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  • Writer's pictureMatt Stewart

Awakening the Tiger: Transforming Trauma with Somatic Release Breathwork and Myofascial Release

Updated: Jun 25

Awakening your Tiger: How Somatic Release Breathwork and Myofascial Release Can Help Heal Trauma

When it comes to healing and recovering from trauma, our bodies hold an incredible wisdom that often goes unnoticed. Peter Levine's book, "Waking the Tiger," dives into this body-mind connection, showing how trauma is stored in our bodies and how we can release it through somatic experiences. As someone who practices Myofascial Release and Somatic Release Breathwork, I see a lot of similarities between Levine’s ideas and the powerful effects of these techniques.



Trauma and "Waking the Tiger"

In "Waking the Tiger," Levine explains that trauma isn't just a psychological issue—it’s deeply rooted in our physiology. According to him, trauma lives in the body and can mess with our nervous system. Levine looks at animals in the wild, who face life-threatening situations but rarely end up traumatized. The secret? They have natural ways of shaking off the stress.


Humans, on the other hand, tend to bottle things up due to societal expectations and our tendency to overthink. Levine stresses the importance of reconnecting with our bodily sensations to release stored trauma. This idea is right at home with Somatic Release Breathwork and Myofascial Release.



Understanding Fight, Flight, Freeze, and Fawn Responses

When we talk about trauma, it's essential to understand the body's natural responses to threat: fight, flight, freeze, and fawn. These are instinctual reactions managed by the sympathetic nervous system, designed to protect us in dangerous situations.

  • Fight: This response prepares us to confront the threat. Our muscles tense, adrenaline surges, and we are ready to defend ourselves.

  • Flight: This reaction urges us to escape danger. Our heart rate increases, and our bodies prepare to run away.

  • Freeze: When neither fight nor flight seems possible, we might freeze. This response can make us feel numb or paralyzed, unable to take action.

  • Fawn: Often less discussed, the fawn response involves trying to appease or placate the threat, seeking safety through submission or people-pleasing behaviors.



How Unresolved Trauma Manifests in the 4 F's

Unresolved trauma can leave a person stuck in one of these four responses, affecting their physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Fight:

  • Physical: Chronic muscle tension, headaches, and high blood pressure.

  • Mental: Irritability, a constant feeling of being on edge, and difficulty relaxing.

  • Emotional: Lashing out at loved ones, anger issues, and a pervasive sense of frustration.


Flight:

  • Physical: Restlessness, fatigue from constant activity, and digestive issues.

  • Mental: Chronic worry, difficulty focusing, and a preoccupation with escaping situations.

  • Emotional: Conflict avoidance, feeling overwhelmed, and an inability to stay still or calm.


Freeze:

  • Physical: Numbness, a lack of physical energy, and frequent illness.

  • Mental: Feeling stuck, dissociation, and an inability to make decisions.

  • Emotional: Withdrawing from others, silent or non-responsive behavior, and feelings of helplessness.


Fawn:

  • Physical: Stomach issues, tension in the neck and shoulders, and fatigue.

  • Mental: Overthinking interactions, low self-esteem, and difficulty asserting oneself.

  • Emotional: People-pleasing, difficulty saying no, and a sense of identity loss.



These responses can significantly disrupt a person's life, making it challenging to engage fully in relationships, work, and daily activities. The constant state of high alert or shutdown keeps the sympathetic nervous system activated, preventing the natural relaxation and healing processes from taking place.



Action and Stillness in Healing

Healing from trauma involves addressing these deeply embedded responses. Both action and stillness play significant roles in this process.


Action refers to activities that help us actively engage with and release trauma. This can include physical movement, vocal expression, or therapeutic practices like Somatic Release Breathwork and Myofascial Release. These actions help to discharge the pent-up energy associated with fight or flight responses, facilitating a return to balance.


