bodies, minds or hearts?
What are the ways in which you personally have?
For example, my life is a whirlwind of transitions right now, and I’ve been feeling displaced in my external physical space, quite literally, as we just moved and are in the process of buying our first house. It makes sense that I would also feel displaced in my physical body.
So, I had been telling myself for the last month that I needed to slow down and do my PF massages and Abdominal massage. I started to feel guilty that I didn’t just do it. It’s simple, fairly quick, plus it feels great… and I did have some extra time… Finally, after noticing that I had been clenching my teeth in my sleep for the last 5 days or so, I remembered the last time stress snuck up on me.
The jaw holds a mirror to the pelvic floor muscles, what the jaw muscles do, they do. The soft palate is known as the first diaphragm, the breathing diaphragm the second, and the pelvic floor the third. They all behave and move in unison, ideally. That’s why slow deep diaphragmatic breathing usually releases tension in the abdomen and pelvic floor.
Johann Hari spoke brilliantly about Addiction in his TedTalk. He talked about how addicts are actually just a portion of the population who feels most lonely.” The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, the opposite of addiction is connection.” This works the same for aversion, and my aversion to being in my body was similar. I am not present in my body because it doesn’t feel great, therefore I disconnect.
I made myself slow down, and told myself that every Sunday morning, I would make the time for self-care. Starting today.
I felt a visceral release in my muscles and mind afterward that was so profound, I had to just lie there awhile and be in it. I put myself in a time out. My body was once again a place I felt good in. I began to inhabit my body again. I noticed my muscles regain their full range of motion, from engaged to relaxed. When I asked them to relax, they would. My breath would inhabit my entire body, from my soft palate to my pelvic floor. I felt all three diaphragms lower and receive breath on the inhale. On exhale, I watched my belly fall and felt the return of the three Ds.
If this sounds strange to you, I’ll tell you I have had many clients who, when on my Thai Bodywork mat, cannot allow their body to be passive in my arms. Their will is saying one thing, but their muscles have such a habit of protection and defense, they cannot overpower it at first. It sometimes takes a full hour with a client to get them back into their bodies fully.
So here I was, feeling myself once as resistant as one of my patients, experience that sensation of occupancy return. It was liquid and warm, it was joyous and homecoming.
When you relieve tension in your body, when your body is relaxed, you are less focused on disassociating and distracting from in it, and more likely to be comfortable in it. You are less likely to avoid your body altogether, and allow yourself to take pressure off your mind. When we’re uncomfortable in our body, we avoid it, our awareness avoids it, and what is left to occupy our awareness? Thoughts and emotions. We over think, become anxious and worried, critical and accusatory. Everyone is out to do us harm in some way. We are consumed by thought.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 48% of Americans report insomnia occasionally, while 22% experience insomnia every or almost every night. What percent of these people feel a sense of connection and ease in their bodies? Probably not many.
If you’re experiencing trouble sleeping, incontinence, feel disassociated with your body, or are starting to display signs of excess stress in your body – don’t fret! Practice some Pelvic Floor self-massage or Abdominal massage.
Not sure how to do it or what’s next? Check out these links, and contact a professional in your area.