Updated: Jan 18, 2021
RELEASING EMOTIONAL TOXINS
On a Thursday evening, right at the beginning of a yoga class and in one of the most basic postures, my entire lower back froze. It literally felt as if my entire lower spine was completely stuck, compressed, and incapable of moving. Feeling what was happening I immediately rolled into a resting posture, and stayed there for the remainder of class.
Though freezes like this aren't an uncommon occurrence for me there really weren’t any tell-tale precursors or signs for it. Since I was thirteen I’ve been having chronic back pain, throwing my back out at least once a year with issues for months on end. But the specific pain I had that night in my yoga class was something I hadn’t felt in years. I made my way home after class and positioned my body on top of a foam roller; falling asleep right there in hopes that I would wake up pain-free the next morning.
That, however, wasn’t the case.
" Since I was thirteen I’ve been having chronic back pain, throwing my back out at least once a year with issues for months on end. But the specific pain I had that night in my yoga class was something I hadn’t felt in years."
I woke up the next morning with discomfort and spasms that ran from my lower back and down the back of my leg. Out of the blue, I decided to open the Class Pass app on my phone (something I haven’t done in more than a year!) Scrolling through, I found myself intuitively zeroing in on Cryo1One, a local cryotherapy clinic. Although I’ve never tried cryotherapy, something told me that it was what my body was needing. I followed that inner voice and booked an appointment.
One hour later there I was standing in the entrance of Cryo1One. The co-owner, Kelly, greeted me with a joyous smile, a gesture that put me right at ease as she lead me into my treatment room. A time capsule-type of machine stood on the other side of the door and, in order to enter it, I was given special socks, shoes, and ski-like gloves to wear. I undressed completely. The final prepped look was ridiculous to say the least, but I was determined to see why my body wanted to go into this Cryo Chamber.
Alerting Kelly I was ready she entered the room and debriefed me for my adventure. The machine rumbling ominously in the background. She told me that I would be in the Cryo Chamber for a total of three minutes. In there I would be exposed to temperatures around -167 F. Once the session was complete the body immediately begins to warm up she explained, supplying the body and its extremities with newly oxygenated blood. The benefits of this range from decreasing muscle soreness and draining lymph to reducing inflammation and yes, stopping spasms.
She spoke while I was in the Cryo Chamber, so I didn’t really notice the freezing temperatures until the last thirty seconds when I proceeded to complain and asked, “Are we done yet?” Thankfully, she reassured me that we were and even helped with a much anticipated countdown: “3, 2, 1…”
Stepping out, I immediately felt a tingly sensation all throughout my lower back, knees, and legs. It was something Kelly told me was a completely normal sensation. (It meant the freshly oxygenated blood was pumping through my body.) Unaware of the tremendous amount of pain I was in prior to the treatment (and the fact that I was barely able to walk up the stairs to her door), I told her I was pleasantly surprised to be standing straight. The cold, it seemed, was also numbing the pain as a welcome side effect I hadn’t considered.
Upon learning about my pain, she encouraged me to come back another two treatments so that I could experience even deeper results. Thrilled with what I was immediately experiencing I didn’t hesitate to sign up right then and there using my remaining Class Pass credits. I was amazed by how much more mobility I had in my lower back after just one treatment; I didn’t feel compression or stiffness in my muscles either.
To help my body continue on its path to healing I’ve added gentle yoga classes to my cryotherapy treatment; paying close attention to my body as it guides me through sensations that let me know where I can push and when I should pull back. One of the most interesting things I’ve experienced with cryotherapy is actually feeling my lymph nodes near the psoas, groin, and hip on my right side reduce. While it might not seem like a big deal it was huge for me because, in addition to chronic back pain, I also experience chronic pain there.
While this is technically a self-diagnosis, I am confident this is the source of my pain. When I listen to my body I am told that the build up occurs because of emotional congestion that is caused from suppressing emotions and stress. Just like other factors in our environment can cause toxins in the body, we can also create emotional toxins in our body from unresolved or suppressed emotions. The lymph drainage I felt in the first three days of cryotherapy forced me to examine myself, looking specifically for any emotional toxins I may have created in my body recently. As I dug deeper I realized that the freeze experienced during cryotherapy wasn’t the only kind of freezing my body was going through; I was freezing emotions and keeping them stuck in my body.
Clearly, I had some inner work to do.
" When I listen to my body I am told that the build up occurs because of emotional congestion that is caused from suppressing emotions and stress. Just like other factors in our environment can cause toxins in the body, we can also create emotional toxins in our body from unresolved or suppressed emotions."
I began with reflection. Questioning myself to see if I had been hiding, suppressing, or holding in anything that I could (or should) let go. This simple invitation to explore is exactly what my body needed to start thawing my frozen emotions. Suddenly, everything became crystal clear. Personally this was a huge month and a half. It was the first time in eight years I had been without a real j-o-b. My marital status had officially become “divorced,” and I had spent a lot of my time in emotionally draining, although much-needed, conversations. On top of all of that I had spent a lot of time writing for myself, and that was bringing up old wounds that had never healed.
While my heart had surrendered to everything I was experiencing I don’t think my body had caught up yet. I began to wonder if this fear was being internalized in my body despite my courageous actions. Maybe I wasn’t acknowledging my fear in a way that was needed in order for it to stay out of my body? Maybe this fear was the root of the emotional toxins that had frozen my body.
I find it intriguing that despite my body being locked up, it wanted to be frozen. Logic would tell you to melt the fear, perhaps spending a day in a sauna. My intuition told me something different. In the deep freeze I experience not only decreased inflammation in my back and soreness in my legs, but actually faced my fears head on. Rather than seeing my built up fear and emotions as an enemy (something to destroy), I’m giving it power by telling it directly, “I see you.”
By doing so I’m not destroying fear or showing my emotions that they’re unimportant. Instead I’m recognizing them and allowing them to subside on their own terms. I gave my emotions permission to thaw. And as I did, my body did the same.