ON TRAUMA AND SCAPULAE

"Pull your shoulders back and down!"


"Tuck your shoulder blades into your back pockets."


"Keep your scapulae flat against your back."


All commonly used cues for shoulder positioning. All things that befuddled me for the longest time. That back pocket cue still seems weird to me. I mean, my shoulder blades don't go that low.

I am a survivor of childhood trauma. It took a long time for me to acknowledge to myself that many of the things I experience to this day are the result of that trauma. I felt more badass to ignore the trauma and pretend that any difficulties I experienced were just clearly unexplainable. In clinical work, we sometimes call these things the sequelae of trauma. One of the things that I have had difficulty with is feeling very disconnected from my body.


This has manifested in many ways. I remember being pregnant with my first child and the midwife thought he was probably breech, and was asking where I felt his kicks. I had a difficult time clearly explaining. I remember her looking at me mystified, as I struggled to think of where I could feel kicking. "You don't know where you feel the kicking?"


I often have difficulty explaining pain to health care providers. Because I am disconnected from my body, I have a hard time pinpointing a specific place. So I may have knee pain, but struggle to say front, back, side, above, below... I am fortunate that I haven't often had health care providers think that I am "faking it", although that is certainly a problem that folks encounter when they can't clearly and specifically describe their aches and pains.


Another place where this has manifested itself is when I workout. I can recall being in group classes where the instructor gave cues that I just couldn't follow, because I lacked the awareness of the movement and control of those parts of my body. In yoga classes, I have struggled sometimes to know where the tightness is. I may find a pose difficult or uncomfortable, but I may struggle to identify a specific tight area; it just feels generally not good.


It helps me to remember that this disconnected from my body feeling evolved as a necessary coping strategy to survive things that were horrifying. My body wasn't a safe place to be; it was better to be disconnected from it. Most of the sequelae of trauma are like this: things that started as an essential way to cope, but eventually became a way of life.


In all honesty, it has taken many years of both working through my trauma and working out regularly to connect to my body and understand how to intentionally pull my scapulae back and down. Being able to control my body, even those small movements like pulling my scaps back, is empowering. My fitness journey is fully interwoven with my trauma recovery journey. Developing bodily awareness through moving my body had improved my body awareness in other situations. Learning to mindfully use and move my body, whether through back squats, push-ups, a plank hold, helps me to be connected to my body, to control its movements, to understand its sensations.

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