Bioenergetics: The Body-Mind Approach To Healing Scoliosis Release muscular patterns of holding the body due to emotional armoring

After years of working on healing scoliosis, I still felt there was a bioenergetic block deep within my psyche.  Even though I was cognitively aware of my protective armoring against sexual abuse, I was unable to viscerally connect to the actual source of repression – my femininity. Until serendipitously, I happened to come across the Kaouthar Darmoni’s awesome TED TalkDare to be feminine for gut’s sake!

I experienced a cathartic release of blocked somatic memories – feelings of utter shame at being denounced for being a lust object. Being blamed for inciting sexual abuse/advances. It was my fault according to the adults in my life – particularly the women. I strongly believe that they play a huge part in enabling inter-generational incest/sexual abuse in the family.

Listening to her talk and doing the dance movements I felt a psychic shift occur. I cried, I laughed and suddenly I felt lighter – the long-held subconscious guilt-shame about my feminity no longer held me captive. There was no shame in having a woman’s body – breasts, waist, hips, et al.

Feeling truly alive requires we become aware of our bodily states/emotions – being able to tune into our felt sense in real-time and being able to respond authentically.

Bioenergetics: The Body-Mind Approach To Healing Scoliosis
Being aware of our bodily states/emotions is vital for our physical and mental health

Mind-Body Connection

Unfortunately, our early childhood repressive adaptations to life situations, rob us of all feelings – dissociating us from our bodily states. Our body becomes armored, rigid, and frozen.  Our interoceptive and proprioceptive senses become deadened.

According to Bioenergetics founder, Alexander Lowen:

…each person is his body. No person exists apart from the living body in which he has existence and through which he expresses himself and relates to the world around him. If you are your body and your body is you then it expresses who you are. It is your way of being in the world. The more alive your body is, the more you are in the world.

Understanding our mind-body disconnection is the first step in our healing.

Split Between Mind-Body

Usually, the origin of the mind-body split happens in early childhood. Children are conditioned to be obedient puppets rather than thinking, and feeling humans.

To survive abandonment/betrayal/rejection/violence a child is forced to repress his true essence and adapt to his family/society’s expectations. And thus a false self / a mask was constructed to survive – one that pleases, over-accommodates, and adjusts to what the environment requires.

Masks are rigid, they do not allow the free flow of energy.  They distort who we really are. Over time, these adaptations cover up our true needs and feelings – our mind and body spilt.

Our mask is held in our body in the form of armoring – emotional armoring creates muscular armoring which then creates our character armor which in turn shapes our personality.

We become schizzy according to Lowen – a person who is mentally present, – but absent on an emotional/bodily level.

Schizoid and Scoliosis

This schizoid type tendency is where an individual is consciously aware of his surroundings but on the emotional or body level, he is out of touch with the situation.

The mind-body split refers to a disconnect between the mind’s consciousness, self-awareness, and self-image, and the energetic emotional and feeling state of the body.

A majority of those with scoliosis have schizoid wounds. We live in our heads cut off from our bodies.

Only now, I can feel my face thawing as the suppressed rage/resentment/shame/guilt is being released. Those energetic blocks in my eyes, head, and neck kept me from truly feeling present and alive.

Incongruent Self

Years of abuse trained me to reflexively shut off feeling angry and put on my ‘nice girl mask.’

I covered up my true feelings with meta-emotions – e.g. smiling even when I was angry or feeling too guilty to say   ‘no’. What I felt had to be suppressed, bowing to the expectations of the world was the only way to survive.

Normally, we react to a threat with fight or flight but when those avenues are blocked the only option is freezing/fawning.   We block our true feelings and get by through people-pleasing. However, often this only leads to resentment due lack of validation for our efforts, leading to further suppression.

No doubt, we all play different roles in our social interactions. However, when the role we play is incongruent with what we are truly feeling our actions become robotic.  The real person cannot be seen/or reached behind the mask.

I still cringe at the memory of wishing a supercilious cousin best wishes when moments before she treated me with disdain and contempt.

Healing requires we somatically reconnect with our body.

Bioenergetics

Alexander Lowen, developed Bioenergetics, a therapeutic technique to help people get back together with the body and enjoy the life of the body to the fullest degree possible.

The core principles of Bioenergetics include vibration and motility, grounding, and breathing.

Lowen explains how the body can be used as a diagnostic tool for the psyche. That is, by becoming aware of holding patterns and tensions in the body we can understand how we are suppressing our own self.

Chronic muscular tensions are caused by the suppression of feelings. Through the direct bioenergetic bodywork, these tensions can be dissolved.

Bioenergetic exercise is about building awareness of how you feel so that you can get better at self-regulation. According to Lowen:

Bioenergetics is an adventure in self-discovery. It differs from similar explorations into the nature of the self by attempting to understand the human personality in terms of the human body. Most previous explorations focused their investigations on the mind.

Feeling and expressing our emotions improve our health and make us feel alive. Grace in body and movement is the ultimate indicator of health, according to Lowen.

Some Bioenergetic Exercises To Release Stuck Emotional Patterns

Become aware of your emotions and how you hold the tension in your body. Shake, vibrate or cry so as to unblock the stuck energy.  It is all about moving the stuck emotional energy in your body.

1) Crying/Screaming:

Crying is the most primitive mechanism the body has to relieve tension and pain. Crying activates the parasympathetic nervous system and restores the body to a state of balance.

For years, I was forced to suppress my grief and pain, I bottled up my tears. I thought it was a strong thing to not cry and with practice was able to repress my tears. Suppressing the act of crying, keeps us stuck in a stressful state.

