Traditional psychotherapy involves a lot of talking, which can be a valuable first step in assessing challenges and creating an understanding of our wounds. And yet, many will hit wall at a certain point because they are not fully accessing the place where their memories and trauma are stored : the rest of their body!
Art Therapy and Somatic Therapies offer a “bottom-up” approach that is less about conceptualization and more about connecting with your moment to moment experience in your body. In this episode Art Therapist and A-MFT Parisa Frost shares about her passion for these unconventional approaches and her personal story of healing. We talk about: the hidden blessings of being raised in challenging environments, the effect of immigration on the second generation, how art/music/poetry helps us express and objectify our experiences in helpful ways, the endlessness of our ability to develop neurally and MORE!
Connect with Parisa through her burgeoning non-profit www.hikinghealers.com
A: Every day there is a forgetting and every moment there is the possibility of remembering. Remembering who you truly are, awakening to your body, to the inner world and experience of being alive. Here is where you find the beauty, the joy. Here is where you free your Soma. Hello everyone and welcome to the Free Your Soma podcast, Stories of Sematic Awakening and How to Live from the Inside Out. Today I have clinical art therapist, associate marital and family therapist, yoga teacher in training, Parisa Frost with me today who's here to share a bit about her story, her journey and the way she is discovering and using somatics in her therapies to help people. She specializes in trauma and relational issues for individuals. Welcome Parisa, I'm so excited to talk to you today.
P: Yes, thank you so much for that introduction. Thank you for having me. I'm so excited to just have some playful discourse today. Totally, yeah.
A: Tell us a little bit about as a therapist and working one-on-one with people, individuals, how do you bring in these different elements? How do you bring in art therapy? How do you bring in these somatic techniques when we're talking about trauma and relational issues?
P: Yeah, so it's kind of a bit of a dance because I'm always trying to meet people where they're at while also bringing them these tools and techniques that they might not be as familiar with or that they might have their own preconceptions about. With somatics, people think it's very woo-woo a lot of the time. Like what's actually happening? This isn't healing me. Or with clinical art therapy, sometimes people think it's more so for kids or that you have to be a professional artist. A lot of my work is offering these tools to people in the most palatable way possible and trying to speak their language to help get them through the door and show them the really unlimited potential in some of these modalities.
A: Yes. Well, I would say that art therapy and somatics, at least the ones that I'm familiar with, because you probably actually know about a bunch of different somatic techniques that I'm less aware of because I'm in a niche with the type of somatic work that I do. But these are all bottom-up therapies where we're addressing the environment of our body or we're addressing movement or color or these other sensory elements. And then that's having an impact on our mental and emotional states. Can you say a little bit about bottom-up therapies for people that aren't familiar with that?
P: Yeah, absolutely. So with traditional psychotherapy, traditional talk therapy, we're seeing a lot on these apps, like Talkspace and whatnot. We have CBT and that's the exact inverse. So we're working from the brain, we're working just from the neck up using and intellectualizing. So part of my work is trying to help individuals particularly, I mean, we all have our own traumas and our own improperly processed memories, but I work with individuals with really acute trauma. And for them, I mean, for anybody, but particularly individuals who've been so disconnected from their bodies for so long, it can be really helpful to pair discussing these really triggering and painful topics while also moving those emotions through the body in a really safe and contained place. Like for example, if I have a client who's getting really keyed up, we'll just literally slow everything down and have them reenact. Maybe they're throwing their hands in the air, they're massaging their temples. I'll have them literally slow the movement down, do it in slow motion and connect to every fiber of what's happening in the body at that moment. Or after a particularly keyed up or even, I mean, a regular session, but especially for really keyed up sessions, we'll always end with some kind of body-based practice, whether it's progressive muscle relaxation, whether it's a body scan, whether it's just feeling into what part of your body needs or focus and attention, what part hurts or aches. And I'll have them gently place both hands on that part and just really nurture it. What does it feel like to have my own skin contact? For art therapy, that's a whole other world that it really comes into the room in the most unconventional ways, which is why I love it. It's really up to the client's discretion. I've had people draw on plates and then smash them. I've had people draw on their arms. I've had people write song lyrics. I've had, you know, sometimes we'll choose poetry. Well, there's all kinds of mechanisms to really process things that sometimes are traditional, cognitive ways of explaining. Just don't, I mean, it works up until a certain point, and then we're always going to hit a wall because we have to embody ourselves in order to heal ourselves. I hope that answers your question.
A: Absolutely. I mean, it makes a lot of sense to me, especially the work I do is very body-based. It's movement-based. And, you know, we've done some sessions together, which has been such a pleasure, such an honor. So if you kind of know exactly what I'm talking about, but it's all about retraining through movement. And when you're talking about like music, lyrics, drawing, and then it's, these are all forms of self-expression. And it's a way to get what's inside out so we can look at it and understand it a little differently. And how do we get things out by like physically doing something, whether it's movement, whether it's, you know, drawing, whether it's writing, you know, it may seem at first like writing is an intellectual activity, but it's still very body-based because you're using your hands and you're looking at the paper and you're reading the words and the words are having an impact on your, you know, breath or on your memories or they're evoking things, right? So there's this process that you're describing sounds really powerful for helping people access more of themselves and also like get out things that might be stuck inside of them.
