I’ve told you a little about my battle with significant PTSD over a decade ago. I look back and marvel at how I intuitively engaged in some practices that really helped me heal.
One of those practices was exercising 20 minutes 3 times a day. Yes, you read that right - 3 times a day! But this was a new-to-me type of exercise that proved to be a big part of my recovery. Yoga was not really my thing, but I was desperate. My muscles ached and my feet tingled for no apparent reason. And I really wanted to stay at home, where I felt safe.
I bought a yoga video at a garage sale and gave it a try. Yoga was gentle, slow and calming. It stretched my body in new ways and helped me feel more grounded in myself. Focusing on my breath and body distracted me from anxious thoughts and helped my brain shift away from constant fear and worry.
Just in the past few years, I have learned the science behind my personal experience. Exercise actually helps release trauma from the body and mind. The excellent book The Body Keeps The Score explains this relationship between the body and trauma.
Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD is a clinician, researcher, and teacher specializing in post-traumatic stress research. Trauma literally rewires the brain and interrupts typical development. He encourages play, yoga, and somatic based therapies (somatic means related to the body) to reactivate areas of the brain that are affected by trauma.
“In order to change, people need to become aware of their sensations and the way that their bodies interact with the world around them. Physical self-awareness is the first step in releasing the tyranny of the past.”
― Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score:
Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
Whether dealing with trauma, anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, getting the body moving is a big part of improving your quality of life. Thursday I’ll discuss more ways to incorporate exercise into everyday life.