The most common contributing factor with all of our functional core and pelvic floor weakness clients is disconnect. Emotional and physical disconnection is a natural response to trauma and grief. Our body instinctively protects us from pain and looks for ways to distance us from painful experiences, and while disconnection is a natural survival technique, it is not a healthy ongoing lifestyle strategy.
Trauma is defined as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience or a physical injury. Grief is defined as a response to a loss or disappointment. What is considered traumatic is unique to each person’s experience, so you may be surprised as you start healing your core once you start to resonate with our focus on addressing grief as a part of the rehab process. The body often holds grief within a muscle like a memory (hence the term muscle memory). Not surprisingly, there are a lot of emotional and physical trauma that affect the core. Some examples of trauma are: fertility struggles, miscarriage, difficult birth, eating disorder, still born birth, unplanned c-section, abdominal surgery, cancer, chronic pain, abortion, sexual abuse and many more.
The Tummy Team specializes in functional core and pelvic floor rehab and has helped thousands of women and men around the world reclaim their internal strength for a pain free active life. Our holistic rehab approach includes identifying and addressing trauma or grief that may be held in our bodies.
There are emotional, physical, mental and even spiritual components to how our body functions. All physical pain has an emotional component and all emotional pain has a physical component. When focusing on healing the core, we must look at any areas where trauma or grief has caused us to disconnect or shut down (physically and emotionally) so that we can intentionally reconnect, repair, and retrain the muscles in that area to function effectively.
The Tummy Team spends time in each of our courses identifying and addressing the emotional component of the physical connection to the core. Even though each client has their own journey, we have found that there are 6 steps that seem to be consistent in the reconnection process of functional core rehab. Take some time to explore each of these steps to help you understand and address the muscle memories affected by trauma and grief and how they may be impacting your healing process.
1) Slow Down: It is impossible to identify disconnection if you are rushing. Slowing down can be difficult but it is an important step to quieting your system so you can hear from those closed off and shut down areas. Lie down on your bed or on the floor in a quiet space and slow your breathing and calm your mind.
2) Listen: Learning to listen to your body is an invaluable skill. Your body is communicating to you all the time, and your ability to hear and respond appropriately is key to your overall health and wellbeing. In your quiet place, focus your attention on your core (the area between your ribs and your pelvis) and take note of any feelings or emotions you might have. Do you feel: anxious, sad, broken, frustrated, angry, disgusted, heartbroken, numb or something else completely? Acknowledge this feeling as objectively as you can. It is always helpful to name it and validate that feeling. It is not about being right or wrong or being good or bad, it is just about what it is. There is no need to lie to yourself, to justify, or to minimize what you are feeling. Be honest and name it. This is simply where you are right now and that is important to acknowledge that.
3) Connect: Rest your hands on your tummy. One hand just above your navel and one hand just below. Focus on your tummy feeling your hands more than your hands feeling your tummy. Feel the weight of your hands and the warmth of your hands on your tummy. Now slowly slide your hands around on your tummy and reposition them (so your top hand is now on the bottom and your bottom hand is on the top) and focus on feeling your hands in that new place. Resist the urge to focus on what your hands are feeling. Do not fixate on belly fat, skin texture, or any other perceived imperfections. Just focus on connecting to the physical contact of your own hands on your own tummy.
4) Breathe: Remain in your quiet place with your hands on your tummy. Now we are going to start to focus on your breath and its effect on your core. Take a slow full breath allowing your tummy to gently and naturally expand and fill up your hands. Then with a long, slow “shhhhh” sound, exhale allowing your tummy to fall away from your hands toward your spine. Repeat several times but on each consecutive exhale imagine a zipper that starts at your pubic bone and zips up to your sternum as you “shhhhh” and exhale.
5) Feel: Our next step is to focus on what you are feeling. Allow your tummy to feel your hands moving with each breath. Take a few more breaths. What do you feel? Physically and emotionally. Is it hard to feel the movement? Does feeling the movement bring up unexpected emotions? Take note of these feelings and stay here as long as you need to. If you are ready to move forward, the next step is to allow your hands to also feel the movement of your core. Notice where the tummy is moving and where it is not. Spend some time here, breathing, connecting and listening to your body. Continue by moving your hands and replacing them and connecting to how your tummy moves in different areas with each breath. Identify any area that feels especially vulnerable, sensitive, numb, tender or emotional. Resist the urge to avoid that area, but instead apply gentle pressure here and allow yourself to nurture, support and love on that area of vulnerability. Stay here as long as you need to.
6) Move: Once you feel like the emotions connected to those vulnerable areas have regulated some, we can add the next layer to the process. Still in your quiet space with your hands on your tummy and your focus on gentle but intentional belly breaths, slide one foot at a time up so your knees are bent and your feet are on the floor. Notice how your core moved or did not move as you repositioned your legs. Now on your exhale, allow your knees to gently move side to side. Use your hands to feel your core muscles as you move your legs. Experiment and see if you can feel more intentional movement in your core as you use your core to help move your legs. You may be ready to stop here or you may feel ready to progress by lifting one leg at a time toward your chest as you exhale. Gradually add more gentle movements while staying connected to your core and encouraging those muscles to engage and support the movements.
These 6 steps are by no means the entire process to recovering from trauma and grief held in the core, they are simply the beginning of that process. Keep in mind that reading these 6 steps is far different from actually participating in each step. The body has an incredible ability to protect us during trauma and an incredible capacity to help us heal after trauma.
We use the power of self awareness, physical touch, blood flow and sensory retraining to help your body reconnect to the muscles affected by trauma that are essential to supporting you for the life you were meant to live. Do not underestimate the power of connection and how essential it is for you to gain and maintain strength. It is nearly impossible to heal something we cannot feel.
The Tummy Team is dedicated to helping clients everywhere holistically reclaim their functional core and pelvic floor strength. Addressing the emotional and physical needs of your body in this process is an important piece. Let us help you. Check out some of our resources below.