P: Yes, absolutely. I really love how you were saying that it is, it's all about getting it out, you know, we really, we call it like objectifying or externalizing, you objectify the experience or the painful relationship or whatever it is onto paper. And once we've externalized it, exactly, we can look at it as something separate from ourselves, something that we're holding onto instead of something that is us, something that's wrong with us. It's something that we need to just externalize, look at and then create something of an internal dialogue with that artwork or with that somatic experience. A:
A: Beautiful. Yeah, create a conversation really. There's this back and forth as we sort of discover more and more. I love that. That's beautiful. So I would love to know a bit more. I'm sure our listeners would too. How did you get into this line of work? I mean, every, I think every therapist probably has like a very interesting story of why they do this work. So maybe you can give us a little picture of what that why is for you today.
P: Yeah, absolutely. I, you know, I knew I wanted to be an art therapist kind of like relatively early, I think that it's a career in a field that a lot of people, not a lot. I mean, I'm speaking in, you know, generalizations right now, but some people will find later in life or it's just something that you kind of weave into. And I knew at a really young age that this is kind of what I wanted to do was to merge creative modalities or unconventional modalities with healing and with just the understanding of the human experience. I have always been very curious and sort of attuned to people's behavior. I think at a young age, I would internalize a lot of it. Like I found myself being really perceptive, but then I would misread situations because of that perceptivity. So in order to refine that, I went into psychology. I was like very research based and was very, like mechanical, very neck up traditionally. That's why I'm so passionate about flipping things on the inverse because I've spent most of my life from the neck up and not in my body. You know, I had, you know, wonderful mother and stepfather who had a lot of political trauma because of leaving during the Iranian Revolution so many years ago. And I had another household with my father that was a bit more unstable. And because of that, my butt, I learned very young to disconnect from the body, to read situations very quickly and clearly. And both of them in some ways became my superpowers in grad school and in school to really get through. I was able to get certain publications, numerous degrees because I was so disconnected from my body. I could bang out so many hours of studying and working and really power through these things. And then I hit a wall in my 20s of like this is, not only it's not sustainable, but I'm destroying the longevity of this vessel that I've been gifted. So in doing, in having all of these realizations, I really wanted to shift into a form of work that allows me to tap into my own creative side and my own passionate side and also use things from coping mechanisms that I learned that are really sophisticated from a young age, however, to channel them in a much healthier, prolonged way to proliferate that healing for other people too. And I'm so, I really have so much gratitude for this line of work. And it's both my pleasure and my privilege to utilize my own experiences and really open that up to become more palatable for the larger community.
A: That's incredible. I really love what you just shared about that it had a purpose, like that disconnection. We sometimes forget that when we're frustrated with it, when it feels like we're stuck in a loop and we're stuck in like the same old pattern in our lives or in our bodies, right? And we can get resentful without actually looking at kind of the intelligence that was behind that, that, that beginning, that mechanism is a child, there were things that were going on that you couldn't totally process or understand. And so the easiest thing to do was to just like not process any more information physically, not process it by blocking it out by dissociating, right? And many children do this, it's a protective mechanism. And there's a reason behind it, right? And then, but even as it carried on into, into your college career, that's so true, like you can like push through and, you know, hours after hours, you know, lots of sleepless nights, I'm sure, you know, like drinking lots of coffee, like all of that, not paying attention to how your body felt because you're focused on, you know, meeting an end or getting a goal, right? Right. Had a discussion with my somatic mentor, Eleanor Criswal-Hanna about this, I was asking her, you know, what is the true purpose of like, you know, especially in the world where there's so many people who are obsessed with like making themselves really tight. So we were talking kind of like from a physical perspective about working out, right? And like lifting a lot of weights and getting like really, really tight. I'm like, if this actually like neuro, neuro physiologically speaking, like disconnects us consciously from our bodies, we're like less able to feel things, subtle things when we're training our bodies to experience only like really gross motor movements of like big contractions, right? Like if that does that, like what's the purpose of that? What's the purpose of kind of dulling our sensory abilities? And she said, well, it's really great if you're going to war. And I was like, damn, I was like, I see what you mean, because if you are going to be a warrior and you're going to go out and you're going to like kill people, you're going to see people being killed, right? You're going to be in war. You don't want to be sensitive. You don't want to feel things, right? Like you physically don't want to, because if someone hits you, you know, with something, you don't want to feel that pain. You have to be numb to it, right? And so there's a process in our world, I think, of people getting desensitized. And it is for a purpose, whether it's war or whether it's for the sake of like, you know, capitalism and keeping like the, you know, engines running on all this productivity that we've been culturally obsessed with, right? There's a reason for it. And it's sort of playing off of this like fundamental mechanism that we have going on internally.
