Mind-Body Connection Library
Here are 9, short self-regulation, self-touch tools from one of my favorite embodiment & somatic therapists,
Karine Bell! For a sneak peek, here is #4 on this list, the "container" hold, that has been particularly helpful for me when hugs from loved ones are not possible:
"This is a powerful practice of containment. Taking the right hand and placing it just under the left arm pit, then bringing the left hand and placing it on the upper part of the right arm, this hold can feel like an embrace. It's a neuroscensory "hug" that can help us feel contained and held when our anxiety is running high."
Karine also has very short videos on ways to release anger, grief, and anxiety/panic from out bodies, which you can find at the very bottom of this page.
Before we go any further, I want to acknowledge the violent ways in which white supremacy and colonization have co-opted and white-washed this cultural practice and pushed it into the realm of fitness/workout classes, and I would encourage any fellow white person reading this to spend some time reading about the ways we contribute to this and consider how/where/with whom we practice. I point to some resources below and in the body-part specific care section in service of showing ways in which we can better care for and position our bodies as we engage.
For instructors, check out this article about 20 Black Yoga teachers with online classes in 2020.
Also, check out what offerings are being held by Trans Yoga Teacher, Allé, a queer, trans person who leads fat-centering Yoga and Meditation classes and Energy Healing events. He has complied a list of Anti-Racism & Cultural Appropriation in Yoga sources here.
Yoga can be a great way to connect with our bodies, and it is possible to experience muscle tension release and opening and nervous system regulation in ways that are similar to receiving massage. That said...
Has getting into yoga felt intimidating to you?
Have you experienced pain in trying out a yoga class?
Have you not been able to keep up in a yoga class?
Has it felt like you aren't positioning your body correctly?
Have you not understood how to use props?
If you answered yes to any of these, I would highly recommend Body Positive Yoga's 7 day yoga exploration, in which short videos are sent to you each day to provide some basics at a slow pace, and options are given for standing or using a chair if being down on a mat/the floor isn't good for your body. I learned so much even tho I've been practicing for a while.
Highlights I would note from the week include the Easy Yoga Warm-Up for neck/shoulders and also for learning how to better position your body/get into yoga poses in general, especially before exploring the other links below. I would recommend the Neck and Shoulder Rescue video for neck and shoulders, yes, but also the jaw, which may be giving you more trouble these days during times of stress and mask-wearing! The Recruit your Glutes video is great for low back/glutes, and the Demystifying Downward Facing Dog video was super helpful in doing that pose correctly/getting the benefit for the spine/back that we are supposed to be getting! This myofascial release ball mentioned in prop video might be of interest and helpful for self-massage.
Neck and Back, Back and Hips:
There are 15 hip openers listed here. Hip openers can also produce emotional release, so be slow and gentle with yourself, notice your breathing, and try only what you are up for when you are up for it. Of these 15, I would particularly check out #2 Reclined Bound Angle, #4, which seems to be an add for a yoga mat, but I note it because just sitting like the person here is helpful for a slow hip release and if you want to place your hands on the mat behind you and/or overhead, those are great stretches to include too, #5 Threading the Needle, which is also a good piriformis (tight muscle deeper than glutes that is often responsible for sciatica) stretch, #8 Low Lunge, which is great for opening the hip flexors (the muscles in the front of your body responsible for lifting your legs — these are the quads and the psoas if you want to know specifics/look them up); a lot of times, low back pain comes from having a weak core and/or from the hip flexors getting all scrunched up which happens with sitting for long periods of time), and #13 supported bridge.
Note for Jaw: these resources below are jaw-specific, but please note that first loosing up everything connected (head, neck, shoulders, chest, arms— yes they are all connected and pull on the jaw!) is important even if it's just doing a 10 second wiggle and then grounding your feet on the floor/noticing your breath.
-Pressure Points to work during a head massage Note: this isn’t a self massage video, but it shows good points for you to self-massage and you can do it in a similar manner, using one hand to support your head, and one to apply pressure/massage. When I self massage, I also will place all 8 (not including thumbs) finger tip pads along the occiput — base of the skull where it meets the neck u2014 and I'll have my thumbs against the back of my neck for support, and will slowly and gently rock my head back ever so slightly so that I feel more pressure into my occiput.
-Self Myofascial Release for occiput (where skull and neck meet) Note: myofascial release is a massage technique I use often in session! Note: If you don’t have a double roller, you can also use a tennis ball or something else like that.
My friend Bianca at Body Positive Boot Camp is doing Virtual Group Training and Virtual Personal training. I can personally attest to how great Bianca is/have done personal training that has helped me get in control of my chronic injury pain, which has allowed me to keep being a massage therapist!
These are the bands I use to workout as recommended by Body Positive Boot Camp and have been key to addressing my chronic aches/pains and compensation patterns. They come with an instruction sheet that’s clear and helpful on how to do the exercises which provide a good full body workout!
Head over to HealthyBinding.com for slides from Frances Reed's "courses in self-massage, stretching, and self-care to promote health, minimize harm, and manage pain while binding" and check out their upcoming workshops! I learned the binding-related and scar tissue work I do from Frances, founder of Freed Bodyworks. Email me to schedule a virtual session focused on binding care and/or pre and post top surgery care!
More Healing Resources
The Healers for Liberation Network is "a collective of POC folk who provide healing services on a sliding scale for our community and our mission is to center healing based communities divesting against systemic oppression, capitalism and white supremacy models of healthcare." White folks can show support by donating to their PayPal: http://paypal.me/H4LNDC.