When I set out to write this week’s blog, I had a whole outline prepared and images ready to go; but then I took part in a workshop and everything shifted. I am absolutely compelled to share this experience, as it was a beautiful and also completely confounding event.
This past Saturday I participated in Venture Well’s Psoas Release workshop led by the wonderful Jessy Raspiller. After the collective trauma of living through the Thomas Fire, I felt drawn to this workshop which was intended to “tap into and help release some of the built up pain we store”. I signed up and prepared for a morning of emotional release and deep mind/body work.
The reality of the situation turned out to be one that completely caught me off guard, in what initially appeared to be an entirely happy way, but as I dug in deeper and the work settled in I realized there was a much richer complexity to the entire experience.
Jessy began the class with an overview of the psoas muscle, its function, and the many implications it has in our lives. My favorite part of this explanation was the story of the gazelle, who when chased by the lion simply acts upon the fight or flight response; but if the gazelle eventually escapes to safety, it goes into a state of involuntary shaking known as Neurogenic tremors (innate to all mammals) to discharge the excess energy built up while literally running for its life. We as humans also have this ability after responding to real or perceived threats, but somewhere along the way we have decided that we must suppress this incredibly valuable release. In many societies the world over, shaking after a traumatic event is seen as a sign of weakness or frailty and so many humans have worked very hard to suppress this shaking response, much to their detriment.
As the class progressed, Jessy led us through a slow progression of movements to work into that psoas muscle area and begin to access and tire that built up muscle tension. By the end of the class, our bodies warmed and our muscles depleted, we began a specific exercise intended to cause involuntary shaking and release the built up energy from past traumas that had yet to be released. As one might expect, we were adequately prepared for the potentiality of strong emotions, crying, a sense of overwhelm, and so on. I had no idea I was about to experience something completely different.
As I lay reclined on my back, with my knees gently spread wide and my feet pressed together, I began to focus on the words Jessy spoke as she led us through the exercise. At first, I felt nothing; no tremors, no emotion, nada. As my position changed and my movements adjusted with her directions, the tremors began, lightly at first and ceasing after about thirty to sixty seconds. Then, my first intense tremor hit and while my legs seemingly turned to jelly and bounced around, my mind stayed relatively clear and focused. My emotions remained steady, but the instant the tremors ceased, my body was washed over with a wave of warmth and an overwhelming sense of blissful calm and connection. It was like slipping into the deepest moments of meditation while being flooded with the biggest dose of Oxytocin and reliving the happiest moments of my life all at once.
Around me, I could hear tears and heavy breaths, and for a moment I began to wonder if I was doing this right. I was caught completely off guard, but between the tremors and the waves of bliss, I honestly couldn’t contemplate the reasoning with much more than a passing query.
When the class ended, I had to head out quickly to go on to another family event, but I carried a bit of guilt in my chest as I walked out the door. All these women around me had experienced something profound, something deeply emotional; and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why my heart was dancing around on cloud nine and I had a hard time keeping the grin off my face. I was high on Psoas Release and everyone around me had ridden a whole different ride.
It wasn’t until later that night when I had some quiet moments to reflect on the day that I really began to question my reaction. Was I doing something wrong? Was I somehow broken? Was I not releasing myself to the depth of the experience? Did I put up subconscious barriers to avoid the pain? Why was I so different? It began to trouble me deeply that perhaps I hadn’t been ready for that kind of experience. But, as I pondered this sense of “unworthiness” a single thought popped into my head. I shake all the time. Any time I have to address an uncomfortable situation; whenever someone delivers bad news, after a crisis situation; I always shake like a palm tree in a hurricane. I honestly have no idea if I am any good at hiding it (I’ve never asked anyone), but no matter how hard I try…I shiver, I shake and I wiggle. For some strange reason, I always thought that stress made me cold because all my life, I figured that those shivers were a reaction to temperature (which, for the record, may not be that strange as I am almost always much colder than anyone else around me). I have vivid memories of many instances in which my body went into crisis mode and it was inevitably followed by shaking. During the entirety of the class I never once made that connection.
I am the gazelle in Jessy’s story. Throughout the years of my life, that inherent need to release excess energy was always stronger than any desire to suppress it. I think that might be part of the reason for my slightly varied experience. Without even realizing it, I have been doing this work my entire life. When my body went into the involuntary shake, my entire system keyed into the fact that this particular movement signals the end of trauma and all that was left to follow was a peaceful sense of joy that radiated from the releasing any last tidbits of “stickiness” leftover. I was an expert in a field I never even knew existed. My mind and my body have been stronger and more grounded than even I could imagine (and I live in here!); and the subsequent lesson was a deeper sense of trust and power in those “gut” feelings or those seemingly involuntary reactions that feel right but might not make total outward sense. It was a powerful realization and it has stuck with me over the past few days as my inner dialogue shifts to accommodate this new sense of trust in myself.
I went into this workshop with a goal and an expectation for the outcome and I came out realizing that once again, my body, my mind and my spirit know what’s up and the more I lean in and trust them as they are, the better I’ll be. So, here’s to being mindful of our inner voices, our innate sense of self and our deep wisdom beneath the surface.
Much love and gratitude to Jessy Raspiller, Ventura Pop Up Yoga, and Venture Well for providing an experience in which to explore these inner workings! If you haven’t heard of these wonderful folks, please be sure to check them out; I have put links on all of their names for convenience.