With the help of movie therapy, I have re-learned the art of crying out. Recently I watch the Korean TV series, My Mister and I really cried my heart out. It was so cathartic to weep for the main protagonist, a young girl who so like me struggles all alone.

2) Pounding/Beating/ adult tantrum.

It is a natural tendency to want to hit back or fight off people/situations that have harmed us. Unfortunately, most of us grew up having to suppress our instinctual fight-flight response to unpleasant situations. We had to grin and bear which blocked the natural flock of energy.

Find a safe, private place where you can throw an adult tantrum, pound pillows, and beat up inanimate objects. Alternately, you could join a boxing/taekwondo/martial arts class. Where you could kick or punch without impunity. This will help discharge stuck aggressive energy.

Alternately,  you could practice the  Hand-Swinging qigong, Ping shuai gong, just swinging your arms will get your energy moving along with some amazing health benefits. Or you could do iron palm water training, a shaolin kung fu training technique to increase palm and arm strength. Just slapping a tub of water while sitting under the shower is a simple yet great stress-reliever.

3) Breathing Exercises

Conscious breathing is important in Bioenergetics. Learning to regain natural breath is an integral part of healing. When you reclaim your breath you re-connect with parts of your body that were blocked by unconscious emotional repression.

But first, we have to improve thoracic mobility and open up muscular contractions in your chest. There are many yoga poses that can help.

chest opening breathing exercise ball
Using a stability ball is the easiest way to open tight chest muscles

My daily practice of Wim Hof’s method of guided breathing has vastly improved my mental state.

4) Crawling

Crawling is a full-body workout. It uses nearly all the muscles of the body without putting unnecessary stress on any particular muscle group. And it improves spinal flexibility, increases shoulder strength, and hip fluidity. Further, it helps develops our core, the seat of our personal power. A strong core means better posture which translates into a higher level of self-confidence,

It also activates our vagus nerve and improves our vestibular system. Thereby, making us more coordinated and balanced both mentally and physically.

5) Balance Boards/ Bosu balls

Using a balance board or a Bosu ball helps shake up the cerebellum, the seat of your subconscious mind. The cerebellum stores habitual thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors. It is part of our reptilian that is responsible for our fight-flight-freeze response. Balance and coordination compel the cerebellum to move out of the neurobiological grip of fear and allow us to ‘unfreeze’ and release stuck emotional energy.

6) Practicing ululating/zalghouta

Ululating, otherwise known as zaghroota is practiced all over the Middle East and in some parts of Africa. An ululation is a high-pitched tongue trill, a physical skill that involves the throat and tongue. Loosening the tongue is important in healing scoliosis.

The first time I heard  this sound at the end of Darmoni’s fascinating Ted Talk. She makes a high-pitched kind of cry using her tongue and when I tried it, it felt so releasing. It is kind of a Tarzan war cry, a release of pent-up energy deep within my psyche. Check out singer/dancer Shakira do this at the end of one of her Super Bowl performances.

7) Improving Core Beliefs/ Self-Image – Guided Imagery

Our self-image is the product of our core beliefs which in turn are shaped by our environment. Growing up in abusive homes shaped how we view ourselves. How we view ourselves affects how we relate to the world.

Even though we may be out of the toxic situation we continue to relate to the world through the lens of our earlier encoded patterns. Thus we continue to tolerate shitty people and make ourselves small to fit in with what we think will be acceptable.

Listening to empowering talks, guided meditations ( improve your self-confidence by Paul McKenna was life-changing for me) and positive affirmations have helped change how I think/feel about myself. It takes daily effort and time but the shift does happen.

8) Shimmy

A shimmy is a dance move in which the body is held still, except for the shoulders, which are quickly alternated back and forth. When the right shoulder goes back, the left one comes forward.  Check out the video below, Darmoni says you can even do this in the toilet. Just a minute to shake up your energetic body. Use your work-breaks to get your energy flowing.

Feminine capital and goddess dance | Kaouthar Darmoni

Dissolving Entrenched Patterns

Healing is a slow process, more so when you have scoliosis. Once our bodies are trained to protect, it is not easy to unlearn. Moreover, the older we are the more entrenched the patterns have become in our minds and body.

We have to go back to our forgotten past and viscerally feel the pain/wounding to be able to release it. I consistently use the above suggestions in my daily routine, crawling, guided meditation, dancing, listening to affirmations and some tapping.

Additionally, I have to become aware of my thought and holding patterns – how unconsciously I was still living in the past.

Awareness Is The Key

I was surprised to note how during cooking I was so tense, particularly when I used the mixie. I had continued being tense and hyper-alert – to my father sneaking up to check whether I was following his instructions, even though he has been long dead. Because any diversion to doing my own thing would lead to a tirade of verbal abuse.

I realized I was still hyper-alert of anyone sneaking up and asking even the most inane questions when I am cooking. My innocent son has had to deal with my uncalled-for reactions to even simple queries.

Starting with becoming mindful of how we are in our bodies helps us change our mental patterns of being. When I use the mixie now, I take a deep breath and relax my hand, and shoulder muscles. Consciously, I tell myself, my father is no longer around to attack me.

And yes, I have told my son not to disturb me when cooking and thankfully he respects my need. This has helped me gradually move out of a hyper-vigilant armored state.

Feeling safe in our environment translates into feeling safe in our bodies which means we can relax and flow with life.

Image Source: Pexels, Amazon

Further Reading:

Return to Nature – The Five Pillars of Healing –  Jon Burras

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