Summary: Learn how fascia is affected by the trauma response and experience the JAW RELEASE to enliven and soften your jaw and your pelvic floor.
- The Trauma Response revisited
- Fascia constricts or goes offline
- BASE, from Dave Berger, can free the fascia
- Fascia affects our emotions
- Pelvic floor and jaw are related
- Motion: JAW RELEASE
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[00:00] The Trauma Response
Hello, my friends. Welcome to Move Into Resilience. I’m Pamela Stokes. Thanks for joining me. In today’s episode we’re going to be learning about how trauma can affect the fascia and we’ll also experience something that you can do right now to help release that. Trauma is something that I’ve talked about frequently in this show, and there’s an episode that I’d like you to check out: Episode 12, it’s called Trauma and Resilience, which will explain the details of trauma and what happens when we experience it. And just to recap and just brief overview, there are different responses that we can have to what is perceived as a threat, in other words, a traumatic event. The “perceived” piece of that is very important because if you’re an infant what you perceive as a threat would be very different from an adult. Also if you’ve had many events in your young life, as you get older an event might be perceived as a threat to you because you’ve experienced many threatening situations beforehand, before that moment. So no two people respond the same way exactly to a traumatic event. But in essence there are three different things that can happen. We can perceive something as threatening, dangerous, and there’s an ability to move. In this case we would be activated and go into the fight or the flight mode. In either case you are activating the sympathetic nervous system so that you can have the energy to do those things, either fight or flee. If there is a situation that’s perceived as dangerous but we don’t have the ability to move or there’s immobility, then we will try to move, otherwise activate this sympathetic nervous system again, but because we can’t, we’re also going to be shutting down and using what’s called the dorsal vagal response or shutdown, withdrawal, collapse is another word. It’s the parasympathetic. And the combination of these two creates a situation where we have sort of the gas on and the brake on at the same time. And this condition leads to or can lead to post traumatic stress disorder which last month I did a whole series on and I invite you to check that out. The third thing that can happen is if this perceived threat is perceived as life-threatening, not just dangerous, but life-threatening. What we will do, and this is, again, these are reflexes. This isn’t a choice that we’re making. But what will happen is we will go completely into shutdown, withdrawal, collapse. and there’s no sympathetic activation. So this is the shutting down of the systems in order to protect ourselves from this life-threatening danger.
[04:09] Fascia Constricts or Goes Offline
So what does all of this have to do with fascia? Well, as we learned in the previous episode, and I invite you to check that out, fascia is everywhere. And because it’s everywhere, when we go into a trauma response, this reflex—fight/fight, freeze, shut-down—our fascia will respond. It will respond either by contracting and then we’ll have constrictions somewhere. And this could be around an organ; this could be around the muscles; it can happen anywhere. Another thing that can happen is that it would be something that would be the attention would be diverted from, so we can kind of go “offline” in the fascial network and not be able to sense or feel what’s happening in these particular areas of the body.
[05:15] BASE to Free the Fascia
As a practitioner of something called BASE, which is Bodywork And Somatic Education, developed by Dave Berger, who is a physical therapist and a psychotherapist, the training has led me to be able to detect when something is offline/shut-down or something is constricted. And when we can recognize these areas in the body that have these qualities and simply bring our awareness to them, as the practitioner and the client both together, the intention is for expansion and “awake-ness” of the tissues. What I find, what I have found oftentimes, is the fascia is where these constrictions happen and most especially in the brain. As I mentioned in the previous episode, there are three membranes of fascia surrounding the brain. And when we have an impact, like a bump on the head, or even a whiplash, where the head is being jostled, the brain will slap up against the membranes, squeezing out the water. And we talked about this last time, fascia is a liquid crystal, so when we squeeze out the water, it becomes a solid. So when this impact happens, these membranes can get kind of gluey, sticky and they feel very sticky; they feel gluey; and they’re not really moving very easily. So when I sense into someone’s head who’s had an impact, I can oftentimes detect these “stickiness” places. And just by bringing awareness and my attention, and the intention for there to be release, this often happens on its own. It’s pretty rewarding to help someone who’s had concussions to be free of this sticky quality in their fascia. I have also noticed that trauma can affect the fascia around certain organs and most especially the kidneys, or what is called the kidney-adrenal complex. The kidneys have a little cap on top which is the adrenal gland—looks like a little hat. And the adrenal gland is useful for producing adrenaline and cortisol. And these are the hormones and neurochemicals that put us into a stress response. And so if we do have to have this fight or flight trauma response, this fascia around the kidney-adrenal complex, again, can get sticky, can get kind of immobile. So by bringing awareness to it and intention to release, we will find that the kidney now has mobility, and it’s able to swing like it’s supposed to.
