Several years ago, when I was going through a Yoga teacher training program, my instructor said, “Occasionally you may notice a student in your class become emotional when doing a hip-opening pose. We tend to hold emotions like sadness and anger in our hips, which can be released through some yoga poses.” At the time, I was only marginally familiar with the concept of “somatizing,” thinking of it simply as an abnormal expression of psychological issues through physical symptoms. As far as I knew, the reason I became so agitated in Pigeon pose was that my hips were incredibly tight, making the pose really, really uncomfortable. The more generalized concept of “holding” emotions in different parts of the body seemed odd to me.
Over the years, I have come to recognize the tendency of the body to hold on to emotions, especially emotions related to intense negative experiences, time and again – both in my clients, and in myself. When something traumatic happens to the body, for example if one slips on a patch of ice and falls, there is a great deal of energy introduced in to the body as a result of that impact. In addition to the physical impact, there can also be strong emotions present at time time of the fall – fear of pain, anxiety about what being hurt will mean with respect to work or family, anger that the patch of ice had not been cleared away, etc. The body will work to dissipate all of this energy, but sometimes the forces are too great to dissipate, and what remains can be trapped in the fascia or organs. In CranioSacral therapy, this is called an “energy cyst.” Long after the physical injuries that result from such a fall (in the simplified example above) have healed, the stagnant energy of the trauma, both emotional and physical, can remain in the tissues, and cause discomfort – sometimes as physical pain, and sometimes in an emotional form, such as lingering anxiety or fear, which can be quite disruptive.
There are many modalities that can be helpful in processing trauma – talk therapy, journaling, and support groups all certainly spring to mind. In many cases, however, the body itself needs to release the trauma, in order for the person to truly move on. From a CranioSacral Therapy perspective, the kind of tissue re-organization that occurs when an “energy cyst” is released, helps bring about a more complete healing, and fosters progress toward greater well being. It’s one aspect of this work I find truly transformative.