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EP51 - The Somatic Self-Healer with Meleah Christensen

In the typical busy life, where stress and anxiety often reign supreme, the quest for inner peace and healing has become a profound necessity for many.

As we navigate the complexities of our minds and bodies, the search for effective healing modalities has led to the forefront of somatic practices and holistic approaches to mental health. Through insightful conversations and personal stories, we explore how somatic experiences can unlock the keys to emotional regulation, resilience, and profound healing.

In this insightful episode, we discuss:

-Her journey through mental health issues and substance abuse into self-healing somatics

-Somatic attachment therapy and trauma-informed breathwork

-The integration of mind, body, and spirit in healing

-How childhood experiences influence adult behaviors and relationships

-Bottom-up approach to healing

-Building safety and emotional release

and so much more!

After getting her Master's degree in Clinical Psychology, Meleah decided to pursue her own path where she could bridge the worlds of holistic health, psychology & somatics. Her mission is to give the world the tools they need to self-heal so they can experience more peace, freedom & life transformation. Come follow along on Instagram. For a FREE Transformational Breathwork session, send Meleah a DM on Instagram with the word “BREATHWORK,” and she’ll send you a link to a breathwork session inside of her Somatic Self-Healers membership!

You can reach Meleah on IG at:⁠


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.

A: Hello everyone and welcome to Free Your Soma, Stories of Somatic Awakening and How to Live from the Inside Out. I have a wonderful guest and friend with me here today, Meleah Christensen. She is a somatic facilitator and self-healing guide. She's working with healers, coaches, therapists, those who help others and are also on their own healing path. She helps her clients go deeper into their own self-healing capabilities with somatic attachment therapy and trauma-informed breath work. Today she's going to be sharing a bit about her personal healing journey and her arrival here in this space where she's helping others.

We're also going to explore a bit about somatic attachment therapy. What is the difference between regular, different or I guess regular, what is that, just different kinds of somatic breath work or breath work in general? What does it mean to be trauma-informed in the realm of breath work? We're going to also explore the weaving together of you could say spirituality and scientific models of healing and how we really are meeting that.

We're really meeting an approach that comes from both angles because as human beings we are both a physical biological body and we are a spirit, a soul, in essence an experiential being. So I'm so excited to talk with you today about all of this. Welcome.

M: Hi, thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here.

A: Yeah, tell our audience a little bit about yourself, about your job, your life, your path, wherever you want to start on your time.

M: Yeah, I've always had such a hard time answering this question because I feel like my life has just taken me down so many different paths and windings and obstacles.

But basically from a young age, I just grew up in a family that was having a lot of mental health problems, a lot of substance abuse issues. And as I grew up, I just realized that I did not know how to emotionally take care of myself in the world or physically take care of myself in the world. And I went through middle school, high school, into college having a very, very long sequence of really traumatic and painful life experiences as most people do.

And by the time I found myself at 20, I was in an abusive relationship and it just completely turned me into a shell of myself. And I realized, okay, it is time to make a hardcore pivot and make a change and start healing myself. So I started going to therapy and I just dove into every single possible exercise and tool and book and podcast and everything I could possibly do to just feel better and feel at peace in my body.

And because I went on such a deep journey of deep healing and saw my life start to change and started to feel better and started to have like a will meaning to life again, I decided to pursue my master's degree in clinical psychology to become a marriage and family therapist. And about two quarters into it, I got diagnosed with Lyme disease, which I've had since I was a child and didn't know, but I always had, you know, these, my entire life I'd had these on and off again, really intense health symptoms that I didn't ever have answers to. And I had to start treatment for Lyme disease and a couple other co-infections and it left me bedridden. And that was in the middle of my graduate program. And all of my stuff that I thought I'd worked through came up to the surface even more.

I couldn't help myself in the way that I used to. I couldn't go on hikes anymore. I couldn't move my body. I was just like stuck in bed.

And so I really had to learn this new approach of working with the body and working with emotions in a way that I had never had to do before. And I lost my job. I had to quit my other job.

Luckily, the pandemic happened. So my schooling went online and I was able to do school from my bed. But my life consisted of, you know, not even being able to get out of bed.

So sick, felt like I had the worst flu and hangover of my life and just trying to get through grad school and trying to figure out what I was going to do to make money. And, you know, along my way, I just really learned how to surrender and find meaning in everyday life and really brought in that spiritual side, but also using these tools that I was learning in the mental health field. And I just ended up starting a business and it was not intended.

I had no plan to do it, but I started, you know, sharing what I was working through in my own life on social media and people started reaching out and wanted to work with me. And then I was like, wow, somatics. You know, I didn't even realize I was doing somatics. And then I learned about somatics and decided to get certified in it along the way I found breath work, got certified in that. And so I've basically just been on this long winding path of finding new things and new tools and new approaches to healing the mind, body and spirit and have found the ones that really, really helped me and really landed with me and now learning how to kind of fuse all of that together in a way that feels right for me and works for my clients. So that is pretty much my journey from the beginning to now, my surface, the surface level of it. Wow.

A: Yes. Oh, gosh. I, you know, going through kind of these trials and health crises have a very specific way that they can, like you said, bring up stuff way out of the deep closets because we become incapacitated and we can't actually function. And like you said, like suddenly you can't work, you can't make a living, right? All those things, if we don't have our health, we don't have much at all.

