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The American Institute of Stress declared in Time Magazine that stress-related disorders make up between 80-and-90 percent of the ailments that bring people to family- practice physicians. The United Nations has referred to stress as the “20th Century Disease”. For massage and physical therapists, this news is no surprise. They treat stress related tension everyday.
Why does the body remain tense and restless, even while a person sleeps? The answer may be that the body is still responding to stressful experiences from the past that were internalized by a natural protective response called - the freeze response.
When an experience is threatening, painful or stressful, the primitive fight or flight response becomes active in the body and triggers a person to take action – either confront the stressor (fight) or escape it (flight). If unable to confront or escape, a secondary protective response – the freeze response – becomes active.
The body cannot release stress and be in the freeze response at the same time. In other words, the freeze response prevents the body from relaxing and healing itself. Herein lies the problem. In our western culture, the freeze response has become a habit. The stressful lifestyles that have become so common trigger the body to remain in the freeze response most of the time. Instead of releasing stress each day, the body is accumulating it. We have adapted to this protected state to the point that it feels normal. In Massage Therapy and some scientific circles, the accumulation of stress in the body is now referred to as body memory. Body memory refers to the energy of past experiences that is suppressed in the body.The body converts these physical sensations, emotions and psychological impressions of one's experiences into various forms of energy.
Unreleased memory creates tension that adversely affects the function of every system in the body. Years of documented studies reveal that many of the chronic, recurrent symptoms individuals commonly experience in their body are caused by this phenomenon known as body memory. As a result, a person can accumulate years, even a lifetime of stress in their bodies unconsciously.The innate ability to suppress stressful experiences has become more than a mechanism to survive, it has become an unconscious habit.
Body Memory Recall (BMR) is a form of therapeutic bodywork that integrates myofascial release, cranial sacral therapy, visceral myofascial release and unwinding. Collectively, these modalities comprehensively treat the effects of body memory and activates a person's innate ability to release it.
The BMR approach was developed in 1997 by Jonathan A. Tripodi, a physical therapist and pioneer in the field of body memory therapy. More about Jonathan and BMR.
Myofascial comes from the Latin words “myo” for muscle and “fascia” for band. In healthy condition, fascia is relaxed and wavy in configuration, with the ability to stretch and move without restriction. Physical or emotional trauma, scarring or inflammation cause the fascia to lose its pliability which causes restriction and tension to the rest of the body. Representing the largest tissue system in the body, it extends from head to toe, surrounding and interconnecting muscles, bones, nerves, organs and cells in an uninterrupted web-like network. Because fascia is often overlooked by the medical community when diagnosing, many people’s conditions persist despite medical treatment and therapies. Continued muscle tension and pain, arthritic conditions, headaches, TMJ and fibromyalgia are only a few examples of untreated fascial restrictions.
Myofascial Release is the component of BMR that treats these fibrous bands of connective tissue (or fascia). Research in biophysics has revealed how connective tissue, when hydrated, becomes a liquid crystalline substance capable of receiving, storing and transmitting our experiences in the form of bio-electricity.
Body memory causes muscles to tense which, over time, strains the surrounding fascia causing it to harden and restrict motion. Since fascia surrounds every structure in the body, fascial restrictions distribute tension throughout the body. As restrictions are released, movement is restored and so is the transmission of suppressed energy or body memory.
Myofascial release techniques can be applied to all major areas of the body including the arms, legs, back and neck.
Unwinding refers to the natural, self-correcting movement of fascia as the mind and muscle release as a single unit. A therapist begins by gently laying his/her hands on the area of your body to be treated until he/she feels barriers of muscle tension begin to soften and release. This feels like butter melting. The therapist gradually adds pressure and stretch to lengthen muscle and engage fascial restrictions. Pressure is maintained with force until a release occurs (usually within 3-5 minutes). Layers of accumulated stress, tension and restriction unwind over time. As the body unwinds, it may shake or tremble, get hot or cold and suppressed emotions can surface and release. Sometimes, a person will involuntarily move into positions of old injuries or trauma, an experience referred to as "positional memory release."
A therapist cannot make unwinding happen, they can only support it as it occurs. With gentle, sensitive touch, a BMR therapist communicates safety to the body which disarms outdated protective responses and allows unwinding to occur.
Due to its lack of familiarity with unwinding and the fear of losing control, our body's most powerful ability to heal itself has been minimized to yawning or stretching.Yawning is the most common experience of unwinding which coincides with a release of tension. The beauty of unwinding is that we were designed to do it. A BMR therapist can help you to experience unwinding more deeply and experience relief unlike anything you previously imagined was possible.
Cranial Sacral Therapy consists of sensitive touch to areas of the head, body and spine, which relaxes the nervous system and releases the freeze response. Cranial sacral techniques are also used to release connective tissue or fascial restrictions around the spinal cord, brain, sacrum and head to induce a peaceful self-healing state.
Pain, stress conditions, digestive and elimination problems are all associated with protective muscle guarding in the abdomen from accumulated body memory.
The abdominal psoas muscles, pelvic floor and respiratory diaphragm are three primary muscles that lock down in response to stress. When emotional stress is suppressed, these muscles stay tight creating abdominal tensions that collectively cause shallow breathing, alter spinal and pelvic alignment and compress organs.
In this way, body memory has been directly linked to low back pain, pelvic pain, spastic colon, gastric reflux, constipation, infertility and incontinence.
Visceral Myofascial Release incorporates gentle, rhythmic massage with sustained pressure and stretch around organs, the diaphragm and pelvic floor which helps to release muscle guarding, surgical scarring and body memory. Visceral myofascial release improves breathing, proper digestion, elimination, reproduction and circulation.
Robert is a Body Memory Recall instructor and is available for speaking engagements and demonstrations on how BMR Therapy can benefit you.
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