Disclaimer: This is a general proposition, and I do not mean it to apply to those who have experienced physical or sexual trauma or abuse. I am not a licensed mental health professional and I do not pretend that I am qualified to give advice on finding safety in your body after such trauma, though I know it is possible with the help and support of those trained in that area of expertise.
I am speaking for those of us – I would say, the vast majority of the population – who do not even know how to be present in our bodies, let alone feel safe. Most people are living way up in their heads, stuck in the monkey mind, not grounded or present with their physical beings. I know how it feels, because I was also in that space for most of my life. I didn’t even understand what embodiment was. I thought, I’m in my body. I exercise and move and I’m very active. I didn’t realize that isn’t the same thing.
I actually did not know how to be present or feel safe in my body, and so I stayed up in my head. I was stuck in constant worry, fear, anxiety and depression – because I didn’t know how to sit with myself, feel my physical presence, and move through my stuck emotions.
When I got back into therapy, my therapist would ask me to stop and see where I felt emotions in my body. She told me to identify them, feel them, and sit with them. At first I wasn’t sure how I could even do that. I tried, but it felt uncomfortable and I had a hard time even naming what was going on inside of me. That’s what disconnection feels like.
If I felt this way – someone who is a long time dancer, fitness junkie and yoga professional – it’s easy to imagine that most people, just trying to get by and survive in life, are even more disconnected from their physical selves. Regular movement does help us get back into our bodies, but it’s about more than that. It isn’t just breaking a sweat or pushing yourself. It’s about mindful breathing. It’s about staying with your body, grounding down, and really feeling what it is feeling in this moment. It’s about paying attention to what it’s telling you as you move it, or feed it, or rest it.
This could be really difficult in the beginning, especially when it’s so foreign to most people. That’s okay. It might take a while to learn to move joyfully and with freedom like you did as a child. When you wonder what the point is, think back to your little self. Think about how freely and joyfully a child moves, with no worries or thought of how anyone will judge or perceive them. We are trying to get back to that, to get back into the release that unrestricted movement brings us.
If we are not in our bodies, we cannot become centered and grounded. We cannot tune in to the wisdom of our bodies, the intuition that is true to our souls. Our minds like to distract us with endless chatter and chaos, but the answers lie inside the brains of our hearts and our guts. Both of them send as many or more electrical impulses to the body – we actually have multiple brains! If we cannot even feel what our bodies tell us, we definitely can’t feel safe within them.
There are a few ways to work on feeling safe within and trusting the wisdom of the body. One of the fastest is to learn some therapeutic breathing techniques. We usually breathe quite shallowly, and when you learn to deepen, slow, and expand the breath, it creates amazing transformation for the body and the mind. It’s also helpful to do some form of movement that is free, as well as some that promotes stillness, mindfulness, and body awareness. An example of the first would be freeform or ecstatic dancing, and an example of the second would be Yin yoga or Yoga Nidra.
Another easy way to get back into your body is to connect with nature. Take long walks outside away from urban areas if possible. Stand barefoot or sit right on the ground. Meditate with awareness of all the sounds of the animals and earth around you – somewhere near running water is a great way to tune in quickly. Lie in the sunshine or under the nurturing shade of tree where you can gaze up into its branches.
You can use all of these techniques just a few minutes a day, if that’s all the time you have, and start to effect real change in your relationship to your body. When you feel scattered, stressed, and way too up in your head, stop. Close your eyes. Take some deep breaths. Feel what’s going on inside of you. With practice, this will become easier and easier. Cultivate love for and respect for your body, and it will reward you with safety and knowledge of self.
You can develop this beautiful relationship with yourself. It’s one of the most important ways in which you can shift your life for the better! Make the commitment to begin. That’s the first step. You got this, and you deserve to feel safe in and connected to your body. Sending you big nourishing hugs and lots of love.