I knew a masseur years ago who had an upsetting experience fresh out of massage school. He was working on a particularly knotty mass on a client. He labored over and around this area at some length, when suddenly, as the mass loosened, the client burst out sobbing, wracked with the pain of a traumatic experience he didn’t know he’d had from childhood.
Even though the release of this long-held secret memory was cathartic for the client, it so disturbed the masseur that he left the profession. He didn’t feel equipped to handle that kind of emotional fragility.
Smile and the body-brain smiles with you
An interesting corollary popped up in my interview with yoga goddess Holly Briscoe last week. Several things she mentioned apply.
Holly noted that she’s witnessed practitioners break down and cry in class, most often when exploring their edge (her apt term for that space just beyond what seems possible). Later they’ll relate to her how something in the rigor of the yoga posture caused the emotional release. And always they feel freed, liberated.
In class Holly will also speak to the benefits certain postures accrue to practitioners. For example, certain asanas will help alleviate anxiety, or depression, or fear . . . .
She had one powerful story that I’ll relate in a later post that also speaks to this body-mind process (as opposed to the mind-body process).
You’ve likely heard this too — I know I have several times — that simply the act of smiling for a minute even when you don’t feel like it one tiny bit produces a cascade of good-feeling neurotransmitters to shoot through your system. In books of uplift you’ll read something to this effect, smile and your body will lead the way. Your brain will follow. You will feel better. You will feel smiled upon.
In each of these scenarios it is the body healing the mind
I’ve only come to this understanding recently — in a meaningful way — though people who move know it. Runners, walkers, surfers, dancers and prancers know it.
(Though I’m not certain videogamers know it, even though their eyeballs are darting and they’re fingers are twitching . . . not all movement counts; or perhaps it’s this, the movement must be all-encompassing. Two hyper-active eyeballs and a twitchy mouse hand won’t cut it.)
As I became a happy explorer of mental techniques over the past years, I’d become accustomed to thinking that the mind heals the body — and it can! And it does. But how miraculous that this flows both ways — the body also heals the mind. What a relief. We don’t have to be on top of every thought. We can let our bodies feel the way there. We can move our bodies and reap far-reaching results.
I can cast my mind back to years ago, fattening and sluggish and desperate, when I undertook a walking program. Though it was in tandem with meditation and prayer and mental imagery wildly at play, I am now convinced that I would not have healed so rapidly without the hours of walking each week. It allowed the body to work its magic too, releasing toxins and toxic thought equally.
The body heals the mind! . . . How exciting to have another set of tools when you simply don’t feel like being still the next time agitation overtakes you — or frustration, or worry, or any damn thing that’s got you feeling blehh.
Walk it out, move it out, shake it out. Then you just may find yourself ready for the contemplative side too. Holly would tell you: it’s the action phase of yoga that prepares you for the stillness.