P: Yes, I love that so much. I mean, even whenever you were speaking, I'm like so many of the people that I work with, that every time they go home, they're going to war, you know, because of certain circumstances, situations, whether it be lack of resources, whether it be an unsafe place, you know, there's a lot into kind of grapple with that and reconcile with that. The Dissociation really becomes one of your biggest allies, you know, or dulling those senses, however, once we're able to get on the other side, and even grind culture too, you know, so much of our worthiness, and this is true for anyone in the same age, our worthiness is tied to our productivity, what we can pump out for society, what we can show, and it's a very American concept too, like what titles we have, what we can show for ourselves. So there is this almost societal built-in reward for being able to disconnect and dull those more subtle body senses, really important, really important points, you know, and it becomes our work to really distinguish when something that once was a tool is now becoming a hindrance. And for so many people, there is, it's really, it takes a long time to make the distinction or to even realize that it is a hindrance.
A: Yeah. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I mean, I think of it sometimes with the words I use with where we're talking about muscle, you know, contractions and releasing physical patterns. It's like, is this something that needs to be integrated into my body and really like owned and become part of me? Or is this a muscle pattern that needs to actually be released that is not actually useful anymore at this moment in time? Right. Right. We need to have those quick reflexes. We need to be able to defend ourselves in a situation like that's part of being regulated is that we like respond to the energy that's coming at us with like the appropriate energy response, right? Right. Then after that danger is gone, as you've described, we need to be able to like come back down into our bodies and release from the stress of that experience. And it sounds like you do this in a couple of really beautiful ways. Coming back to the art therapy idea and that you knew from an early age that you wanted to do that form of, I guess, service for others. This arise from an artistic flair yourself or like have you always been like a lifelong creative or artist?
P: Yeah, you know, I've always struggled with and I still do to like self identify as an artist. I don't know what it is. And it's something I've thought about a lot, but I don't know what it is. It's just something that I like can't give myself that. And like I'm a very creative intellect that's I'm more comfortable saying that I suppose. But in all in all, regardless, it's I've used art my entire life to be able to work through things. I've used art as a way to engage in activism to engage in healing to engage and even understanding myself on an introspective level. It really has been so much of a refuge for me. I remember even when I was a child watching like Powerpuff Girls, I would scribble fan fiction, literally for hours at home, all these new magical characters. And that for me was such a reparative and continues to be such a reparative process, you know, and I'm able to look back at old pieces and understand myself on it's like reading a visual diary, you know, and it's able to really archive all of the versions of our own and understand and I really think about our being as like this Russian doll that we keep taking off one layer and one layer and that's the game right that's the fun of it is continuing to rediscover those deeper layers. And imagine if you had artwork plastered onto each of those Russian dolls, you know, and you could see something new and something new. So I just love that process. I love the process of merging creativity with like transcendence of self, understanding oneself, and helping people, you know, not necessarily develop the same relationship that I had because it's going to mean something different for everyone but rather help give them the tools and ask the right questions to be able to provoke meaningful artistic experiences in a really safe and contained space so that once you leave the room, I can hold on to that pain for you, I can hold on to that piece for you, until you're ready to look at it again.
A: That's really beautiful and then again this externalized literal thing that they've created, right, or maybe even destroyed in their time with you and that that's this evidence of their process this evidence of their, you know, delving into and getting accustomed to the healing that is being human, right? Absolutely. Yeah, going back to something you said earlier too about your growing up and having, were your parents refugees? Sounds like there was some situation like that that they escaped Iran.
P: Yeah, so my grandfather actually got political asylum from Jimmy Carter, because he was part of the King's Air Force. So he was taken here with my aunt originally and it was basically like an all very much code read situation where everyone was just trying to get out. My stepfather got one of the last commercial flights, ironically enough to actually follow my mom, they ended up getting married several years later after finding each other 20 years post revolution, but it was very much and everyone was fleeing and trying to survive. You know, they came, I think, to Indiana because there's happened to be an Air Force base there. And imagine being 19 years old and I mean your entire life is flipped over. You've lived in a very contained Air Force base your entire life. And now you're in Indiana, then moving to Atlanta, Georgia, working at Denny's don't speak the language. I mean, it was just a major reformation of their existence. And it's also something that in Persian community, I can only speak for myself and my, and anecdotally, but it's just something that we don't acknowledge. We don't acknowledge the scope and the magnitude of that impact on our parents as first generation. It's just not something that it's very much a cultural thing to like put your head down push through it, educate yourself, figure out x, y and z support your family. And we really, and I, this is why I really enjoy working with a lot of immigrant families in particular, because a lot of times it's almost like a point of pride, not to acknowledge that level of trauma and its impact but rather to highlight the success stories that came after Well, those are absolutely important. We need to hold space for both so that we don't pass down a lot of those genetic modifications that come with political trauma down to our predecessors. So that's something I'm really passionate about too is like how do we hold space for both, you know and how do we work through both with compassion and for me personally also with political involvement which can be inherently healing in and of itself.
A: Beautifully said, yeah, that's, you know, this immigrant story is so fundamental to the United States but people, you know, if like me, you know, my family's been here for generations, it's kind of invisible to me personally on a personal level, but growing up in that environment like, were you aware of the impact of this on yourself, while you were growing up like did it kind of like, or was it one of those things that you didn't examine until much later I'm just curious.
