The body is such an important aspect of our spiritual work because it is the vehicle that we were sent here in to fulfil our spiritual purpose – it cannot be an afterthought.
Our bodies are a great representation of our spirit, and how are bodies are situated reflects how our energy is doing. If we are carrying tension and heaviness this will show up and affect our non-physical body or aura.
Many of us have been through traumatic experiences or live in a way that isn’t supporting our spirit. The way we hold our body, the way we breathe and the way we interact with others are all impacted.
In this article I want to talk about the ways emotions are stored in the body and the different tensions this creates, along with practical exercizes to help relieve and release this energy.
How the body stores emotions
How the body stores emotion has been extensively explored throughout history.
In Chinese medicine there is acupuncture where needles are inserted at specific points in the body in order to relieve pain and tension. The position of the needles is relative to 14 energy points within the body which are said to influence the flow of ‘chi‘ or vital (life-bringing) energy.
In Hinduism and Buddhism we find reference to the chakra system. We can observe seven main energy points within the body, all with a different spiritual and physiological purpose. When these energetic centers are blocked, we see blockages in the corresponding areas of our physical body.
The validity of these methods has been debated for almost as long in a scientific context. Some point to how the body may release endorphins (a natural pain-killer) when certain areas are targeted, along with an increase in bloodflow. Others point to the placebo effect, which is how the body responds to belief.
In my own experience it can be a mixture of the two. I have observed how energy work has had a physical effect on my body, where you might not expect it to or where there is no physical explanation. I have also seen how certain methods have an unintended but helpful effect, making us more focused, clear-minded, energized because we believe it to do so.
These are the correlations I have found in my own work, although this is not intended as medical or health advice.
Shoulders: Carrying burdens, the weight of the world on our shoulders
Upper back & heart: grief, heartbreak
Lower back: guilt, shame, a lack of intimacy
Throat: a lack of expression (specifically vocal)
Stomach: disempowerment, difficulty processing emotion
It’s helpful to create your own body map and not just go off of the correlations I list here. Your body is speaking to you in its own unique way.
Practice getting into a meditative or mindful state and breathing deeply. With your awareness feel as if that breath is moving throughout your entire body and notice the areas where it isn’t passing through as smoothly. These are the areas you come back to later.
Ways to release tension in the body
Emotions are energy and energy wants to flow, when this doesn’t happen we experience tension and stress in areas of the body. All of these exercizes help to get energy moving again whether it is on a physical, emotional or mental level.
It should be no surprise that I list meditation as the first method. Meditation might be incredibly simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to practice on a consistent basis.
When we meditate and practice non-attachment to thoughts we allow our body to relax completely, we notice just much tension is created as a result of the habitual thought patterns in our mind.
When we get to this state it’s normal for our body to respond in some unexpected ways: muscle twinges, crying, laughing and movement. These are all ways our body releases heavy energy when we create a safe space for it to do so.
So much of this work has to do with creating safety within ourselves. Safety so our inner child, shadows and unconscious material can come up to the surface of its own accord. When you’re in meditation and feel calm, peaceful, relaxed, take note of how this feels in the body – you’ll be able to get back to this state quicker over time.
Movement is one of the best ways to release heavy energy in the body; it’s what our body’s tend to gravitate towards. Little kids can be seen to dance without much conscious effort almost as soon as they are out of the womb.
- An exercize routine
- Shaking (TRE tension release exercizes)
As I mentioned above, when we are in a meditation our body will naturally start to move or shake. This won’t happen all of the time but it’s incredibly common. This is a sign that some heavy energy is coming up to surface, and our body will know exactly how to move and situate itself in order to release it if we give it an opportunity to do so.
When heavy emotions are trapped in the body every aspect of our physiology is affected, including the breathing. We might walk around with hunched shoulders, a tight stomach and shallow breathing as a result of this heaviness.
A lot of us who grew up in anxiety-inducing households or environments and primarily operate from the sympathetic nervous system, which is the defensive state we are in when faced with danger or stress.
Although this state should only be activated when there is a real threat of danger, if that has become our baseline our body will become adapted to it as our norm. This means that even when we are in totally safe and peaceful environments, we are still perceiving danger where there isn’t any and tensing up in order to protect ourselves.
Breathwork (conscious breathing) is one of the ways we can loosen up the body and practice feeling safe in the body, it brings us out of fight or flight mode and into the parasympathetic nervous system.
Breathwork is not suitable for everyone: If you have any respiratory or heart conditions, are pregnant or otherwise feel uncomfortable doing breathwork, consult a medical professional before proceeding.
4-7-8 breathing is one of the most accessible types of breathwork, and one I practice to this day.
Simply breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 and release for 8. This might sound intimating but it’s having a longer exhale than inhale that allows our body to quickly enter the parasympathetic state.
With a practice of breathwork and making changes to our environment, this becomes our default state of breathing and being. We free up a lot of energy; rather than always looking for danger, able to remain present with an objective eye.
All of the exercizes above will be helpful in moving stagnant energy from the body, and they will all prompt wider lifestyle changes if we are conscious as we practice them.
This is because how we do one thing is how we do every thing, if we practice mindful movement we will want to move mindfully in our everyday lives too.
Our work doesn’t stop at a visualization or affirmation but in how we are integrating these concepts into everyday actions and interactions. It’s one thing being able to access peace when the setting is ideal and another to actually embody this when the external environment is chaotic.
When we get annoyed, frustrated, angry throughout the day, or when we are in a tense social situation, being able to transfer the peace we have built from our mindfulness practice.
We accumulate heavy emotion in areas of our energy body/aura that are blocked or inactivate. For example, if we aren’t confident in how we express ourselves, this will manifest in a heaviness in the throat area.
I started mapping how emotions were stored in my body when I began meditating daily. I would notice that there were areas of my body that were heavy, tense or didn’t flow with energy.
Usually these areas would remain blocked even when after I had directed energy, recited affirmations or practiced visualizations. I had to look at the recurring dynamics in my day to day life and address them head on.
This might have involved mental introspection on past events that I was ready to let go, but also meant creating stronger boundaries, speaking up and changing aspects of my lifestyle or social circles – easier said than done.
Look at how you are approaching different aspects of your life. Consider aspects such as: physical security & safety, creativity & sexuality, personal power/will, love, expression, vision, spiritual connection.
Where are you allowing fear, doubt, lack, resentment build up in any of these areas?
Energy can become stagnant when we do not have productive ways to physically express it.
During meditation and mindfulness practices there are probably areas of interest that you find yourself coming back to time and time again. You might notice the same topics coming up in your meditation sessions, or messages that come up when doing an activity – these are not random.
As you start to work with our energy more intently you’ll get a better idea of where it wants to be directed and what we want to create in the world.
- Get your ideas on paper (create a plan)
- Paint a picture
- Create something with your hands
- Create music
All of these exercizes will help bring you back to yourself, your intuition and your core. In doing so the way you interact with others will shift accordingly, you will become more mindful of who you share your energy with.
Part of this energy work is to have the right community around you, we cannot heal or grow all on our own. Part of the work is extending ourselves out consciously and communing with people who support us.
Releasing heavy energy/emotions can be difficult, we might have to introspect on some dark periods of our life. If you feel you need support or have done all you can on your own, don’t be afraid to reach out for help from friends and trusted professionals.
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