Body Betrayal?


A recent experience held up a mirror for me to see just how far I’ve come since I started on my personal growth journey. A surprise injury turned into a beautiful chance to contemplate how my relationship with my body has shifted.

One Saturday, I had a delicious day all to myself. My gorgeous husband took my kids so an expansive day of possibility stretched out before me. In the afternoon, I brought a basket of laundry upstairs, set it down and then stood up, but, shockingly, I couldn’t stand up anymore.

A sharp pain shot through my back every time I tried to straighten up. Having never experienced severe back pain, I was very surprised. For the next hour, I experimented with my new reality. I could walk hunched over, twist, crawl, meditate and sit comfortably. I just couldn’t stand up or walk normally. The possibilities for my day became much more limited.

An older version of me would have freaked out! Much of my current income comes from teaching dance, so I would have dropped into a spiral of ‘what ifs’. The newer ‘Vividly Woman’ me was more curious about the whole situation. I trust that my body will never betray me and that its main purpose is to support me and my growth. Although it hurt significantly, I had cheerful expectation that there was a gift in this event and I was excited to discover it.

It just so happened that my good friend, Ungela, offered to do a Bowen session with me. If you’re unfamiliar with Bowen therapy, it’s a healing modality that stimulates the body to heal itself. With some guidance and gentle manipulation from the practitioner, the receiver trusts in the wisdom of her body to return to its optimal state of health and vitality.

I hobbled into the appointment like I was 9 months pregnant. During the healing session, Ungela asked me if I was going through any major changes, where I was feeling stuck. I replied that most of my life was in a state of huge change, so that could definitely have something to do with it. She explained that, often, acute injuries happen when we’re on the verge of something major, such as expansion, and if we don’t seek out a way to move through them, the injury can become a chronic problem. I love the idea that my body is supporting me to expand and that it knew just what to do to help me overcome my hesitations.

Ungela also asked me to ponder how could I move into my expansion with grace. What did I need to know to do that? The answer that came to me was beautiful. I had a vision of a flower blooming like in time-lapse photography and the word that came to me was “Sassy”. The way that purple flower in my imagination unfurled unapologetically and expanded into its full glory was magical. There was no hesitation. It just followed its instincts and its destiny. It came to me that I could do that too.

Later in the session, I noticed that my lower back felt like a solid brick of pain and tension. It felt “Stubborn”. Something in my body was blocked and I felt like I wanted it to stay that way because it was safe. With my Vividly Woman work, I have embraced vulnerability and revealed more about myself than ever before, but in order for this expansion, I would need to let go of my most tightly held reservations. I felt like I didn’t want to do that yet and that I wasn’t ready.

As the Bowen energy flowed through me, another image came to me. Through the brick of tension in my lower spine, I felt butterfly wings begin to grow. (I know, pretty weird, hey?) I distinctly felt these wings tentatively experimenting with opening and closing, testing out the possibility of flying. The stubborn feeling transformed into curiosity. The gifts from my injury were being revealed and they were more plentiful than I could have imagined.

After the session, I was able to stand up with a significant decrease in pain and my trust in my body was even greater than before. I discussed the experience with my husband the next day and here’s my synopsis.

I’m experiencing lots of change and am on the verge of significant expansion. My mind alone couldn’t force me to do what was beyond my realm of experience and possibility, so my body took over and did what it needed to do to bring that block into my awareness. With some help from a gifted practioner, my blocked emotion and energy were able to flow. I don’t have to “force” myself to do anything.

So did my body betray me? Quite the opposite. It gave me permission to allow myself to take time to recuperate. After just a few days, the pain was gone and some major shifts began happening with ease. When I was more in my masculine side, I thought I had to power my way through things I didn’t feel ready for yet. In my feminine side, I’m much more willing to ask for help, to let emotion move through me and to avoid classifying things as good or bad. I appreciate and recognize the magic in this event. I’m becoming that flower, blooming into all her glory, no apologies necessary.

Have you ever had an injury or illness that turned into a gift? Please leave a comment below.



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Holding Patterns

Holding Patterns

In my more than 2 decades of training as a massage therapist, integrative body therapist, yoga and dance teacher, and through my own experience living in a body, I ‘ve identified 3 types of holding/constriction that occur in the body.
  1. Physical/Physiological
  2. Emotional
  3. Mental
These holding patterns cause limitation and chronic conditions that, over time will become very difficult to unwind. The more holding occurs, the more that the body learns to hold, which results in more holding, and so on and so on.
It’s helpful to identify the type of holding that’s present in any given area of your body if you’re going to be able to release that holding pattern and create greater freedom in your body, and therefore in your life.

I’ll describe each of these types of holding.

  1. Physical/physiological holding is caused by the body’s own mechanical and anatomical condition. For instance, if you have one leg longer than the other, you’ll chronically compensate by limping, which will result in a holding in the hip and pelvic girdle. Or if you lack calcium in your system, your muscles will relax less readily remaining in a constant state of contraction. Physically and physiologically caused holding patterns can often be addressed or remedied if they are identified properly.
  2. Emotional holding patterns are the result of chronically unresolved emotional issues that take up residence in the tissues of the body. Anger, guilt, resentment, blame, avoidance, when not addressed do not disappear. They just become covertly embedded in your body. Some schools of thought believe that it’s necessary to identify the life experience that caused the emotional holding in order to free up that energy.
  3. Mental holding patterns are caused by a belief that we persistently attach to. That belief may pertain to the body, or may seem completely unrelated. Either way, the unconscious attachment to that belief will result in a stuckness in the body. If you think about it, how could it be otherwise. Afterall, all nervous system activity, controlling every tissue; organ, muscle and bone in the body, originates in the brain, the same place thoughts originate. Clearly these will influence each other. So bringing beliefs and thoughts into conscious awareness can have enormous affect on the body’s freedom or lack of.
Watching the body’s holding patterns in every day life, during exercise, dance or yoga practice, and exploring the 3 possible causes of holding patterns above, can reveal valuable truths about your body’s wisdom. Learning to refer to the wisdom of your body will give you profound access to your embodied power, helping to reduce injuries and live more vividly. Be curious and see what you discover!

Leela Francis is a speaker, facilitator and Embody Power Expert. She’s the founder and CEO ofVividly Woman, helping women to tap into their embodied power to become thriving, healthy and fulfilled leaders, personally and professionally.

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