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August 9, 2023

Release Trapped Emotions through Reflexology, Self-Massage, and Yoga

By Jordan Rome

You may have heard the expression, “The body keeps the score,” popularized by psychiatrist and PTSD researcher MD Bessel Van Der Kolk, who also wrote the book, “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.” Ultimately, this saying points to how our bodies reveal the depth of care, or lack thereof, that we’ve given ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In addition, when we experience trauma that has not been processed and released, the memories of that experience are encoded into our bodies on a cellular level which causes functional and chemical changes in the brain. Over time, the trapped stress may manifest as physical symptoms and illness. So, when we are triggered, our brains will communicate to our bodies that we are not safe, causing acute or major physical and psychological reactions that mirror a previously painful experience. 

Our bodies are brilliant machinery, and our minds are supercomputers that process loads of information rapidly, which has the potential to overwhelm our systems. We also pick up on daily environmental stressors, from chemical to relational. Implementing preventative methods to filter out these daily stressors greatly benefits our overall well-being. Creating a deep connection with our bodies by understanding their functions and Now is the Time to Cultivate a Ritual of Resteveloping habits that strengthen our bodily awareness will help us to operate these complexities. Self-massage, reflexology, and some simple but effective yoga poses can support our ability to release difficult emotions, stress, and trauma stored in our vessels. You can incorporate these exercises into your self-care routine and, with consistency and intentionality, relieve your emotional constipation and achieve more profound levels of peace.

Reflexology and Self-Massage

The American Reflexology Certification Board defines reflexology as an integrative health practice that maps a reflection of the body predominately on the feet, hands, and outer ears. It uses unique manual techniques to deliver pressure to neural pathways assisting the body to function optimally. Reflexology helps the vital energy in our body stay in the flow, which can become blocked when dealing with various stress factors. Applying pressure to the reflex zones sends calming signals from the peripheral nerves to our nervous system to adjust the levels of tension we are holding on to. This helps oxygen circulate better to increase our blood supply, allowing our organs to function optimally, reduce pain and stress, and elevate our moods. Reflexology has also been used in the workplace to boost focus and motivation, aid in digestion, relieve PMS symptoms, and support insomnia. Try this simple reflexology hack when you’re feeling overwhelmed and need to release tension in the entire body:

Exercise 1:

  • Use your thumb to press horizontally across the palm of your hand.
  • Imagine a line that runs horizontally, from the edge of your hand to the other edge between your thumb and pointer finger.
  • Use your other hand and press down on this line three times. 
  • Repeat, on the other hand.

Exercise 2:

  • Use your hand and press down on the top center of your thumb with the opposite hand.
  • As you apply pressure, make clockwise circles. Do this for 10 seconds and switch hands.

Self Massage is an accessible way to connect with your body, alleviate its tension, and regulate your emotions. To ensure you get the most out of your massage, set an intention to release all dense emotions you’re carrying subconsciously and consciously before you begin.  Make the moment even more special by listening to relaxing meditative music or frequencies, lighting candles, or incorporating essential oils with your massage oils

5 Minute Self-Massage

  • Starting at the top of your head, awaken your scalp by lightly tapping on the surface for a few seconds. Next, use your fingers to massage your scalp, focusing on the most relaxing areas. Use the end of your palm to massage your temples with gentle circular motions until you feel release. Use your thumbs to massage tiny circles around the base of your skull. 

  • Slowly bow your head, and work your way down the nape of your neck with repetitive long gliding strokes. Continue down the sides of your neck by tilting your head to the right and massaging down the sides, applying gentle pressure. Reverse, stroking the left side of your neck. If you find a tender spot, pause and gently apply extra pressure as needed. Repeat as often as your desire.
  • Now, release tension from your face by opening your mouth wide and dropping your tongue out of your mouth, like you’re saying, “Ahhh.” This movement improves circulation in the face and relieves tension in our facial muscles. You can massage your face lightly using your fingertips to make circles on your cheeks, moving your fingers upward and down. Massage the bridge of your nose, working your way outward to your eyebrows. Use your pointer finger and thumb to gently pinch your inner eyebrow, lightly sliding to the edge of your brows. 
  • Finally, cup your hands over your face, take three deep inhales, and exhale with a sigh. Adding lavender essential oil to your palms as you take deep breaths can further drop you into a state of relaxation. 

If you experience tight hips and poor hip mobility, it may be due to some emotional trauma or stress you’ve been holding on to. Centrally located within the hip is the iliopsoas muscle — a deep muscle group situated toward the front of the inner hip. The psoas connects the upper and lower body houses, and within it are the kidneys, responsible for filtering toxins in the body, and the adrenal glands, which control the fight, flight or freeze response. Your psoas muscle responds to stress by tensing up, and that tension lingers in your hips. Thus, the hips can become a storage vessel for unpleasant emotions. 

Most people experience hip pain, particularly women. Trauma in the hips can feel like pain, tightness, tenderness, or pulling. Specific stretches and asanas are incredible ways to start clearing the emotional clutter. You may notice that your release will come in tears, laughter, or even visualizations! Try the pigeon, frog, or butterfly yoga pose if you want to go deeper.

Stretches and Poses for Emotional Release

Happy Baby

As the pose’s name suggests, you will rock from side to side, legs outstretched like a happy baby!
  • First, lie flat on your back on a comfortable surface or yoga mat bending your knees.
  • Lift your knees at a 90-degree angle, bringing them towards your chest.
  • Reach and grab the inside out outside edges of your feet.
  • Flex your feet and gently spread your knees apart
  • Now rock from side to side, syncing your breath with the movement 

In the end, you can’t run away from your body, but if we’re not mindful, our bodies will slowly but surely get away from us. Encountering stress and trauma is inevitable, but what we do with it is truly important. As you return home to yourself, remember to trust the intelligence of your body to guide the way!

 

Sources:

The Genius of Flexibility: The Smart Way to Stretch and Strengthen Your Body, Bob Cooley

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.”  MD Bessel Van Der Kolk

Learn How to Relieve Stress and Anxiety with Hand Reflexology

Relaxation Techniques for Stress Relief

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May 16, 2024

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