Guided Imagery for Yoga practitioners, massage therapists, wellness coaches, OK – everybody!

My favorite study on Guided Imagery, done by Drs. Ikemi and Nakagawa, at the Yokohama City University School of Medicine in Japan:

84% of subjects asked to envision poison ivy as harmless eliminated standard histaminic responses to it (itching, redness, swelling, blisters), also the REVERSE – when presented with a harmless plant they broke into rash when imagining harmless plant to be poison ivy.

That’s for real! I have lists of studies in my online course, Guided Imagery.

The physical tissues of our body cannot be separated from our emotions. The body understands and reacts to the perceptions and sensory input automatically. Our muscles are geared to be responsive to emotional judgments, an example: this is dangerous; run! Bodyworkers are familiar with the physical tissues of the body and aware that the muscles hold emotions. Touch is possibly the most potent accompaniment for increasing the effectiveness of imagery!

For physical and emotional well-being to happen genuinely, imagery needs to be experienced in the body rather than floating out away from the body. Again, as a licensed massage therapist, I KNOW that abused persons need a lot of respect as they experience even therapeutic touch. Our body is our link to our aliveness, so bodywork while doing emotional work is very powerful! Our cells are 100% alive, and we can keep them that way by being alive in our attitudes. Just saying we are something doesn’t work unless we can come to build a sensation to support what we are saying.

When we remember or anticipate, we do so with our whole body. What the mind/body believes to be true creates physiological responses – when we read a recipe, we can salivate. Images in the mind may not elicit as an intense impact on the body that ‘real’ events do, yet they do evoke the same responses. For example: when we remember the feeling of embracing a loved one, then thinking on this, our face can flush, our pulse can quicken, and our hormones energize.

Real memories or imagined events, our body still has a response in the language of chemistry and biological processes. These memories are “body-bound,” hardwired in at a below conscious level. As we become aware of what is beneath our awareness and pair new thoughts with old ones, we can make new decisions about how to respond/react and can relax.

Anger is the emotion that causes the most negative effects on our physical body and our health. Anger often gives rise to desire for revenge and sometimes its enactment. Those such responses only fan the flames of anger, keeping it alive. Anger, directed either at yourself or at someone else, in most instances is an overreaction to a situation. Letting it get out of control poses the dangers noted above and propels you into the position of judge and jury.

Here’s a sample I wrote for ANGER, the most acidic and harmful of our feelings. This does not mean that it is wrong or bad to experience anger. It is not a bad emotion, but one that must be managed. This applies to all emotions, positive and negative. Experience feelings, acknowledge them, but don’t dwell in or on them, just deal with them. The antidote to anger is forgiveness. Forgiveness is first directed at yourself and then at the one toward whom you are angry.

Releasing Anger

“Close your eyes and see yourself sitting inside your anger.

Perhaps your anger is centered within your chest, or in your solar plexus, or here in this muscle that is so tight. Anger is a hot thing, and most often destructive. Your body can be called the ‘house’ of your soul. And like a fire that destroys a home, flames licking higher, burning the timbers, destroying memories, destroying the home that has sheltered you, anger can harm your body.

Now is the perfect moment to imagine that the heat, the constriction here in your body can be released. Take some breaths in, and while inhaling, imagine a beautiful rain has come to put out the fire. This soothing rain flows into your muscle (chest, solar plexus), and immediately extinguishes the fire.

Breathe out a few times after releasing the anger, and place in the newly vacated space an opposite image, such as sitting in the center of a rose, or floating on a cloud.

Remember, it is best to find your own images, the ones coming directly from your own experience.

Then open your eyes, knowing that the anger is gone.”

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