P: You know, I feel very fortunate to have examined it very young because I went to an internet I went to a school that was predominantly non Americans. So I was regularly exposed to other immigrants and then whenever I think I was like approaching middle school 911 happen. So that was a huge wake up call huge kind of aha moments, because I realized nothing is ever going to be the same again. You know, I remember my stepdad at the time shaving off his mustache and shaving off of it all of his hair because it made him look a lot more. I want to say intimidating but it wasn't intimidating it just made him look more Middle Eastern. And I remember thinking like this is that like things are just not going to be the same again because of who we are. And having to metastasize on that at a very young age was scary but I'm also very fortunate and lucky to have been in an environment that encouraged that kind of nuanced conversation and held space for it.
A: Yeah, that sounds like a really just beautiful opportunity that you were that you were blessed with to be able to have that that tool immediately at your disposal and that kind of I mean, even just listening to you speak like we can hear the ability that you have to articulate and express yourself, and and with regards to, you know, and people talk about this more and more I'm just curious because I haven't actually asked a therapist this question recently, but in terms of having like a split household, and having kind of like two different environments that you were contending with. What do you feel was like the most challenging piece of that and what do you think might have actually been like a strange gift of that.
P: Oh, such a loaded quest. I mean that could be a whole podcast interview. Okay, so the benefit of it, it's I can really sum it down in one word it's resiliency it's resiliency and flexibility. You know, I consider myself a very adaptable person. And it's because not always I wanted to be but I had to be you know and I had to be really resilient I had to be adaptable because not only it was to split environments they were wildly different, you know, they were wildly different presentations people even feelings of safety. And so for a child to have to go back and forth between that. It's, it's really like a shock to the nervous system it's like jumping an ice cold water, and to a certain extent you know you got used to it. And that's where some of these more hard driving on, let's say, ambitious personality traits can kind of come through is that adaptability and I see that with so many of my clients to who've had to become very flexible, perceptually, emotionally and very resilient to those kinds of back and forth environmental changes. That's not to say again I'm kind of speaking from a more extreme standpoint. In general, splitting between two households doesn't have to be, you know, this extreme or detrimental thing. However, it is something out of the ordinary for a child who needs as to the best of the parents ability consistency, right. But whenever we're able to kind of counteract that with warmth and with support, it can create a really truly resilient compassionate, thriving young individual because they had to reconcile with these concepts or ideas that might have been a little more advanced for what they're, they could have understood at that time. I hope that makes sense I hope that was
A: totally totally I mean it definitely makes sense to me because I also grew up in a split household and the environments were very different I mean my father was a bit more of like an authoritarian and my mother was very permissive in her parenting style. I don't even think that it was because she like wanted to be but because she worked night shift and so, you know she was just trying to sleep during the day while there were two little kids running around the house like she kind of just was like I don't care what you do. So, it was definitely like difficult for me to reconcile those two. I guess environments of like one environment where, you know, any little thing that I don't do correctly, I'm going to get in trouble for versus environment where there are pretty much no rules. Yeah, and I can sort of see that reflected in my own personality of how I've over time had to figure out how to create structure for myself, while also allowing myself to feel free, and I think those are two themes for me and my life is like structure and freedom like how do we balance that right Yeah, absolutely.
P: And so like for me, I feel like structure is freedom sometimes. Like I find freedom in structure and that's and and I think part of that is because that consistency feels really safe for me now as an adult, you know, and I've learned to love and honor that kind of cons, routine used to scare the hell out of me. It was like routine and consistency. I thought that, you know, things had to be, I'm sure in part because of my childhood, that things I constantly had to switch things up and I have to go over here and I have to go over there. And I love, again, there's positives to that. I am very much a wonderlust. I love traveling anytime I can. I pride myself that you can drop me off wherever and I'll figure it out. I don't care if I don't speak the language. If I don't read the words, like I will figure it out because I'm very adaptable. And as an adult, and the more that I the more I get in touch with my body and my sense of self, I'm like, wait, structuring consistency. There's so much freedom in that.
A: Absolutely. And you said it just a moment ago. It's that it's that as adults, we get to create our own structure that suits us, that actually feeds our soul, that actually nurtures us, versus when structures are imposed on us as children that don't actually meet our needs, you know, structures that are oppressive, right, versus self-generated structures. And that's a big distinction that I'm always looking to help my clients figure out within their own bodies as we're kind of restructuring. And you've experienced some of this restructuring work. So maybe you can say something about how that felt for you. But like so many times in different kinds of body work, or even different styles of teaching yoga, there can be kind of this idea that there are these rules and there are these asanas or these structures that we're trying to fit somebody into versus having the person actually discover on in an inward way through their own experience, how their body moves and how their body shifts and how their body moves into, say, that asana or that yoga pose, or in the case of the somatic work, how their body moves back into a functional way of moving. And that that's something that, you know, the only way it really truly works is through, again, that self-generated structure instead of an imposed structure.
P: Right. Absolutely. Getting, being able to create that structure that really feeds your soul. I mean, I love how you phrased that. Whenever we're able to really like tap into the subtle body and see, like, what does my body need, what time of day do I work better during, you know, what time of day is better for me to exercise? When should I eat my meals? And that does look different for everyone, you know, within, with, with yoga and I think anything with diet culture, with fitness, it's like we try to fit people into these singular structures or models that are just not a one, nothing in life is a one-size-fits-all, you know, and it's such a beautiful gift to be able to tap into and look into, like, what your body needs, what your mind needs and when and be able to stick with it for yourself.
