The Healing Process: Getting Grounded through Bodywork

I'm beginning a new series here on the Bigger Life blog, in which I intend to get nitty gritty into different healing modalities and aspects of mental, spiritual, and physical recovery. I want this series to help bridge the perceived (but not necessarily real?) gap between body and mind, as well as clarify some of the more difficult aspects of yoga philosophy and anatomy.

Honestly, I have so much other work I should be doing right now, but the healing experience I went through earlier this week was so deep and profound that I can't NOT stop my day to write about it right now!

Not all who wander are lost...but they may be ungrounded AF! And prancing around Sri Lanka in a flowy princess dress definitely doesn't help with grounding but it sure is fun!

“The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” - Christopher McCandless


The above quote has been a closely-held motto for many years of my life, years which I've devoted to wandering, living nomadically, intentionally NOT planting roots in any one location. I've always loved travel with a burning passion and scoffed at the idea of settling down in one place for all of my life.


My sobriety brought me new travel opportunities and I latched onto them with both hands, stubbornly trying to make the "digital nomad" life work until it was so obviously not working that I had no choice but to return home to the US with my head hung low.


It's only in recent months, through life's rapid evolution pushing me in challenging new directions, and also through my own study of Yoga and Ayurveda, that I'm learning the value of grounding down and being rooted. It's been a slow and difficult process and I've still been quite flighty and spastic due to my naturally-high Vata, recently moving to our new property, working hard outside all the time, driving all around Northern AZ for photo shoots and yoga classes, several trips back and forth from California, etc.


I didn't realize how ungrounded I actually was until a back strain sent me to seek help from a local bodyworker who's also a yogi and a new friend of mine. I'm generally terrible about treating myself to massages and I hadn't had one in literally a year or more. I had also never had such comprehensive therapeutic bodywork done by an intuitive healer. It was an incredible, vulnerable experience that I'm still processing through.


"The issues are in the tissues," yoga for recovery teacher Nikki Myers says, and I 100% agree. We've probably all heard yin yoga teachers say that hip openers unlock trapped emotions, and maybe you've felt it in Half Pigeon pose too. But in this bodywork treatment I realllllly felt it. As the therapist was working my hip joint, I suddenly had a rush of emotion and wanted to cry, but couldn't for some reason. This feeling of wanting to cry but not quite being able to let it out continued through most of the session, typical for me as I am generally a person who bottles up my sadness and has trouble releasing, especially in front of people.


It got even more interesting than that though. As my therapist continued the treatment he told me he could feel that I was very heart-centered but I had lost connection to my "dan tien", a term I was unfamiliar with but basically refers to your "power center", your lower 3 chakras, with an emphasis on #2, the sacral chakra. As you may know from yoga study, the 3 lower chakras are responsible for grounding, stability and security, sexuality and reproduction, confidence and self worth, and many other things. My bodyworker had me work with my breath and the 2 lower bandhas (bandhas are another aspect of subtle anatomy, basically energetic "locks" in the body, maybe I'll write about them more another time :-)) to reconnect. I really didn't know what to think at first. It made so much sense. I've been traveling, moving, changing business plans and lifestyles and living a largely unrooted life for years now. I've definitely noticed symptoms of this -- anxiety, struggling to focus, difficulty waking up in the morning, low sex drive, emotional eating, etc. I just didn't realize that even as a yoga teacher with a regular practice I could still be completely disconnected from my critical lower half.


Leaving the massage I didn't know what to think. I was instructed to take the rest of the day off, if possible, an instruction I somewhat brushed aside until I got into my car and started driving off to my next destination. I was hit with a feeling of exhaustion and depletion so sudden that I was forced to pull into a parking lot and take a nap. Who knew getting a massage could be so tiring? After napping for an hour I woke up with a feeling of slight depression. I attributed this to suddenly feeling grounded again after living for so long up in my heart and head. This feeling of depression and tiredness continued throughout the day until evening, when I started to feel different. I felt my energy pick back up, particularly in my lower half, and I even felt like my 3 lower chakras were literally vibrating with energetic frequency. It was wild. I felt the sensations of my root and belly more strongly than I had felt in years. This newfound awareness and sensation has waned slightly but continued through the last couple days. I feel like I am walking differently, breathing differently, and have more vital energy. I haven't had trouble waking up like I was before. I've had less food cravings and more of a sex drive. It feels like magic, but I know it's science! The subtle anatomy is so real, and we are all just made up of energy. Learning to manipulate and balance our energies is so, so important. Although I always believed the chakras, the bandhas, etc. to be real, I have never felt such a visceral connection to them before this treatment. Since then, I've been studying up on the power of bodywork, revisiting Anodea Judith's profound writing on the chakras and psychology, and just paying more attention to my physical body. I'll be planning some future yoga classes and meditation classes with an aim to incorporate more chakra balancing. I learned that losing connection with the sacral chakra is a common symptom in people who have experienced addiction and/or trauma. Wow.


I'll definitely be continuing monthly bodywork sessions with this practitioner because I'm so intrigued to see what more we can uncover. If you're ever seeking a similar experience in the Flagstaff area, please let me know and I'll happily pass along information.


Have you ever had a similarly profound experience through bodywork?


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