When I first met Helen, she came to me for pain in her right shoulder and left hip which were affecting her yoga practice and quality of life. We did several bodywork sessions together and managed to reduce the symptoms, for a moment, but the pain and discomfort always seemed to return. After a few months, she decided to do a session where psychedelics and bodywork are combined together. She wanted to explore if there were deeper emotional or energetic reasons behind her physical chronic pain.
During this session, it came out that she lost an infant daughter who passed away unexpectedly when she was only a few months old. Helen held her daughter with her right arm. I found that the pain she was experiencing was the energetic holding on to her daughter that she didn’t realize was still so present, and a deep-seated desire not to let her go.
When we moved to her left hip, Helen was overwhelmed with understanding and compassion for her grandmother’s life, which she hadn’t given much thought to before. She processed these events and used bodywork to release the energy and memory from the tissue and fascia, eventually bringing balance to her physical body, energetic body, and spirit. Since her session, Helen has been pain free. Her case reveals how bodywork alone isn’t always enough when it comes to addressing pain in the physical body.
The human body is an incredible masterpiece, operating multiple systems simultaneously. It’s not just physical but also an intricate relationship between emotions, energy, and a deep sense of self. When the balance between the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of our bodies is disrupted, it can lead to problematic conditions like chronic pain or unexplained discomfort.
Bodywork is a therapeutic modality that refers to touching or manipulating a body through the muscles, tissues, and nervous system. It is similar to a massage with specific attention to how all parts of the body affect one another. Traditional bodywork techniques can be very relaxing and relieve stress, like a massage, but they also address tension, pain, postural issues, mobility constraints, and rehabilitation from accidents, injury, or even surgery recovery. It is common for someone to experience an emotional release as they receive bodywork; the release of physical tension can lead to the feeling of release of pent-up emotions.
Psychedelics can contribute to this process by unearthing issues that people might be avoiding. In Helen’s case, introducing psychedelics into her bodywork sessions was the missing link to addressing her complex physical issues. She wasn’t aware that she was still holding on to her lost child or feeling her grandmother’s history. It wasn’t until we brought in psychedelics that she gained the clarity she needed to heal.
When I met Marc, he was suffering from chronic lower back pain, numbness in one hand, acute neck pain, and Plantar Fasciitis. He spent years and thousands of dollars going to other medical doctors to address the pain with limited to no success. At the same time, he had spent 40 years in psychotherapy for PTSD and stress from challenging life experiences. He grew up with an abusive father and today his relationship with his mother is fraught. He has constant triggers around safety, family, relationships, which put tremendous stress on his body.
And until he heard about psychedelic integrative bodywork, it never occurred to him that his life experiences and PTSD might be related to his physical discomfort. A study conducted by the National Center for PTSD found that 15 to 35 percent of people with chronic pain have PTSD. This is exactly what I saw Marc to be experiencing. By addressing the physical body, emotional body, and spiritual body, all together in the same session, Marc was able to find the profound relief he spent years and thousands of dollars searching for.
There are important ethical considerations when using touch alongside psychedelic drugs. In these clients, I saw how psychedelics could facilitate a heightened state of introspection, allowing individuals to explore and process their beliefs, and emotional and traumatic experiences in a safe and supportive way.
The integration between bodywork and psychedelics bridges the gap between the mind and body. The physical body encompasses our bones, muscles, organs, and senses that allow us to perceive and interact with the world around us. The emotional body, on the other hand, refers to the non-physical aspect of our being, like emotions, which greatly influence our interaction with the world. The spiritual body refers to our inner self, values, and beliefs, and is often tied to a sense of connection to something greater than ourselves. All three play a vital role in achieving optimal health and fulfillment.
If one or more of these aspects is unhealthy or imbalanced, it will affect the whole. For instance, physical pain or discomfort can lead to emotional and spiritual challenges, impacting our sense of identity, outlook on life, decreased self-esteem, or lack of motivation. Likewise, emotional imbalance can manifest in the body as tension and unexplained pain. A lack of spiritual meaning can result in feelings of disconnection, purposelessness, or lead to destructive behaviors, which can affect mental and physical well-being.
Traditional bodywork practices can address physical needs and some emotional factors. Talk therapy can explore emotional and spiritual issues that are at surface level. Psychedelic therapies can work at the more subconscious layers of the emotions and spirit. But for some people, none of these practices on their own can address all three effectively at the same time.
To offer one more story: Akira is a young Japanese woman whose family migrated to the United States when she was 3 years old. Her father died when she was young, putting an incredible strain on her mother and grandmother. She was raised in a household where it was expected that she work constantly, without rest, to help the family. Time off was viewed as laziness, and even though she was juggling multiple jobs, it was never enough. By the time Akira was a young woman, she developed an incredibly sensitive nervous system and battled with anxiety and ADHD. She was never able to receive bodywork or massage to relax or reduce stress because the sensitivity in her nervous system made physical touch unbearable.
If Akira had not found psychedelic integrative bodywork she would have wasted years looking for relief, like Marc. And there is a good chance it would have ended her marriage. When she allowed her deeper truths to emerge, she could clearly see the anxiety and sensitive nervous system were symptoms of her upbringing and cultural expectations. Calming her nervous system allowed her to receive bodywork and release stress and tension she had been carrying for years. Her body could receive safe touch without triggering her nervous system.
There are times when bodywork can be sufficient. There are times when psychotherapy can reveal truths and give people valuable tools to support their wellbeing. There are times when one psychedelic journey gives all the clarity that is needed to change a life. But the interconnectedness of the body, emotions, energy, mind, and spirit are so vast that oftentimes each on its own is not enough. For Helen, Marc and Akira, that was certainly the case. Bringing together bodywork and psychedelics was the key to unlocking their profound healing experiences.
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