A: Yes. I mean, I think that's really the only way that these things become long-lasting changes instead of just like some outfit we put on one day, you know what I mean? Like, we can wear any costume. We can all like, you know, figure out how to handle whatever situation, but how can we create for ourselves, like the life that actually feels good and that actually, that we want to be living? And, you know, it is dynamic because it's changing all the time, even when you find a structure, that structure may be appropriate right now for this period of time in your life. And then as things start to shift and change, then you need to update your structures, you need to update, like, the routines that you're living with, you know, like, obvious examples would be like if a woman becomes pregnant, right? Or if you're going through an extremely stressful period in your life, there are things that are going to have to be adjusted in order for you to be creating a structure that meets your needs.
P: Right, exactly. And this is so much of the work I do with clients too is looking at like, where are you at in your lifespan? You know, like if you've just had a child or if you have a toddler, you're a band with your routines and schedules, what your body needs, it's going to look wildly different than what it needed 15 years ago, you know? And people don't, and it's seen as like, almost this like, I don't know, especially for women, it's, it's hard. It's really difficult to reconcile with that because I guess, I mean, this is again, not to get too off topic, but it's another societal thing, I think, of what's put on us and how much youth and how much certain phases of life are really admired and like, looked after as like the prime, we're in actuality, it's just not true. The prime of your life is where you are right now, and you need to create structures for that life. Accordingly, you know, if you're going through a divorce, if you're going through a breakup, high stress periods, your routines and what your body needs to nourish itself is just going to look wildly different. I just love that. I really love that you spoke to that point.
A: Yeah, no, I mean, it sounds like you're very aware of how people are not static. They are constantly developing and, you know, processing, moving through life, you know, this idea of a self as some sort of fixed thing. I think that more and more we're discovering, even on a scientific level, that's just like simply not the case. Like, at the same time, when we talk about like connecting to, you know, some people call it our higher self. I don't know if you use that kind of language in your therapy, but you know, you talked about it before with like these parts of us. And then there's like, who we are at our core like soul level, right, is this observer of all those different parts. Right. So there can be this kind of singular self as there's this dynamic flow of different parts of us that are kind of dancing in our experience and reality at any given moment.
P: Right, absolutely. You know, there's so much unlimited happiness that can be had whenever we simply remove ourselves from the story and from the drama that I am this and I am that, no, there's a part of you that is behaving that way. There is a part of you that is getting really triggered right now. I have clients relanguage all the time of like, you're not an anxious person, you are a person experiencing anxiety, you know, that we can become more of and embody more of this observer rather than this participant or really we're an observer and participant as a dual role, but learning how to back out of that whenever we're getting sucked into the drama or the story or the narrative that we've been told about ourselves or other people and just saying like, no, this is part of the experience. This part of me is really coming online right now and getting curious about it instead of critical. Like what's happening right now? Where do I feel this in my body? You know, like what emotions am I experiencing? And in order to do that, we really have to slow down and we and I personally struggle with that a lot because we live in such a fast paced environment, but in order to kind of see all those Russian doll parts for what they are, we need to be in a place of a calm nervous system to be able to observe that so that we can tap into our highest potential or our highest self or our true core being.
A: Yes, well, you just described it beautifully, but when we slow down, we actually create awareness ourselves when we're kind of just going, you know, going, going, going, we're on autopilot, we're not in a conscious part of our experience most of the time. And then when we slow down and just imagine it like stopping and taking a deep breath, right? Or as you're describing, like whatever kind of fidgeting or physical movement someone's going through, like having them literally slow down that movement, there's so much more awareness that we literally bring like on a, I mean, on a neuro physical level, we bring more awareness into the moment, into our bodies and into our experience. And you know, I sometimes think about it, I don't know why, but this was so huge for me. I saw a picture of the nervous system. You know, like, have you ever seen that like from the brain and then there's the peripheral nervous system, there's just all these different like lines coming down and out from this, you know, and it looks to me like, it looks like a tree, it looks like nature, it looks like a leaf, you know, it's root system, right? And if you think about, you know, what the energy that's moving through those channels, through those spaces, and then somebody who is kind of stuck in their head or stuck in their emotions or stuck in a moment, there's a lack of energy throughout the rest of their body when they're in that space. That's what I first visualized when I saw that I'm like, Oh, when I'm locked into just like one experience in my body, I'm kind of limited, I'm only experiencing like maybe say a small amount of like that capacity in my body to sense and feel. And so when we do this kind of somatic work, when we do art therapy, when we're doing this movement based stuff that I do, we're literally creating more neural connections and more energy moving throughout those vessels, that root system of our bodies. And that I think actually makes us feel safer. It makes us feel like we know where we are in space, there's this orientation to our environment, you know, and to the present moment that's possible when we create that proprioceptive awareness through our nervous system.
