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Holistic Healing for Survivors: Taking Time to Address the Body

Long before I was called into the realm of human trafficking, and really understood that trauma affected mind, body, and spirit, I experienced something completely unexpected while taking a yoga class. I had always worked out and been active, but had not considered that it was for anything more than moving my body and burning calories. Then one day I was in yoga and the instructor guided the class into a hip-opening pose. Shortly after navigating my body into that uncomfortable pose, tears relentlessly started streaming down my face. I felt exposed and vulnerable and could not understand the why behind the flood of emotions that I was feeling when I was just trying to get in a workout that would help the tightly bound muscles I had from years of weight training. 

The crux of it is this, trauma and emotions are stored in the body, especially when one enters into a freeze state. Many times survivors do not have any other option other than freezing and dissociating as a result of the complex trauma they endure, especially when abuse is suffered during early years of life. Because of this, the emotion that they experienced during the abuse gets trapped and stored in the body. 

Our bodies are brilliantly created and are barometers that will indicate that there is something inside of us that does not belong, thus causing discomfort or pain to bring it to our conscious awareness. Bradley Nelson, author of Emotion Code states that “Ninety percent of physical pain is the result of trapped emotions that become lodged in the body.” Society at large has been taught to address physical pain by going to a doctor. What if the symptoms can be alleviated or eradicated by addressing the emotional aspect?

I believe that it is crucial to address what survivors are experiencing in their bodies as they are navigating through the restoration and healing process holistically.

Nonlinear movement is one of the methods that can be used to release emotions that are trapped in the body. We experience trauma in the body as well as the mind, so healing needs to be addressed from all aspects. Here are some examples of how to incorporate nonlinear movement:


Embodied Practices: 

Explore somatic (dealing with the body) modalities such as dance, yoga, tai chi, or expressive arts therapy to cultivate greater body awareness and emotional resilience.


 Utilize breathwork techniques to regulate the nervous system and access deeper states of relaxation and presence. The breath is one of the most effective ways to get grounded.


Cultivate mindfulness through meditation, body scans, or mindful movement practices, fostering a compassionate witnessing of one's inner experience.


Each of these requires presence, which then enables us to recognize and identify the emotion(s) that come up to be released. Be mindful that trust should be established before embarking on these methodologies with a survivor. I recommend trying it for y0urself to see where your body is holding onto an emotion that wants to be released. I would love to hear about your experiences as you dive into healing. 


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