ISSUE #014 - May 07, 2019

Using Motion to Heal Emotion

Yasmin Lambat

Using motion to heal emotion.

Stress happens in the nervous system.

Every emotion in the body has a physiological response. We are sensory beings, experiencing life as it happens.

Think about butterflies in your tummy when you’re excited or blush when you’re nervous. Heart racing when you’re anxious.

We’re shaped by how we respond to sensory signals from moment to moment.

Somatic refers to our awareness of that response.  Our felt experience. The mind as experienced by the body.

Somatic trauma-informed therapies work at regulating the nervous system and  the physiological effects of trauma.  A gentler way to heal trauma without the risk of re-traumatisation.

Getting out of freeze response kindly.

Hi, I’m Yasmin Lambat, the creator of a BodySensing somatic therapy called Body Yawn somatic fascial unwinding™. A trauma-informed, self-healing mindfulness- based movement practice grounded in Neurobiology and fascia research. Fascia is the connective tissue. The fabric that shapes us.

Every time you sigh, have the urge to stretch and yawn, or instinctively exhale in nature.  Your body is tapping into its innate ability to restore. Body Yawn Therapy™ uses PANDICULATION, the urge to stretch and yawn as one way to tap into that innate wisdom.

The nervous system lies at the heart of healing trauma.  Stephen Porges and Peter Levine are two leading experts who have been advocates for healing trauma through the body for a few decades.  Stephen Porges is well know for the polyvagal theory and the role of the vagus nerve in nervous system regulation.

With trauma the Autonomic Nervous System is in dysregulation. It means that either the sympathetic, which is the arousal state  or parasympathetic, the calming state are in hyperarousal.

In the past we spoke of the body being in balance but the polyvagal theory shifted the paradigm of balance to regulation.  There are 3 states that we can experience.

  1. Fight or flight, an overstimulated sympathetic response – linked with anxiety and fear of the unknown
  2. Calm and connected, regulated– a feeling of engaging with life in the moment. Having he ability to bounce back from a difficult situation.
  3. Freeze/shutdown, an overstimulated parasympathetic response– A helpless feeling or feeling of resignation

Recognising the freeze mode is crucial in healing trauma. From a somatic therapy perspective it shows up as somatic amnesia, numb to sensation. A shutting out or shutting down.  Linked to dissociation a coping mechanism.  A survival state that allows people to cope with stress or the effects of trauma.

Getting someone out of freeze state requires a practice that restores regulation. Not always easy but possible when you tap into the body’s own ability to restore. It takes practice and is not a quick fix. But the practice is simple and gentle.

We may think that relaxation techniques are good to calm the nervous system. Taking someone into a deep relaxation or meditation may not be best for someone in freeze.

So what’s the best somatic approach?

I use pandiculation. Our spontaneous urge to stretch and yawn.  Cats, dogs and other mammals have this inner blueprint too.

It’s taking that sensation and integrating it with self-nurturing intuitive practices to heal trauma through the body.

Intuitive means tuning into the guidance within. Tapping into the innate, instinctual nature of the body.

Somatic also refers to the mind within and how we perceive ourselves from within. Recognising habitual conditioned patterns from our felt sensation. Learning to notice physical information from a place of curiosity.  Learning to find the quiet.

Sensations can be overwhelming. So it’s important to find the support from a trained therapist who can create a container of calm and quiet and show you how to create that for yourself.

Interoceptors are emotional signals that arise from within the body. Like hunger, thirst, racing heartbeat, sensual touch, the urge to pee, and of course those butterflies in your tummy.

Dr Bud Craig, a leading Neuroanatomist traced interoceptors to a part of the brain known for emotional regulation, empathy and wellbeing.  Distressed signals arise from that part of the brain alerting us when we’re not ok.  Today that knowledge and help us create somatic tools to heal trauma.

Why Fascia?

Fascia is a word used to describe the connective tissue, the net the biological fabric, the body stocking that organises and holds the body in shape. But the body is mostly water, so how are we held? The water is bound in a gel. A bit like jelly.

As well as every organ and nerve fiber, every individual muscle fiber is encased in a fascial net. Skin to bone. Bathed in a gel that keeps Fascia supple and plump when in harmony and sticky restricted and inflamed under duress.

This changes our perception of having to hold ourselves stacked upright and aligned with core strength to experiencing a 3-dimensional elastic fluid filled net that, when healthy, feels held, feels buoyant, has a spring like quality and moves effortlessly as a whole.