[09:09] Fascia Affects our Emotions
So the trauma response inevitably will affect the fascia and the fascial network. And because this is our largest sensory organ: it determines where we are in space, as we learned last week; it determines our posture; and it also helps us to know where our weight is when we’re standing or sitting, knowing where we are. Because of that and how trauma can cause this either offline quality or this constricted sticky quality, the entire network is receiving this information, sending it up to the brain, and telling our nervous system there is a problem here. Now if the event concludes, we can remain stuck in this trauma response because the fascia hasn’t let go or it’s turned itself off so that there’s no information coming, maybe because that was the best defense. So there is a correlation directly between the trauma response and what happens in the fascia. And the other part of this is that when there are these constrictions or these offline parts of us in the fascia, the interoception… So what we were talking about before was proprioception, which is our ability to know where we are in space. …But the interoception which gives us information about what’s happening inside of us, can also send a message of there’s something to be afraid of and so we can develop anxiety. And the offline…so that would be the constricted fascia which would do that… the offline quality of fascia can send the message, this interoception, that there is a reason to shut down and turn off, and so this can lead to depression. So this is where the fascia is actually telling our emotions either be anxious or be depressed and/or vacillate between the two. You know if we’ve got both the qualities of this constricted fascia as well as the offline, in the situation where we have both the gas on and the brake on at the same time, which can lead to PTSD, but we can get these really different emotional states very varied. So we can go between the highs and the lows easily. So this is what’s going on inside of us that’s telling our system there’s a problem and this is how you should feel, because, as you may recall from one of my previous episodes, “emotion” was coined as a term to represent “energy in motion”. So the emotion of anxiety would be this constricted state in the fascia, and the emotion of depression/sadness would be this offline quality, which is there’s not information coming from that area.
[13:03] Pelvic Floor and Our Jaw
Now one of the things that I also want to mention is anytime there is a perceived threat, a traumatic event, a stressor, the pelvic floor, which is kind of our first line of defense, the pelvic floor will contract or it will go flaccid. So there’s, again, there’s two different extremes. And the pelvic floor, interestingly, is anatomically similar to the floor of your mouth. So in today’s activity, in our motion for today, I would like to do what’s called JAW RELEASE, because anytime we have an event that’s considered to be a threat, that pelvic floor will contract, and the pelvic floor and the floor of the mouth—the jaw, here on the lower jaw—are interconnected, they’re interwoven; they’re like cousins. So when the pelvic floor is tightened, so will the floor of the mouth be. So if we can release the jaw, release the tension there and the floor of the mouth, we can also release the tension in the pelvic floor. And, on the other end of the spectrum, if we bring awareness and aliveness to the jaw and the floor of the jaw/the mouth, we will also send a message to the pelvic floor that it’s time to wake up. So this is actually a very nice way—very pleasant way—of dealing with any kinds of pelvic floor situations where there’s clenching or tightness, where you get frequent urinary tract infections or impotence. There’s a lot of different things that can happen if the pelvic floor is offline or if it’s constricted. And by using the JAW RELEASE, we can bring all that information into the pelvic floor without having to go there, because it can be very uncomfortable. If there’s pain or if there’s a bad memory that you don’t want to face into. doing the JAW RELEASE will, in a roundabout way, allow you to have some freedom there and some aliveness.
[15:46] JAW RELEASE
So I invite you to join in with this motion called JAW RELEASE. And you can do it sitting or you can do it standing. Thanks for joining in. Let’s do JAW RELEASE. So begin by allowing your tongue to soften. And then slowly and gently open your mouth as far as is comfortable. We don’t want to go to stretch and we don’t want to go to pain. And then slowly close your mouth just until the teeth touch, barely touch. And then take a break; take a breath. Tongue is soft, jaw is soft, eyes are soft. And we’ll do that again. So allowing your jaw to open comfortably wide and then slowly release and close your mouth just until your teeth barely touch. And then take a break; take a breath; soft jaw, soft tongue, soft eyes. And we’ll do that one more time. Allowing the jaw to open comfortably wide. Again, no pain, no stretch and then slowly release that, coming to closed just until the teeth touch. And take a break; take a breath and notice how you feel. Notice your jaw. Maybe there’s some softness through the joint area. Notice the floor of your mouth. And then also notice the connection to the pelvic floor and how you’re sitting. Perhaps you’re a little more settled on your seat, allowing that to soften and feel more awake. Great.
So that’s JAW RELEASE. Thank you for joining in. And you can do this anytime. It’s a great motion to do in the morning when you wake up. You may notice your pets do it naturally. It’s what’s called a pandiculation. We’ve been learning quite a few of them here, where we have a slow gentle movement, a slow gentle release, and thereby softening the fascia and the muscles that are involved in that as well. So that’s what I have for you today to share is that the trauma response affects our fascial network. And we can, by moving the fascia and by softening and awakening these places, we can turn off that trauma response and come back into a regulated nervous system, which is ideal for handling everything that comes into our lives, which is what we call resilience. Thank you for joining me today and send yourself some appreciation for joining in. This has been Move Into Resilience. I’m Pamela Stokes. Take it easy.