Stillness, on the other hand, involves practices that allow us to pause, rest, and simply be with our experiences. This can include mindfulness, meditation, or gentle body awareness practices. Stillness helps us address the freeze and fawn responses by creating a safe space to observe and integrate our feelings without the pressure to immediately act.


In the context of Somatic Release Breathwork and Myofascial Release, we can see the interplay of action and stillness. The breathwork involves active engagement with our breathing patterns, promoting the release of stored energy and emotions. Meanwhile, Myofascial Release often involves sustained pressure and stillness, allowing the body to gradually soften and release tension.


By balancing action and stillness, we support the body's natural healing processes and create a more resilient nervous system. This holistic approach is crucial for recovering from trauma and restoring a sense of safety and well-being.



The Power of Somatic Release Breathwork

Somatic Release Breathwork is a fantastic way to tap into and release trauma stored in our bodies. By consciously working with our breath, we can influence our nervous system and let go of built-up stress and trauma. This practice aligns perfectly with Levine’s ideas, encouraging us to tune into our bodily sensations and release trapped energy.


In a Somatic Release Breathwork session, clients use specific breathing patterns to unlock areas of tension and emotional holding. This can bring up all sorts of sensations and emotions—from tingling and warmth to waves of grief or anger. By staying present with these experiences, clients can process and release trauma, leading to deep healing.


Myofascial Release: A Perfect Partner

Myofascial Release therapy goes hand-in-hand with Somatic Release Breathwork by addressing physical restrictions in the fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds our muscles and organs. Trauma often shows up as tightness and pain in the fascia, keeping us in a state of tension.


Using gentle, sustained pressure and stretching, Myofascial Release helps to soften and elongate the fascia, making our bodies more flexible and comfortable. This hands-on technique not only eases physical pain but also helps to release the emotional and energetic components of trauma.


When combined with Somatic Release Breathwork, Myofascial Release offers a holistic approach to healing trauma. The breathwork opens pathways for energy and emotion to flow, while Myofascial Release tackles the physical blockages that might be in the way. Together, they create a powerful combination that supports the body’s natural ability to heal.


Integrating Shadow Work

Shadow work is another valuable tool in the journey of trauma recovery. It involves exploring and integrating the parts of ourselves that we might have repressed or denied, often as a result of trauma. These hidden aspects, known as our "shadow," can influence our behaviors and emotions in ways we might not be consciously aware of.


By bringing these aspects to light, shadow work helps us understand and integrate them, reducing their negative impact on our lives. This process can be challenging but incredibly rewarding, as it allows us to reclaim parts of ourselves that were lost or hidden away due to trauma.


Incorporating Shadow Work with Somatic Release Breathwork and Myofascial Release creates a comprehensive approach to healing. This integrated method is the foundation of the soma psyche program, ensuring that all dimensions of our being are acknowledged and healed, fostering a more profound and lasting recovery.



Connecting the Soma and Psyche

Levine’s work highlights how deeply connected our minds and bodies are in trauma recovery. By acknowledging and working with our body’s natural wisdom, we can bridge the gap between the soma (body) and the psyche (mind). Somatic Release Breathwork, Myofascial Release, and shadow work are essential tools in this process, helping us reconnect with our bodies and release stored trauma.

In my practice, I’ve seen how these techniques can change lives. Clients who felt stuck in their bodies and overwhelmed by their emotions have found a sense of freedom and peace. They’ve learned to listen to their bodies, honor the messages they receive, and respond with compassion.



Wrapping Up

"Waking the Tiger" gives us a great framework for understanding trauma and how to release it. By integrating Somatic Release Breathwork, Myofascial Release, and shadow work, we can tap into our body’s wisdom and facilitate profound healing. This holistic approach addresses not just the physical aspects of trauma, but also the emotional and energetic ones, leading to a more complete and lasting recovery.

As we continue to learn about trauma and healing, let’s remember the powerful connection between our bodies and minds. By awakening the tiger within, we can unleash our body’s natural ability to heal and transform, leading to a life of greater freedom and wholeness.




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