P: Yeah, absolutely. Whenever we're feeling embodied, we can feel safe, we can even be in, you know, very high stress or chaotic situations and still feel safe if we're feeling embodied. And if our, I just love that visualization that you kind of painted of like when you're stuck in an area, there's other parts of the neural network that are just not being addressed because they can't be, right? It's like all of the focus is on that area. And that's something we really do in EMDR treatment and therapy as well is like, how do we desensitize whatever is stuck to that area, whether it's a sensation, whether it's an image, whether it's a negative self-belief, more often than not, it's all of those things at once. And we see like, how do we desensitize that to really redistribute your capacity and your bandwidth to other parts of the body? I noticed in my yoga teacher training too, actually, I think it was you who told me this last time that we had a session together that was, there's unlimited capacity or potential for how much we can build our preprisceptive awareness. And that just freaking blew my mind. I've been thinking about that since then, because I really feel it in my yoga teacher training, I noticed about halfway through that when my hands are in prayer or whenever I'm just sensing into my feet on the mat, I can actually, I don't even know how to explain it, I can feel more per square inch of that part of my body whenever I bring awareness into it. Like I feel more of my hands, I feel more of my feet, more surface area of them. And it really tripped me out at first, but now I'm like seeing this as like an unlimited game that I can play, you know, building that sophisticated awareness to keep feeling safer and safer, and to keep feeling more and more like myself, both inside and outside.
A: Oh, that's beautiful. I love that that struck you. That struck me too, you know, when I first kind of realized, you know, thinking about this root system and these neural pathways and that we can build more of them, and that we can also nurture them through practice. And that's what you're experiencing when you do a yoga training or when you practice anything like any yoga or meditation or somatic work, if you're doing it regularly, you are stimulating those channels, they are getting stronger, you are getting actually more and more skilled at being in your body. It's like a skill that you are literally developing, and you're creating new pathways all the time. And that's why it can also be important to find some novelty, right, in your yoga practice to be able to branch out and try a new posture that you haven't done before, or a new meditation technique that you haven't done before, you know, or for me, I really like to vary the movements and work with different areas of my client's bodies so that it stays new, you know, and we keep building more and more pathways. And yeah, it is this exciting adventure of becoming more embodied. And as you said, just becoming more safe to be ourselves fully, fully inhabit our bodies. I love that I'm so glad that that had an impact on you.
P: Yeah, absolutely. I think about it literally all the time. I'm like, Oh, I'm building even more awareness right now. I mean, there's no glass ceiling, there's no cap for this, which is just so exciting to me. It really is. I mean, yeah, more somatic based movements and healing, and my yoga practice has really been my latest fascination and obsession. I'm very much like a dive all the way in person. So yeah, enjoying that. And I yeah, I mean, I've noticed within myself just, and we've talked about this too, just feeling so much like literally feeling taller after I have a body session, body based session with you, I just feel taller, I feel more limber, like I feel like I'm rediscovering a different way to walk, you know, like my feet were really kicking out when we first worked together, they I walk in a straight line. And it's there's those are the kinds of things that I would have never noticed before. But now that I'm kind of intentionally using these movements every single day, noticing these shifts, it makes me feel more confident when I walk, like I maybe it's just perceived that I'm a couple inch taller, maybe I just feel that way.
A: It literally is, I wish I mean, I have I've taken pictures before and after I've even measured people, you know, like, my grandmother is this great case study, because my dad did over 500 somatic sessions with her over the course of three years, almost every day, they were doing sessions together. And he was caring for at this point, she was in her 80s. And like, when he arrived, when she arrived, she was like hunched over, she was rounded forward, she was not upright, and she was already short. So she was like, even shorter, like, instead of being four foot, you know, nine or whatever, she was like, you know, I don't know, four foot two. And within a few weeks, even at 80 years old or whatever, within a few weeks, she was standing upright again, and she was walking around, not hunched over. So I'm telling you, you are much younger than her. There's less patterning in your nervous system, you definitely are a little bit taller.
P: I feel it. Oh, my gosh. I just feel like more limber. And I feel taller. And it's, it's, it's, yeah, it's really radical. Like, whenever you work on these certain stuck points or points just with muscular attention, whenever your body posture changes, your mentality will follow in suit. It's really not the other way around, you know, that's also been a lesson that I've had to like learn, not only personally, but professionally as well, is that like, yes, we can think about these concepts and we can really talk and not to say, I mean, obviously, that's the line of work. I'm in, I think it's hugely helpful. And I think that that there is somewhat of a life hack that whenever we can enter through the body, we can surpass a lot of those discussions and actually have those connections being made in a much more subtle, silent way so that you can, if you're moving different, if you're literally moving through the world differently, your mentality is gonna also follow in suit.
A: Yeah, totally agree with you on that. I mean, that's going kind of back to this bottom up idea. And I don't know if you've read that book by James Clear, about habits, atomic habits. It's like super popular. He talks about identity-based habits, right? And that if you change your identity, you change the idea that I am becoming the person who wakes up in the morning and like does 15 minutes of yoga. Like I'm gonna be that person versus I'm gonna do this thing. That that's where the changes actually stick and where they come from is when you start identifying yourself as a person who does this. So that goes perfectly along with what you're saying of like as you're moving through the world and you're experiencing more confidence physically moving, that's gonna change how much more confident you feel communicating with other people. It's gonna change how much more confident you feel being seen and heard. It's gonna change the level of confidence that you have to make decisions, right? Even just from this basic level of how you're moving around in your body. You know, it's becoming now your identity versus trying to do a thing.
