When we work with our bodies through yoga, we are working into a multifaceted experiential landscape that can sometimes be difficult to navigate. I’ve been learning more and more about the manifestation of energy in the body through my Yoga Therapy training, and I am fascinated by the diverse ways the body heals and repairs.
Our bodies are wrapped in facia, a tightly wound bundle of muscle fibers that make up a layer of our subtle body. When we experience trauma in the body, we often times hold this trauma in the facia causing bands of energetic tension, and in some cases blockages. We can use our yoga practice to help us feel into these patterns in a safe and held space. Over time, we can reteach our nervous system to let go of old holding patterns as we awaken more deeply into our Self.
How do you know where you are holding energy in the body?
You can begin to learn how to work with your own subtle body energy by working with the following meditation practice. First, find your way to your yoga mat, a cushion, or a carpet. You can either lay down, or alternatively you can sit up making sure that the shoulders are not rounding.
If you are laying on the floor, take a deep breath in, twice as long as any breath you’ve taken this month, and open your mouth to sigh out all of the air. If you are seated, root down in your sit bones by acknowledging the connection between you pelvis and the earth or a block. Draw your navel in towards your spine, and you’ll notice your heart will raise naturally. Feel the crown of your head ascending towards the sky. Take a deep breath in through the nose and open the mouth slowly releasing all of the breath. Both postures will seal the lips, and continue to breath through the nose.
Bring your awareness to your breathing. Notice how the breath moves in and out through the nose. Notice how the navel raises on your inhales, and how your navel falls on your exhales. Begin counting backward from 10 to 1; in this way: Inhale 10, Exhale 10. In hale 9. Exhale 9. Maintain focus on counting and the rise and fall of your navel. Scan the body from the crown of the head to the tip of the toes. Invite all of the body to relax. Notice if you feel tension in the head, forehead, eyes, cheeks, jaw, neck, shoulders, collar bone, shoulders, arms, torso, pelvic, thigh bones, knee caps, calves, and feet. Notice if there is any holding, muscle tension, or fatigue. Feel into your body, notice if you are holding your shoulders, neck, jaw, fist, or hips. Just notice without judgement.
If you arrive at a place where there is energetic holding manifesting as tension, tightness, pulling, or soreness invite it to let go. Sometimes just the suggestion is enough. If you ask the muscles to release and they refuse you can flex the muscles that are tight. Sometimes flexion can encourage release if a muscle is in spasm.
Scan the body once more checking into the areas of the body that have a tendency to be tight, tender, or sore. Take a moment to notice if these areas are holding any emotion, thought, or intellectual material. Simply acknowledge the feeling and let it dissolve into consciousness.
Bring your awareness to the center of your forehead, between your eyebrows. Imagine that this space is a blank black screen. This is your consciousness. Imagine that this deep black space is vast and endless like an ocean. Never ending, expansive, and whole. Allow your consciousness to radiate in this black slate of conscious being. Notice if a thought arises, and as if it were a wave on the surface of the ocean, let it dissolve back into the endless sea of consciousness. Do not feel any need to hold the thought or feeling as it moves across the black screen of consciousness. Simply allow any thoughts to merge with source consciousness.
Pause here in a state of reflection. Notice that part of you that is not concerned with what thoughts are arising. Notice the place within that doesn’t need to approve or to judge. Meditate and watch that space. Continue to be aware simply of thoughts as they arrive and as the depart.
Take several breaths to deepen into your awareness of the room. Begin to move the fingers and the toes, gently inviting movement back into the body. Allow the senses to take in information about your body resting in meditation. Noticing smells, noises, vibrations in your immediate space. When you’re ready, you can come to a seat with softened eyes and the hands at the center of the heart. Draw your awareness inward and touch the space within that is not concerned with judgement or approval. Lower the head to the hands in gratitude. Acknowledge yourself for touching base with your physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual bodies.
Journaling After Meditation
After you complete your meditation it is good to counter this spiritual practice with journaling to ground you into the present moment. Ask yourself, what is the one take away from meditation. Write a brief statement about the way you feel in your physical body, the way you feel intellectually, the way you feel emotionally, and write a statement rating your perceived connection to spirit. Notice as you ground into your present moment if any judgements or limiting beliefs come into play.
If you find yourself being held back by limiting beliefs or judgments you can work to clear those by identifying the ways you have judged yourself and forgiving yourself for buying into the judgment.
To do this you first need to understand that you are a diving being having a human experience, and secondly you have to thoroughly understand that we are simply pattering through life based on our experience and how we reacted or responded to our circumstance. This is where the waters sometimes get muddy and it can be so very helpful to have a person to check in with who can guide you through muddled projection.
When our unconscious material arrives, and we are not properly supported we run the risk of further traumatizing our experience, and then deepening the pattern of behavior we are working to balance. If you find journaling challenging, or if it is causing more problems than it is doing good you can enlist the help of a Therapist, Counselor, or Yoga Therapist. If you are recovering from physical, intellectual, emotional, or sexual trauma it is important to seek support with providers who are properly trained to guide you through your inquiry process.
Possible Outcomes of Meditation and Body Awareness
It’s important to know what could precipitate out of even a short somatic session where you are feeling into your experience. Sometimes stored emotions and trauma can be brought to the surface when you’re exploring the subtle body. The first thing to be aware of is that emotions can come on suddenly and can be intense. Allowing any sensations to arise and consequently dissipate lets the body release tension while promoting healing.
Whether you are working with body awareness in collaboration with a professional or going it alone, you’ll want to release any awareness that has manifested from your body scan by acknowledging it and letting it go. Journaling acts as a form of acknowledging the unconscious emotions and feelings that come to light. If you are working with a professional they can help you to release energetic holds psychologically or consciously depending on their specialization. If you’re alone in this journey you can use a technique known as expressive writing.
Dr. James W. Pennebaker of University of Texas at Austin, TX conducted a study where college students used expressive writing to help heal trauma. Participants wrote to chronicle their emotions using the fundamental practices of mindfulness, observation without judgement, to clear their energetic field of negativity.
The study found that identifying and owning negative emotions helped participants to balance their moods and behaviors. It is important to refrain from rereading what you write, and it can also be helpful to destroy it–even creating a ceremony around the release of energy. When you are navigating the unpacking of emotional material it is important to maintain clean communication. Rereading what you write alone could cause more harm than good and is best avoided unless you’re in a collaborative relationship with a professional.
You may experience a euphoria like sensation after connecting to your physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual body in this way. Allow yourself to be open to the sensations without the need to chase them. Sensation is always changing and no two experiences are the same. One body scan meditation might yield one outcome and another might result in a completely different experience. It is important to let go of expectations and allow the gentile unfolding of experience.
Drawing Conclusions and Moving Forward
Allowing your practice to become an opportunity for inquiry can be remarkable and very informative. The glimpses of light, balanced, being that we see in meditation is truly the essence of our being. When we can begin to peel the layers back without judgment we can see our true nature and that it is constantly calling us home. With each feeling, emotional, and experience is a personal invitation to come back to our source, compassionate loving kindness.