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The Brain-Body Connection: Evidence-Based Strategies for Stress and Trauma Relief"

Updated: May 1

Having experienced various forms of therapy, traveled to India and learned different methods in meditation and yoga, read a range of books about the mind and personal growth, and attended workshops, training, and educational programs. I embarked on a transformative journey, literally and figuratively entering silence during prolonged meditation retreats where I neither speak nor read, observing my own mind and senses with determination over consecutive days and weeks. The practice of observing the mind allowed me to better understand the nature of the mind and how the body and mind relate to each other. As a result I overcame insomnia, panic attacks, and experienced greater clarity and mental peace.

Among other things, through my personal training and years of experience, and also having taught various people with different backgrounds and challenges including (former) cancer patients, people with burn-out, and insomnia. It appears there is more need than just the conventional way of processing situations through cognition.  By experiencing, one can gain awareness/insight into oneself and situations. This is experiential rather than intellectual.

Intellectual training focuses on knowledge transfer through theories, while experiential training emphasizes learning through practical experience. This methodology allows you to get to know yourself and what happens in your body and mind on a deeper level. It's not just about listening and taking notes; it's about experiencing, feeling, and doing, which brings about change.

As Benjamin Franklin said, "Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn." This quote sums up the essence of experiential learning, emphasizing the value of active participation in the learning process.

Bessel van der Kolk, a renowned psychiatrist and researcher in the field of trauma, has extensively explored the concept of body memory and its relationship to traumatic events. In his groundbreaking book, "The Body Keeps the Score" van der Kolk delves into the ways trauma affects the brain, mind, and importantly, the body. Based on firsthand experience, I agree with what he shares. 

Body Memory and Traumatic Events 

Body memory refers to the phenomenon where individuals can experience physical sensations, emotions, or involuntary movements reminiscent of past traumatic events, even if they do not consciously remember the events themselves. These memories are stored in the body and can be triggered by sensory experiences or similar situations. Van der Kolk explains that during traumatic events, the body's natural fight, flight, or freeze responses can be overwhelmed. This overload can prevent the traumatic memory from being processed and integrated into one's autobiographical memory in the usual way. Instead, the memory is stored in non-verbal, sensory, and emotional formats, leading to what we refer to as body memory.

A person who experienced a car accident, for example, years later, even if they do not consciously remember the accident, may become tense or anxious at the sound of screeching brakes. Physically, they may experience an increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, or muscle tension. This response is not always linked to a conscious memory of the accident, but the body 'remembers' the traumatic event and reacts accordingly. This illustrates how traumatic experiences are stored in body memory and can be triggered by specific sensory experiences.

The Relationship Between Memory and Body 

The traditional understanding of memory mainly concerns the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, parts of the brain associated with processing and storing cognitive, factual memories. However, traumatic memories often bypass these typical pathways and are instead encoded in the brain's alarm system, the amygdala, as well as in bodily sensations. This results in a distinction between declarative memory (conscious, factual memories) and non-declarative or implicit memory (unconscious, procedural nary memories, leading to the peculiar phenomenon of trauma survivors reacting to current memories, including body memory). Traumatic memories are thus stored differently than ordisituations as if they are reliving past traumas. 

The Nature of Triggers

 A trigger is a stimulus that evokes the physiological and emotional responses associated with a previous trauma, without the individual necessarily understanding why. Because the traumatic memory is stored in sensory and emotional formats, seemingly unrelated images, sounds, smells, or touches can activate these memories, causing intense emotional and physical responses. Van der Kolk emphasizes the importance of recognizing and understanding these triggers to help individuals with stress and trauma-related conditions. Through various therapeutic approaches, including body-oriented therapies, individuals can learn to regulate their responses to triggers, which helps integrate the traumatic memories and reduce their impact. Practices he recommends are also experiential, including yoga and meditation. 

By applying the right methodologies in the right ways under the right guidance, trauma, stress, and tension can be processed and released. 

In light of the insights shared and the compelling evidence of experiential training's effectiveness, the Neurocalm Training Institute invites individuals to explore the transformative power of connecting with their own body and mind.

Whether you're seeking relief from tension and stress, or looking to deepen your understanding of yourself or you want to become a trainer or practitioner guiding others, our courses, workshops, and training provide a supportive environment for growth

At the Neurocalm Training Institute, we believe in the power of experiential learning to not just inform but transform.

Neurocalm Training Institute - for experiential training, offers courses, workshops, and training focused on awareness of body and mind.

Author Shima - Neurocalm Training Institute

Shima is the founder of the Neurocalm training Institute and author of the book ‘the sleep curator’. She is amongst others a certified yoga therapist and teacher, breathwork- meditation and trauma coach. With over 3000 hours of formal meditation training which of 2 years spent living a monastic lifestyle.

Considered an experienced meditator, she took part in scientific study on the effect of meditative states on the brain.

She provides experiential training to increase body mind awareness and release tension and stress.

She works with (ex) cancer patients, people with insomnia, burnout, therapists, psychologists, coaches and other professionals.

Overcoming amongst others Insomnia and anxiety attacks, has led her working from a deeper level of understanding.

She has worked with 100s people in her studio in The Netherlands and Internationally.

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