There is real merit to the wise words of Taylor Swift. In some way, at some point, we need to shake off what has happened or what we’ve experienced to move forward. Sometimes this is as simple as turning our thoughts in a different direction. In a situation of trauma, however simply letting go is the challenge and not just from our mind, but more deeply from our physical body and nervous system perspective.
At times of deep stress or immediately following a traumatic experience, if we are lucky, we will begin to shake. The irony is that if we do begin to shake, what feels to be an uncontrollable action, it may frighten us a little or we may see it as a sign of weakness. Like we need to pull ourselves together. Remember how I’ve just used the word “lucky” this is why. Shaking is an autonomic nervous system reaction to help dispel stress. It is a primitive and hardwired healing mechanism to help us physically process what is happening so that it doesn’t become lodged in the body and cause further complications namely by way of chronic tension, emotional imprints and to the extreme PTSD.
Somatic practitioners including Yoga Therapists who focus on trauma release and recovery, will attempt to bring this shake back up to the surface in an effort to dispel and restore nervous system equilibrium. With my clients, I will spend time over a few sessions building rapport and trust first through a meditative practice. When I introduce the concept of shaking generally by way of a psoas release, it is done from a parasympathetic state (rest and digest). Trust needs to be earned not only with the therapist, but more importantly with themselves. A position of safety within the body needs to be established to allow the release to happen. Often, an emotional release is experienced at the time of the shake which can come in tears, laughter or even frustration. Sometimes there is also a physical release with brief nausea as the deeper layers of tension from the mid-section around the belly and hips let go. It may take a few hours to feel the full effect of the release but generally there is a sensation of lightness, a freeing from the body. Often any pain from the low back to hips dissipates and a sense of connection to self is deepened.
While there are many layers to healing from trauma and the ability to talk through the trauma with a certified professional is imperative. We mustn’t discount the effect of trauma on the physical body and the equal need to release this tension. Where talk therapy has become stuck or challenged, many people benefit from this somatic based work as a means of initial processing before more conventional healing methods become easier. Either way, many trauma experts agree that we need both to complete the full cycle of healing.