P: Yes, absolutely. That's so fascinating, you know? Cause I have worked with, I do work with a lot of like creatives and because I live in Los Angeles, a lot of that is entertainment and talent. And like I've sometimes a directive I'll give, a creative directive is like, let's say someone wants to be a more confident person. I'm like, okay, think about it like a role. Like if this were a character, how would they move? How would they talk? How would their chest be? And just embody that character for a day, embody that character for two days. And I try and really get into like the facial gestures, the mechanisms, how stern with that character shakes somebody's hand. And it's so funny because it's kind of like that idea of those habits, you know, that we create to be able to identify with this person we want to be. And that we're fully capable of being. It's all a story at the end of the day. These are all stories that we're telling ourselves. And if we can kind of shift into the being and embodiment of a different character, we can become that person.
A: Yeah, well, I think that's in, that's kind of in some ways how our identities developed to begin with. We're conditioned by our environment, by our parents, you know, modeling after whatever it is that they do. And obviously sometimes that's not very functional. Right? And then obviously we see TV and movies growing up and we model ourselves after things that we see in the media. And that's how we, especially as teenagers, I think create our identities, right? And then that, of course, it would work the other way around when we want to make shifts, when we want to make changes, what are we gonna embody if we want to make a change to be a different person than who we've been? Who are we gonna model ourselves after? Who are the people in our environment or in our media, in our world that we are admiring, that we're saying, I want to be more like them, right? So it's, of course, that's how it works. That's how it works to begin with. That's how we came to be like, you know, a dysfunctional person. Was somebody show that that looked like?
P: Yes, absolutely, absolutely. And that's the thing too, dysfunctional people. No one's born dysfunctional, right? You're born into a dysfunctional system, right? And that's, you can always have that choice to become that functional role model for somebody else. It's always a choice. We get so hung up and stuck on, like believing these mechanisms as a self-fulfilling prophecy, you know? And sometimes it really is, I saw a TED Talk recently where it's like, if you stand in a very confident stance with your hands on your hips or both hands up high, for five minutes, they did a lot of longitudinal studies that actually increase and enhance performance in interviews, in job interviews, and all in public speaking at such a radical level, because the story of who you are, you can change that on a somatic level, on a physical level. You just have to start taking that first step at believing it could be true. Yes.
A: Oh gosh, that's, I agree with everything you said. The only part that I want to just poke a tiny hole in and add something to it is that sometimes we might be born dysfunctional on a physical level, like someone with cerebral palsy or someone with a birth defect, but here's the caveat here. Even they can develop and become more functional. Yes, absolutely. And anybody who has a brain who can do, even someone, you know, my cousin is also a somatic educator, he's worked quite a bit with a certain man who has cerebral palsy who's bedridden, you know? And there's very, very little movement that this guy is capable of. But when I say little movement, I mean, he can move somewhat. There is still some movement, even though there's very limited movement. And somatically speaking, we can still work with that, because you know, we do tiny, tiny micro movements. And every time that you do that, you build a pathway. You build a connection. And then every time you repeat it, you nurture that connection and it becomes stronger. And so even though, you know, the guy with the cerebral palsy to everybody else looking around, there might be like, oh, nothing has changed. He's still in bed. He still can't move very much. But his internal experience of his body has shifted, maybe out of pain and discomfort that he was in, maybe with more awareness of himself in his environment. Right? So this somatic awareness is not something that can be seen from the outside, even though there are obviously ways that it shows up when we are feeling more confident and successful and people notice, hey, you're a little taller, right? But so much of it is a felt experience in our bodies. And it's something that we're internally knowing, not something that anyone can measure from the outside.
P: Wow, thank you so much for that. That's so powerful. You guys are just doing such important work. Are you kidding me? Like that is so powerful and potent, you know, to be able to create that so deserving, inner rich life and world, even for those of us who do have a lot more physical challenges. That was a little ableist of me.
A: I mean, I think you were speaking from your niche, right? From your realm, where most of the time you're working with people where it is just a story that's kind of in the way of like their body moving, you know, or their physiology, right? It's a story that's attached to like muscular patterns in their bodies. And so, you know, from where you were speaking from, I, you know, I didn't think of it as ableist. I just wanted to point that out because I know that, you know, some people might be like, hey, I was born with like, I don't know, no fingers or something. That's kind of dysfunctional according to like the world at large. But hey, I learned to write with my toes.
P: Right. Absolutely. It's really like the limitlessness of the human potential is so much more vast and readily available than they'd like us to believe they being, you know, the powers that be. But like we can really create such an inner richness and outer richness beyond these limitations. Yeah, just with a regular practice and with being able to get in touch with yourself and with the help of amazing healers like yourself.
