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  • Writer's pictureAino

What are body based memories?

Have you ever thought that your body holds onto memories? Maybe you have heard your yoga teacher saying something about unprocessed emotions being stored in your hips, shoulders or even chest. But if you were thinking that it is just another inexplicable thing that we hear in the yoga world and has no real connection to any scientific research - it might be a time to update your knowlegde on the subject.

While body based memories and how the body is holding onto trauma is not a completely new subject, lately it has been getting a lot more attention in the neuroscience field.

So what is this all about?

Body based memories or somatic memories are stored in the body, meaning your body can remember even when your mind doesn’t. This can be true especially when dealing with traumatic memories, and is the reason why traumatic memories can get triggered so easily, even when we are unaware of the trauma. These memories are stored in the nervous system (and there is a growing research related to fascia’s role here too), and they can be triggered by various stimuli like movements, smells or sounds. 

Dealing with trauma keeps you stuck in the past - each time that something reminds you of the traumatic event, your body goes into a survival mode. What often happens in these situations is that your body is working faster than your mind. This means that a threat response takes over and momentarily you have less capacity to think and act logically. Your nervous system is convinced that you are in danger, and chooses its reaction: fight/flight or freeze.

As all this is happening in the body, (your mind might be actually confused about what is going on) there is a growing interest in treating these situations with body-first methods. Depending on the situation this can mean releasing the built up tension and nervous energy from the body with shaking and movement, using grounding exercises etc. While it is always good to understand your trauma and triggers, we now know that logical understanding alone is not enough to solve the situation and what your body is experiencing, as our survival mode overrules the logical thinking. 

So can I treat my PTSD with yoga, somatic movement and other body based approaches?

If you are currently experiencing PTSD or other disorders and are already seeing a therapist or other health professional, it can be very beneficial to add body first -methods to your current treatment. However, somatic movement and yoga strengthens your interoception, and we do this often by slowing down. We want to feel more, but this can also be overwhelming when dealing with traumatic memories and even be harmful in some situations, so it is important to talk first with your therapist and look for trauma-informed teachers.

How can I release body based memories?

Releasing somatic memories starts with interoception, going inwards. We need to feel where in the body we hold tension so we are able to release it. In my somatic movement classes we take time to slow down and strengthen interoception, and we release tension with movement, breath and use of pandiculation. This is a process that takes more than one class, so give it time and commitment.

Are you curious to learn more? Take a look on my upcoming minicourse:


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