TikTok user @cleptobismol wrote, “Everyday I’m stretching out my hips to connect my inner child by uncovering childhood memories,” over a video in which she poses as a child. This video has been liked over 52,000 times and received nearly 500 comments. It is one of many that shows stetches which are said to release stored trauma. “Don’t try this pose unless your ready to cry,” @thedailyvictorian wrote alongside a video showing her in a frog pose that has over 87,000 views. In one of her videos, @hvshiddengems wrote: “I don’t know who needs this but… RELEASE THAT TRAUMA BELOOVED.” It’s not worth keeping in your hips.
These videos are shared by others who are also on mental health journeys. One commenter on @cleptobismol’s blog writes, “I woke up from having flashbacks in my sleep,” Another user commented, “I woke up from flashbacks in the middle of my sleep,” and “I did this last evening, not knowing that it releases trauma.” My head hit my arms and the tears began to flow. It was so intense, but it was worth it.”
This type of talk is likely to be familiar to anyone who has ever taken a yoga class. Instructors will often admit that pigeon poses at the end can bring up unpleasant emotions. Is that trauma? Or are your hop flexors resisting physical release, or is it really overwhelming trauma? To better understand how emotions are held in the body, the emotional and mental benefits of stretching and to determine if these TikTok users have something to offer, we spoke with a few experts, from holistic healers to psychiatrists.
Is your body actually storing trauma in your muscles?
It is not a new idea to see a tangible link between mental health and physical health. Exercise can not only make us feel healthier, but it can also reduce anxiety and depression. Our body’s physical processing of trauma is done by the sympathetic nervous system, also known as. Fight or flight.
Dr. James S Gordon MD, psychiatrist and founder of Center for Mind-Body Medicine, explains that trauma affects every cell in the body. The body’s natural stress response to perceived danger is the fight, flight or freeze response. Harvard Health Publishing states that the brain’s amygdala, which processes emotions, signals the hypothalamus when it encounters a stressful event. This brain uses the nervous system for communication with the rest.
“Fight or flight is one example. Even if the threat to our safety is psychological rather than physiological, we can still respond in the same way that animals with backbones do when a predator approaches. Dr. Gordon said. This could lead to an increase in heart rate and blood pressure as well as contractions of large muscles. It could appear anywhere, from the back to your shoulder to your hips.
The sympathetic nervous system activates when trauma is experienced. Nina Lee, a physical therapist in Arizona who specializes on the pelvic floor, explains that this causes your muscles to tighten up. If trauma isn’t addressed, tension can build up in the pelvic floor and hips.
Jennifer Dragonette, PsyD is a clinical services instructor in California at Newport Healthcare. She explains that emotions can be linked to physical sensations. You might feel tension in your jaw when you are stressed or in your lower abdomen when you’re anxious. Or you might be feeling sad or depressed and lethargically hunched up when you feel sad. Dr. Dragonette explains that if we stop ourselves from experiencing and moving through difficult emotions fully, this can lead to a buildup of these emotions in our bodies.
For those who believe in an Eastern philosophy of medicine and the body, the belief is that emotions can be linked to energy within the body. Debbie Kung, a board-certified doctor in Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncturist, explains that emotions are energy. “Emotions can be suppressed or suppressed if they aren’t expressed correctly at the moment we feel them.”
She explained that emotions are stored within the fascial system. This is a thin layer made of collagen that covers and surrounds organs and muscles. It serves as a bodyguard and gives organs their shape.
She says that fascial tissue becomes stiffer, thinner, and more fragile as we age or when we are stressed. It sticks to the muscle, so it doesn’t allow the muscle movement. This is why you may feel tight when your body is processing emotions. Dr. Kung says that the body is trying to express certain emotions by making it tight.
Are the hips more traumatized than other parts?
All large muscles, including those that store emotions and are affected by trauma, can be affected. However, this can manifest in different ways for each person. Dr. Gordon says that trauma can be physically disruptive in certain people because it could have been an area of abuse, or because of vulnerabilities you brought into this world. These could include the hips or knees, neck, back or stomach — all areas that are likely to feel or store emotions such as stress or trauma.
A large percentage of internet users feel the greatest release from hip stretches because they are the central point of their entire body.
Lee says that the center point of your trunk and limbs is your pelvis and hips. Lee also notes that major muscles and tendon attach to and cross the pelvis. Your muscles will tense up in a fight-or-flight situation. Your pelvis is the point of reference for your body when you are trying to escape trauma. If your body responds to trauma by making your muscles tight, then it makes sense why your hips store so much tension.
Safa Boga is a London-based master healer who specializes in trauma-informed, somatic healing. He also founded Kimiya Healing. They also carry our emotional burdens in this act of bearing. She says that the pelvis and hips are the center of gravity. Everything wants to anchor there. The problem is when you have chronic trauma, tension, and unprocessed emotion. Because the same area that supports our weight also supports our pain.
It is possible that the trauma someone has suffered was sexual trauma. Studies have shown that this can cause problems with the pelvic floor.
Boga says that research has shown a direct connection between PTSD, pelvic floor dysfunction and cases of childhood sexual or physical abuse. It can be difficult to heal when there is no clear memory of what happened. The body is the key to healing and the story of the abuse.
Dr. Gordon also mentions the link between sexual trauma, the hips and muscles. He notes that when there is an assault, the muscles of the body will tense up to protect the genitals. It is possible that we will see it more in the hips than other joints.
Is stretching a good tool for mental health?
There is no single solution to healing. However, moving the body is a good place to start. Dr. Kung states, “We are designed to move.” “We were designed to let energy and emotions flow through us, not keep them.”
For decades, Dr. Gordon used physical movements like dancing and shaking as part of his healing process at the Center of Mind-Body Medicine. Dr. Gordon explains that stretching can open up the body and potentially reawaken trauma. It is important to use techniques and tools that allow the body to heal from psychological trauma.
It’s not enough to use movement for healing. Dr. Gordon explains that it is important to find someone who can help you through the healing process. He says, “At The Center for Mind-Body Medicine, we train people to use self-care techniques to teach their patients, clients, or students.” The person who supports you after trauma must also be the focus. They must be really present and relaxed with you and not force you to do any of the things or try to understand what’s happening. They are there to give you the opportunity to discover for yourself, and to be there to support you in that endeavor.
This is all to say that stretching by itself won’t solve deep-seated trauma. It should be considered a complement to other mental health practices such as seeking therapy or community support.
Boga says that methods such as osteopathy, tai-chi, acupuncture and yoga can support the nervous and muscular systems. This allows them to help with relaxation and tension release. However, complex trauma or PTSD can be treated by going deeper.
You might find the idea of stretching to release trauma appealing. But you are not the only one looking for holistic healing.
Dragonette points out that complementary medicine, which requires movement like yoga or meditation, is on the rise. People are becoming more aware that traditional psychotherapy and/or medication alone don’t seem to address the physical manifestations of pain and discomfort, especially as there has been an increase in trauma among the population. Many people find that body-based therapies such as EMDR, acupuncture and massage, as well as yoga, EMDR, acupuncture and massage can be a useful complement to their anxiety, stress, trauma or other emotions. Dr. Gordon agrees.
“I believe there is more awareness of trauma and stress in each of us and more willingness beyond traditional medicine practices to explore other options.”