Healing Body and Mind

Most people understand the benefits of exercise for healthy living. But after a traumatic experience – such as surviving a natural disaster – physical activity can be a life-changing healing tool. Whether combating the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or to simply provide some balance and peace in a world that has been turned upside down, these activities can offer some equilibrium to your life.

Yoga

An ancient and well-known stress-reliever, yoga brings a fantastic balance of physical effort combined with breathwork to give practitioners a place to focus. When life becomes a little too intense, yoga is a tool that teaches people to quiet the chatter in the mind and focus on the breath. Conscious breathing decreases heart rate and blood pressure, all while reducing anxiety and allowing muscles to relax. Yoga asanas – or poses – are combined in sequences linked with specific inhalations and exhalations in order to keep the practitioner in the present moment. By focusing on the breath, the physicality of yoga becomes more about honing the mental state and less about burning muscles. That being said, yoga is a fantastic workout and can also help sculpt lean muscle and burn calories – a win-win kind of exercise that is low-impact and has multiple benefits!

Nutrition

Another easy way to help ease stress and induce healing is by eating well. Good nutrition not only fuels the body that is working hard doing perhaps very physical work of rebuilding, but also helps the entire system rebuild after a period of extreme stress. Stress can cause us to overeat and in turn, eating items that aren’t nourishing can put our bodies in a “survival mode” and cause us to store more fat. That being said, eating our favorite foods can actually relieve some stress, but moderation is key. Choosing healthy meals and snacking on nuts and seeds can replenish much-need vitamins and nutrients to help the body heal.

Massage

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Other than it feels really good, when applied by a properly trained professional, massage can decrease and even eliminate inflammation, increase blood and lymphatic circulation and calms the nervous system, thus reducing stress.

“Our emotions experienced during traumatic events can become trapped in the fascia, or connective tissues, causing the body’s defense system to engage and tighten,” says Doug Arter, massage therapist and co-owner of Journeys Spa on Tortola. “Myofascial release is a specialized massage treatment focusing on releasing these restrictions. Connecting with another living being through intuitive and thoughtful touch in a safe environment lets the brain release chemicals telling the body that it’s ok to be calm and at ease.”

The body releases toxins as circulation increases, so hydration after a massage treatment is key.

Hiking

Getting outside is a good way to not only remind your body that there is a big world to explore, but seeing how the islands are greening up and recovering will be good for mental stress as well. The BVI has some fantastic hiking opportunities for you to explore and be reminded of the natural beauty of the region. Check out www.BVIhiking.com for more info and some great trail options.

Dance

Even if you feel like you have two left feet, dancing is a fantastic – and fun! – way to engage in a physical activity to relieve stress. You don’t have to put on ballet shoes to get moving and reap the benefits of dancing, either.

“Dance, aerial and yoga can be a therapeutic experience, releasing pent up energy and developing concentration and focus. When we stretch and move our bodies using our breath, we stimulate the nervous system, opening up energy pathways, and increasing blood flow and oxygenation. This makes you feel good in the moment and contributes to a healthier you in the long run,” says Amanda Georges, owner and teacher at Frangipani studio on Tortola.

Try a modern dance class, or step out of your comfort zone and experience weightlessness and spinal decompression with an aerial dance or yoga experience. Whatever you choose, forget about what you think you can or can’t do, and just go with the flow!

Sara Sherman
Sara Sherman is a former St. Thomas resident and the editor of Virgin Islands Property & Yacht.
Sara Sherman

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