Yoga Therapy Tools: Learn how to enjoy your yoga practice again.
What is Resourcing
Resourcing is the practice of inviting our mind body to attune to sensations of safety or goodness. It is a practice of invoking memory or thoughts, in the present tense, that give you a sense of ease, a sense of calm and a feeling of ‘okayness’.
In my Yoga Therapy classes, I can initiate your internal resourcing by asking you to follow along with a visualization technique or meditation. An example would be; “ I invite you to let this now moment be enough. To be here right now. Allow yourself to feel a sense of ease, dropping the mind field away and breathing into your body. Feel the air pass your nostrils, connect to the texture of the mat and turn your ears down, quieting the noises around you right now”. This can anchor your thoughts & sensations into the present moment and override the incessant pull of your mind.
But it is more beneficial to learn how to do this yourself and I can show you how!
How the nervous system responds to stress
First a quick overview of how the nervous system responds to ease and stress so you can understand why and how resourcing works.
Our nervous systems are designed to be relaxed but alert. If you observe animals that are not under threat, they are naturally eating, resting, playing or having sex. Humans nervous systems are much the same, though we have significantly more complex social constructs to navigate and bigger brains.
When we get stressed or are out of alignment, emotionally or physically (because the body feeds the brain, not the other way around ) our first line of defence is what is called the social engagement system. We rely on our environment and the people within it to soothe, calm and reassure us. We learned this social engagement system from when we were babies, we would cry and we were soothed by a caregiver. As adults we rely on this same mechanism. When we are distressed we seek out others to help us calm down, thru communication, gestures, reassurances and/or just being able to vent and be heard.
If others are the source of distress or the compounded life experience of people, places and things, our social engagement system becomes disabled.
Our next line of defence for our nervous system when we are stressed, is the fight or flight response. This is a healthy, normal response of our nervous system. For example, speaking up in defence of your actions can be a form of fight. Leaving a conversation that is going nowhere is a form of flight- healthy, normal activated responses.
In Fight or Flight response, the amygdala (part of the limbic system) hijacks the brain and influences our body and mobile defences. The pupils dilate, our sense of sound becomes heightened, blood rushes to the extremities and cortisol is released so our bodies can be stronger at fighting or fleeing. It takes from 20 minutes to an hour for our liver to process the hormones, we may feel an adrenaline rush.
What happens if we cannot execute the fight or flight response successfully?
We can go into Freeze or Fawn response. The blood rushes back from our extremities into our core to conserve energy for our organs and we go limp. If you have ever seen a wild animal being chased by a predator, they are wizards at the freeze response. They are also wizards at discharging this response by shaking or twitching to release the hormones that got stored and activated. Most humans internalize, suppress, compartmentalize and carry on, without recognizing that the energy transfer from the natural fight/ flight/freeze responses has nowhere to go.
But the body keeps score!
And trauma gets stored in the body every time there is a significant, traumatic event that we don’t process.
The thing with our limbic brain (emotional brain) and the reptilian brain (body brain; physical needs for reproduction/safety/calories) is they only remember in real time, present time. They do not understand past or future like the neocortex. This is important because when trauma gets stuck in the body, we can relive this trauma over and over again even if our present, cognitive state is safe or unaffected.
This is why when we get ‘triggered’ or dysregulated in our nervous system, our body is actually feeling the trauma again, reliving it as it is still stored in our cells and tissues. Unresolved trauma can get triggered anytime something reminds us of a past event. Unconsciously or consciously our limbic and reptile memories get activated.
These trauma anchors can become samskaras, imprints or conditioned responses. Just like we have positive characteristics of the 4F trauma responses -Fight/Flight/Freeze/Fawn we have positive and negative samskaras.
Negative samskaras and negative 4F trauma responses inhibit our development, relationships, quality of life and positive evolution.
How does Resourcing Help
Resourcing is inviting the body mind to sensations of safety and goodness.
It is a practice just like mindfulness! Resourcing creates positive samskaras and readily available, archived memories that our brains and nervous system learn to rely upon. It is a strategy for managing stress that can be done without equipment, anywhere at anytime. It is a conscious creation of feel good energy!!
Resourcing enables you to be in control of your wellbeing. By consciously directing your attention you are able to merge the emotional brain with the rational brain, creating a synapse if you will, for extinguishing the stored fight/flight/freeze responses in the body.
Resourcing can become a habit that creates a positive samskara.. By soothing the limbic system you work smarter and give yourself an opportunity to not just survive but Thrive!
How to Resource
Recall a positive, pleasant, feel good memory. Fill in all the details in your mind using as many senses as possible. Use present tense to bring this into the body mind!
Example: I am walking with my dog Suki in the forest at Hidden Grove. I can feel the cool air of the rainforest and still have the taste of the oatmeal-chocolate chip cookie I ate on the way here in the car. Suki’s white bum is wiggling off in the distance, she is doing her happy trot. I hear my water bottle sloshing at my hip as my feet hit the trail. I can sense Suki in the distance even though her cute white bum is out of site.
The Resource needs to be constructive and only have the feel good elements in it. I would not editorial my Resource by adding the traffic on the way to the trail or the parking or anything negative. The point is to elicit a feel good feeling, a sense of ‘okayness’ and a sense of safety.
Yours could be a memory from your past, it could be a place, it could be a person. Something that truly relaxes you and makes you feel joy is what we are asking. Frame only the feel good moments of your memory. If nothing readily comes to mind, if you have absolutely no feel good memories, make one up and be as detailed as possible. But at all possible, recruit a real memory from your memory bank that is framed in the positive!
Then come back to your body. Notice your sensations, baseline breathing, throat, hands, neck, shoulders. When we go into our feel good memory, our body will relax just as when we are activated by something traumatic, our bodies tense up.
You are in control the whole time when you are Resourcing! You can Resource as often as you like, in fact I recommend doing it frequently so you can create a positive imprint or samskara that you can have at the ready and build up the confidence in knowing that you can direct your thoughts. You can change how you think and how you respond by consciously Resourcing.
For Resourcing to work it must be constructive and not destructive.
Though we may have a habit of dissociative behaviour when we become overwhelmed > we may doom scroll or check out by binge watching to relieve stress; and though both of these have their uses, for the purpose of regulating our nervous system< we want to develop conscious patterns to override the unconscious triggers! And dissociative responses only relieve the fight/flight response temporarily, which can be destructive for repairing the nervous system. A Freeze/Fawn response can be dissociative which can shut off all emotions, going numb and limp with both bad and good feelings. So in the long run, this strategy is not worth it for the brief reprieve you may get from feeling panic.
Resourcing helps our bodies digest trauma, soothes the limbic system, increases our awareness and self perception and regulates the nervous system, all in a self sufficient way.
Build up a bank of constructive resourced memories that you can pull up at any time stress and dysregulation threatens to interrupt your life.
It is always available to you, so start practicing now.
Let me know how it goes for you, when you start to build up your Resource Bank and practice the conscious feeling of feeling good!!
Diane Seamark is co-owner of Sadohana with her husband of 25 years, Michael Seamark. She is a veteran yoga therapist having logged over 5000 clinic hours, is a 5th degree black belt in KoKoDo Jujutsu and a mom to twins.