Did you know that your emotions are not just produced in your brain, but are felt, experienced and stored in your body? Neuroscientists know that common emotions can trigger sensations in our bodies – butterflies in the stomach (anxiety) or hot cheeks (shame). A new study suggests that we all have the same bodily sensations associated with our feelings regardless of culture or language because the mind-body connection is biological and linked to our very drive for survival. These emotions can be expressed through yoga, massage, energy work, meditations, spiritual practice and many other diverse psychosomatic modalities.
It’s amazing to think of our glands, organs, tissues and cells as storage places for emotion and memory, yet this was the explanation given by Dr. Candace Pert, a neuropharmacologist who worked at the NIH and Georgetown University Medical Center. Candace famously stated that, “Your body is your subconscious mind. Our physical body can be changed by the emotions we experience.”
So where in the human body are emotions stored, felt and experienced? First, we must understand that each person is different and some people feel more than one emotion at a time. Also, we must be cautious in taking Internet advice on matters of personal health and wellbeing. That being said, I can provide some thoughts and insights for your consideration, which may bring insight into your body and past. l have combined the latest research findings with similar experiences in my own practice to provide you with opportunities for introspection into your own body.
* A common emotion that comes up on the yoga mat is shame and unworthiness. Research shows these emotions are expressed in the face, shoulders, and chest. During a session, I often experience this emotion more specifically in the jaw, throat, front of the shoulders and down the arms and into the upper and mid chest.
* Fear is reflected primarily in the gut followed by the throat and forehead. Recent research shows a strong correlation between the vagus and your digestive tract. This is because the vagus nerve helps manage the complex processes in your digestive tract. If fear is present during a session, I often see restriction in the jaw or throat.
* Anxiety is another common emotion seen in yoga. Similar to fear, it is seen in the gut, with lesser amounts into the lungs and large intestines. Scans also show activity in the forehead and shoulders which may lead us to understanding the relationship to anxiety/stress and migraines.
* Anger is expressed heavily in the hands, chest, and jaw through clenching, holding and minimizing.
* Sadness seen on a body scan is indicated in the heart and chest. Chronic sadness has been known to contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.
Reading these examples is helpful, but where do you start in identifying them in yourself? Try to be in the present moment and continue to ask yourself “what is this?” Acknowledge and feel your emotions so that they can be expressed. In being expressed, emotions have a better chance of being released, even old emotions stored in your body’s memory.
About the Author:
Raechel Morrow, founder of Grand Rapids Healing Yoga, holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, is a certified Yoga Therapist, Holistic Health Care Practitioner and certified in Trauma Sensitive Yoga through The Trauma Center at JRI. She works with victims of domestic and sexual violence. She offers private yoga therapy and group yoga classes. She uses the tools of somatic experiencing in connecting the body along with licensed therapist in treating eating disorders and body image issues, depression, anxiety and trauma. She offers routine training's in trauma informed practices and private yoga therapy. For more information on private sessions or group classes please visit www.grhealingyoga.com