Fasciae and Trauma: Osteopathic Teachings

Sunset over mountains

My osteopath, Catherine, is one of my mental health service providers and educators, and so is my therapist (nothing needed in front of the word). My yoga mentors are also on this team. So are friends, and family. The weather, the bank. Anger, my knees, my monolithic but short-lived back injury. My responses. Everything is my teacher.

But specifically today I’m thinking about the lessons of my osteopath. The subtle ways personal traumas and anxieties show themselves in the frame, in the fascia, the nervous system, in your doshas, in your Vedic natal star charts (bringing to mind samayavidya and samsara), add up over time and eventually injure the body if we do not intervene on our behalf.

There is only us, and the world, which is us. We live in an overwhelming world, flooded with experiences, suffering inevitable. We can learn to be free, by accepting the teachings of everything in the world. We can be humble warriors.

These are holding patterns — the way the muscles and soft tissues and organs and nervous system and digestion listen to the mind. I believe that a softening of the ego through breath, philosophy, bodywork, service, and āsana encourages the more authentic self to come forward and exist without shame, guilt, or fear. We can befriend our mind, show it compassion for the years of experiences and stories it has received and internalized, and ask it to take a look at its world a little differently. (A great way to do this is to go on the journey to Sirsasana.)

The osteopath, Catherine, said that “normally, there is an acute area where the fasciae don’t want to release, but the rest of the body is typically fairly open.” In my case, the entire body was closed, anywhere she went was barred access. It was perpetually stiff, guarded, bracing for impact. How interesting (and validating, considering the years of abuse and acute stress that I endured, traumas the body would hold – literal tension – in the frame and everything that supports it).

My osteopath, like one of my teachers, educates me about our holding patterns, my holding patterns, subtle head tilts and poor postures, and all the stories behind those skeletal stances (immigrating as a child with a single mother, being bullied, horribly abused by intimate partners, anger and resentment, a stifled voice, attachments and fears), the connection between the mind and the body, and how to train both to inhabit their natural states of freedom and openness.

There is only us, and the world, which is us. We live in an overwhelming world, flooded with experiences, suffering inevitable. We can learn to be free, by accepting the teachings of everything in the world. We can be humble warriors.

Through gentle manipulation and curious attention, she encouraged my body to inhabit a neutral state, slowly. Soft repetitive minute massage along the spine, the ribs, the hips, knees, feet, everywhere. I can’t even describe it. All of the fasciae run through the body like knotted yarn — she explores each thread to see where the knot can be freed of its self, an entity that directs interpretations and attitudes, a consciousness, stories and beliefs learned throughout our lives. I felt the most serene peace, a glimpse of what is possible if the body can let go of what the mind holds onto.

And in turn, it may help the mind to experience the freedom of letting go, to return to its natural state. There, we can luxuriate in that sublime state of freedom as the mind momentarily forgets about all of those deeply entrenched beliefs we have about ourselves. It is a constant work in progress, always evolving, always growing, as impermanent as all existence.

For more information:

  • https://www.nationalacademyofosteopathy.com/documents/research_papers/Gina%20Beelens%20Research%20Paper.pdf
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3091471/
  • https://www.choicehealthcentre.com/blog/understanding-posture-and-myofascial-holding-patterns
  • https://www.osteopathybc.ca/news/osteopathy-structure-your-body%E2%80%99s-pain

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