A: Yeah, guides, you know, people who have been there and are equipped with all kinds of tools and skills and they're here like, you know, I think that probably your clients, it's a creative process that, you know, as we kind of identified before, you've been a lifelong creative and now you get to apply this unique personal creativity that you have to helping them discover themselves in their in their relationships, in their in their world, in their environment and come out of those painful experiences that are otherwise limiting them. Yes, absolutely. That's so wonderful. I just, you know, this this talk has been absolutely amazing. I would love for our listeners to know a little bit about the other work that you're doing. You have a networking group that you have created. And then there's a few other projects that you've mentioned to me before. Do you want to talk a little bit about those projects?
P: Yeah, absolutely. So I do have this sort of ongoing side project potentially turning it into a nonprofit. I don't I'm kind of in the works. Actually, later today, we'll have a meeting to talk, discuss that further called Hiking Healers. And essentially it's a community group. It started out as a networking group. And I say that even though networking is probably the last or the least thing that is ever done. It's kind of like an inherent byproduct of just getting people together and through discourse and through outdoors events who are in any subsect as either a participant or a facilitator in health and wellness. So really, it's, you know, on one part, it's nature based community events for healers or those who seek healing. So we do like art therapy, we do community yoga. We do the most recent was our first virtual event, which was a breathwork self love event, which you attended. It was so lovely to see you there. Next will be kind of an outdoors, reiki, breathwork, possibly cupping to just be able to get individuals to not only show their services and share their gifts, but have it become more accessible to other healers and individuals who are taking on all kinds of really difficult content. You know, whether that be standing on your feet all day and working with really tense energies, you know, whether that be doing EMDR therapy and, you know, hearing oftentimes really troubling stories. I mean, again, the things that human beings do to each other is really unfathomable. And then we need to be able to unplug and disconnect from that and heal ourselves. Otherwise, this work is not sustainable. You know, there is this idea of vicarious or second hand traumatization. And there's research to indicate that a trauma therapist over time, if they're not rigorously exposing themselves to beauty and to self care, they will over time become more traumatized than the most traumatized person in their case load. Because you can't be, you cannot hear these things day in and day out and not have it change your worldview. So it's really become something of a fervent passion of mine to try and help facilitate some of those communal experiences where we can just be, you know, whatever that is, it's just showing up however you are. If you need to decompress, if you need to dialogue, if you need to consult, if you need to just be really quiet and just be around people, like those are kind of my and it's better for the people we serve as well, because we're, you know, allowing and exposing ourselves to different healing modalities, which will then, of course, pass along to anyone who, you know, causes our path professionally or personally. So that is my very long winded answer to what I can healers is, which you can find more information on my Instagram, on the Instagram account, hiking healers or www.hikinghealers .com. So that's been one little side project I've really been interested in. Also my ongoing sort of emergence into the world of yoga teacher training has been another thing. Um, and yeah, I'm just trying to still find time for like journaling and doing my own somatic work and doing my own artwork.
A: Yeah. Awesome. I love that. I love the idea of creating communal support for healers to share their knowledge and gifts with each other to create more richness, right? And also to receive that much needed downtime and support in their own process. Cause, you know, people who don't work in these kinds of fields don't necessarily understand. They don't necessarily get the impact that this has on your body, on your physical physiology, on your mindset, all of that. And so creating support with other people who are going to understand and also be able to share with you their skills and tools to help reduce that impact. I think that that's really needed in the world. Thank you so much for doing that.
P: Yeah, of course. Thank you so much for doing what you do. And hopefully we'll have you on at the summer hiking healers event to do some somatic stuff.
A: No, I'd love to do that. It would be great if we can do it like on a blanket on the ground because we'll get that double like the somatic energy of the earth moving through you as you're realigning everything, your structure. Beautiful. Well, it's been such a gift to talk to you. It's been so much fun. I knew that it would be when I invited you on the show. So thank you so much. I'd love to have you on again. Maybe we can explore another like fascinating topic along these same lines. And yeah, maybe just say whatever if you want people to follow or your website, just give them like a verbal, you know, where they can find you if they want more info about what you do.
P: Yeah, well, thank you again so much for having me. I just love our discussions. I love all the conversations that we have. This has been such a pleasure. And I'm looking forward to continuing to work together. And if for anyone who would want to find me on a professional level, my website is just parisafros.com. P-A-R-I-S-A-F-R-O-S-T .com. And if you want to connect via hiking healers and again, you don't necessarily have to be a healer yourself if you just want to come to some of these community events to learn more. If you are, you know, someone who identifies in health and wellness, please follow up at hiking healers.com for our Instagram account. And or if you just want to grab a cup of coffee, I say this sometimes at the end of podcasts, I'm totally open to that. If you just want to grab a cup of coffee and some of these topics interested you, please reach out.
A: Awesome. Oh, I love that openness and accessibility that you feel comfortable giving. That's beautiful. Well, we'll see you again really soon. Thank you so much for being on the show today. It's been an absolute honor.
P: Thank you so much, Amy.
A: You've been listening to the Free Your Soma podcast. Subscribe now to hear more stories of somatic awakening and gain knowledge and tools for somatic living. If you'd like to learn more about me, Amy Takaya, Hanosomatic Education or the Radiance Program, please visit www.freeyoursoma .com.