- Keith Abraham
"Baby Body, Baby Mind"
How a supple and flexible body leads to a healthier mind
When I first approached my GP and asked for help with anxiety, I was offered two things: Drugs and counselling. At the time, I accepted both because it was all that was on offer but the truth is there are countless other tools for combatting mental health. We needn’t rely solely on pharmaceuticals and talking therapies as our only options.
Of course, drugs and counselling have their value and can be lifesaving in some instances but I don’t believe that’s true for the majority of cases. My GP offered me Sertraline, a commonly prescribed antidepressant, and I found that while it reduced my anxiety, I felt dulled, like it robbed me of authenticity. I had also begun to doubt the power of counselling after failing to feel understood by several therapists. But when I finally found one who resonated with me it proved invaluable because she helped show me the power of my mind, the tricks it played and also the associations it made to emotions in certain situations. However, while I better understood my condition and had learned a great deal about my mind, the anxiety remained.
Then I was introduced to two practises that would change my life forever. It was in the stillness of meditation and the focused movements of Tai Chi that I began to find relief from my erratic and irrational mind. My body soon began to gently highlight the physical symptoms of anxiety. For instance, I became aware of just how shallow and fast my breathing had become and that I was constantly contracting my abdominal muscles. This meant I was holding myself in a stress position for extended periods of time and hadn’t even noticed it. For so long I had focused on looking for release from my anxiety only in my mind, treating it with drugs and talking therapies, but the answers I sought lay in my physical body.
My Master in China had a saying he liked to use when asked about anxiety or mental health: “Baby body, baby mind,” he would say. If we have a supple and flexible body, like a baby’s, we are far more likely to have a supple and flexible mind. If we can work on the tensions and trauma stored in our bodies, we can begin to release ourselves from mental stress and ill health. It’s common knowledge that tension is often stored in our neck and shoulders. But blocked emotions play a huge role in our physical and mental dis-ease. For instance, much of our emotional trauma is stored in our abdominal/hip cavity. So, through Tai Chi, I found the practise of increasing the flexibility of my hips, particularly the “Psoas”, released a great deal of blocked emotions and helped dramatically improved my mental well-being. The discipline of slow, deep breaths also helps maintain a sense of calm joy.
So, while pharmaceuticals can be used to counter some of the chemical imbalances that cause mental ill health and talking therapies are useful for verbalising our issues, these are not the only choices open to us. Nor are they necessarily the best or most powerful. While meditation and Tai Chi helped me, there are so many other forms of self-help and therapy out there. Herbalists can replace pharmaceuticals, movement can express your feelings when words fail. Find what works for you and dedicate as much time and attention as you can to loving yourself, healing yourself.
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