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BODY PSYCHOLOGY

Holistic medicine and healing is founded on the premise that our mind and emotions physically reside throughout our body. In addition to heredity, environment, nutrition and daily physical activity factors, our emotions and thoughts mold our body’s very fabric and posture.

Your thoughts influence your emotions; your thoughts and emotions influence your spirit. All of these are reflected in the health of your physical body. An imbalance in your body depresses your spirit and emotions, leading to negative thoughts.

Ancient eastern cultures believed that the body was more than the sum of its physical parts. Traditional Chinese medicine is based on an energetic map of the body called the meridians and the movement of ‘chi’ (energy) along this map, as seen in acupuncture. In India, this energetic map was called ‘nadis’ and the energy termed ‘prana’. Several yogic practices focus on “burning up” the energy blocks which prevent the flow of prana through the nadis.

Chu Ka, an ancient form of Mongolian self-massage, removed long-held emotional blocks to help warriors dissolve their fears before going into battle. These different schools of emotional release work all share the common goal of provoking a cathartic release of emotional energy. Whatever modality you choose, emotional release work using tools for cleansing blocked areas of the body in order to move beyond repeating addictive, harmful or self-sabotaging behaviours.

The influence of Ida Rolf
Ida Rolf, the creator of rolfing therapy, a holistic system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education, believed that body tissue changed in size, shape and texture according to the quality of emotions and thoughts passing through it. Blocked, negative energy forms rigidity in body tissue which, over time, creates “body armor” – a term coined by Psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich to name the excess tissue which forms a psychologically protective barrier.

Massage therapists frequently feel clients’ tightness in the trapezius muscles, where we are said to be ‘carrying the weight of the world upon the shoulders’.

Ida Rolf says, “A person with a healthy body/mind structure, when standing erect, will show upon examination that his or her ears are directly above the shoulders, the shoulders are centered over the hips, the hips are directly over the knees and the knees over the ankles. If any of these areas are out of alignment, we can readily begin to note certain influences about the persons personality or character type.”

Dr. Rolf developed a ten-session process of deep manipulation of the myofascial layers, the soft tissue component of the body’s connective tissue that supports and protects most structures within the human body, including muscle. By releasing our rigid tissue and correcting misaligned postures, the Rolfing therapist released emotions stored in the client’s body, allowing a new lightness of being as the individual is no longer burdened by the byproducts of previous negative experiences.

Rolf’s work inspired not only physiotherapists and massage therapists, but also psychologists intrigued by the possibilities of generating profound psychological shifts. Many offshoots of her work appeared in the 70s, including psycho-structural balancing, Aston Patterning and Hellerwork.

The power of positivity
In holistic health and healing, the power of positivity is not only psychological. Positive energy helps keep the body flexible and supple while suppressed actions and desires can create energy blocks in the etheric and physical bodies.

Different types of emotions are held in specific areas of the body. The chest area holds matters of the heart, such as love and emotions, while relationship issues are located in the heart, lungs and thymus (respiration and circulation). In yogic philosophy, these areas correspond to the chakras, the body’s main energy centers. In Western medicine, we see correlations between yoga’s chakras and nadis, and the endocrine system.

West meets East
The chakras reside in the mid-line of your body, where there is also an endocrine gland and a major nerve plexus. The seven endocrine glands, which create hormones and supply them to the bloodstream, are fed by their associated chakras. The seven nerve plexuses, which are also located along your spinal cord, are responsible for transmitting nerve impulses. They are also dense with neuropeptides, which have been referred to as the “molecules of emotion” due to their chemical role in the creation of emotions.

Each of the seven areas that contain these endocrine glands/chakras can be seen as a model of the bodymind. If a chakra is damaged it may disrupt the function of its associated endocrine gland. And, because the activity of the endocrine glands and nerve plexuses is interrelated and interdependent, if an endocrine gland isn’t functioning properly, it may affect your entire bodymind.

Further Reading
Bodymind By Ken Dychtwald PhD
Molecules of Emotion: Why You Feel the Way You Do By Candace Pert PhD

Restorative Yoga highly recommends Michael Trembath for body work.

Article Written: November 2012