Robert Schliep, an expert on fascia, refers to it as a sensory tissue. Intertwined with the nervous system. As a Somatic Educator, it made me curious about the science of a somatic approach to healing. If fascia is a sensory organ, could movement therapy be an alternative to talk therapy? Could it heal Trauma? Could movement regulate the nervous system? Could movement be medicine?

Embedded with billions of nerve endings. Mechanoreceptors make Fascia the largest sensory organ in the body.  A sixth sense.

Responding both to Proprioception, the sense of the body in space and Interoception (Pratyahara), the state of our wellbeing within.

Then there are Glial cells. Cells of the nervous system that surround and support Nerve cells. The “connective tissue” of the nervous system. There are almost 10 times more Glial cells than nerve cells.  David Lesondak in his recent book Why Fascia Matters gives an incredible overview of Glial Cells and their role in wellbeing.  He mentions Schwann cells.  And their role in inflammation and chronic pain. Another missing link to how body, mind, emotion and Fascia are connected.

As a lover of Somatic movement, I refer to Fascia as our fabric of Embodiment.

Fascia is shaped by how we experience life through the nervous system.  It is shaped by both mechanical and emotional sensations.  The Autonomic nervous system responding to everything it senses.

We know that the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is the body’s self-regulating messaging system. Between the Sympathetic, an activity driven, energy depleting state and Parasympathetic a calm restorative state.

Taking care of physiological functions in the body to keep you alive. It’s your body’s alarm system that constantly manages your internal eco system. It signals to fight, flee or freeze under stress, releasing hormones based on how you feel. It signals, in the form of discomfort inflammation or pain, when under strain or stress.

How does that impact fascia, the largest sensory organ of the body? What shape would the body be in? How tense, wound up or in pain?

The antidote to stress is calm. Body Sensing taps into the body’s own innate, instinctual self-soothing movement- based practices that trigger a regulated calm response, without overstimulating the vagus nerve.

More about the Vagus nerve.

  • The longest nerve in the body that directly receives messages from brain to body and body to brain.
  • Responsible for rest, digest and bringing balance to the autonomic nervous system.
  • Predominantly a Parasympathetic nerve, innervating the diaphragm, heart, lungs and every other organ in the abdomen.  Slowing the breath, the heart and improving digestion.
  • Sends sensory information to the brain about the state of the body’s organs.
  • When stimulated it results in the release of Acetylcholine (Slows down the heart)
  • Over stimulation of the Vagus nerve can lead to shut down.
  • Vagal tone can lead to a spontaneous release of the diaphragm.
  • Vagus Nerve is an Interoceptor, Sending signals from the gut to the brain.
  • 95% of Serotonin, your wellbeing hormone is produced in the gut and is influenced by Vagal tone.
  • Influences breathing and the diaphragm.

Here are two BodySensing somatic practices to tone the Vagus nerve:

Body Yawn practice

The “body yawn”. Natural urge to stretch.

A “body yawn” is what I call that innate urge to stretch and yawn. A sensation you sometimes feel first thing in the morning or after a long time sitting.  It begins with the urge to stretch, the body takes in a breath as if it’s filling with air to full capacity, then there is a pause a holding of the in breath an expanding sensation…. followed by an Ahhhhhh, a sighing letting go sound. It helps to make the sounds!!!!

The calm response™

The calm response is a practice that triggers a spontaneous sigh. Here are the 3 steps.

Step 1.  Pause – Take a moment to pause. Anywhere, anytime in any way. Suspend time, like pressing the pause button on your remote.  Notice where you are and where your awareness lands.

Step 2. Tune in – Tune in to your body. Bring your awareness to the physical sensations both on outside and inside. Notice the sensations without and within.

Step 3 – Rest – Can you find your place of rest? Can you self- adjust to soften tension and sit or stand with ease? With the least amount of tension? Can you listen within and let your body guide you? Find what feels the most comfortable position for your body. Are there any areas of discomfort? Any areas of tension? Just notice.

You may notice a spontaneous sigh as you release inner tension. If you did then you’ve just triggered the Calm Response™


ISSUE #014

On Somatic Healing & Social Justice
Image: On Somatic Healing & Social Justice

Read and reference at your own pace.
Download this issue of Tarka as a PDF to access the full-length, unabridged articles.

Embodied Philosophy Forum

A Private Facebook Community