And that becomes very stark. And it's kind of amazing that you went through all of that and are able to come out the other side instead of continuing to live with an ongoing illness. You know, it's a testament to working with your nervous system because not everybody realizes how all of these things are interconnected, right? Like your nervous system is related to the Lyme challenges is related to, would you talk about that a little bit, how our nervous system is related to all the other health functioning areas in our body? Yes.

M: Absolutely. I'm so glad that you mentioned that because it was so interesting when I went through my entire education, I got a bachelor's degree of science and psychology. I got a master's degree in clinical psychology and I heard the nervous system talked about a handful of times and I was like, why is nobody talking about this? Like this is the key to literally everything because basically your nervous system is that on and off switch that basically helps you understand whether you are in survival mode and fight mode.

And when you're in that mode, your muscles are tense, your heart rate is increased. You are having just you're increasing your probability of experiencing tension and pain. And when your body is in tension and pain and holding its muscles, it is sending signals to the brain that something is wrong and that you're in danger.

And then that signal from the brain gets sent back into your body, which makes it tense even more. And we just get stuck in this cycle of chronic pain, which can lead to fatigue, which can lead to digestion issues and headaches and just an array of illnesses that people can't find answers to. And when we can actually learn how to notice when our body is in a physiological state of survival and fight or flight mode, then we can learn to work with it to relax those muscles and to bring ourselves back into a state of safety and rest and digest because we cannot rest and recover when we're in a state of survival mode.

And the problem is, is that so many people are living in a state of survival mode and have no idea that they're living in a state of survival mode.

They just feel like something is wrong. And unfortunately, the systems that we have now are, you know, telling people there's a medication for that. There's a quick fix for that. There's this, there's a diagnosis for that. And people are going to find quick, easy, simple solutions that end up actually making the problem worse long term because they're not working with the root cause and the foundation of it, which really is learning how to just work with your body and its automatic functions in a way that's supportive for you long term as you get the help that you need in other areas. And not to say that medication is not okay, not to say that diagnoses aren't okay. It just is a problem when it's used as a bandaid and as a quick fix rather than a long term solution. Right.

A: And a lot of times things get compartmentalized and they're just treating symptoms or they're just treating one aspect of it, but they're not treating, like you said, the deeper causes. They're not helping the person to actually come up with tools that they can use real time. It's just, oh, you know, come see me if you're having an issue, let's up your medication.

It can be things like that, you know, or that one person, I can't remember who this is right now. I might have been a therapist that I had talked about how we think that the change is happening when we're in our session with our therapist or when we're doing the yoga class, but it's actually the space in between our next therapy appointment.

It's the space between our yoga classes where we're just in that automatic functioning, that that's where the deeper changes are actually made. So kind of speaking to what you said about working with our body and its automatic functions and getting our automatic functions back online again out of that stress state of clenching and tightening.

And that's very much the work that I do, but it's like my work is like specific to the motor cortex, right? But you're working in a broader spectrum of the breath and, you know, helping people to gain tools. I'd love to hear some more about somatic attachment therapy, because I know about attachment theory, and I know a little bit about, you know, how that's utilized in a therapy model. But I'd love to hear about how you bring that in in a more somatic way with your client.

M: Yeah. So if anybody here doesn't understand what attachment theory is, it is basically the theory that how we are raised by our parents or our primary caregivers when we're young influences the way that we feel about ourselves and the way that we have relationships with other people as we get older. And somatic attachment therapy is kind of speaking to that bodily approach to it where when we are young, for example, if you have a primary caregiver or a parent who doesn't really, okay, we'll start with secure.

The ideal situation for people is to be in a situation with parents and caregivers when they're young, where if you cry, your adult caregiver comes over and takes care of you and nurtures you. If you're hungry, you get fed.

If you're hurt, then you get, you know, your band-aid on, you know, you get taken care of. And that creates a feeling of safety, which triggers your nervous system to go into a rest or digest mode, which sends safety to the brain, which sends it back to the body. And you grow up feeling very relaxed in your body and around other people. If you have a caregiver, for example, who you're crying and they just let you cry and cry and cry and cry and they don't change your diaper and they don't, you know, feed you right away or you ask for something and they snap at you or, you know, it can go into very severe and extreme cases where there's a severe neglect or physical sexual abuse, anything like that.

Whatever experiences we had with our primary caregivers and how they respond to us is teaching our nervous system and priming our nervous system for how we are going to feel at an automatic subconscious level as we grow up.

So I'm basically working with people. Most of the people that I work with have been raised in chaotic homes where their parents weren't always around, where their parents were not, you know, dependable. They didn't understand how to navigate with their parents.

They didn't get their needs met either emotionally or physically or mentally, you know, whatever it was. And they grow up feeling this underlying anxiety. And so I helped them realize that the way that they feel is actually a very common experience for them to be having based on how they grew up, based on the environment that they were raised in, and that the process really is all about teaching your nervous system and retraining and reprogramming your nervous system to feel safe in the world when you didn't have that as a model growing up in your home. So that is like the foundation of somatic attachment therapy.

A: That's incredible, because I have definitely read about attachment theory and it didn't include a somatic model. It wasn't precisely pointing to your nervous system is upregulated. Your nervous system goes into fight or flight and maintains that. And then depending on how many of these, you know, traumatic events or ongoing stresses are happening throughout your life, it accumulates into a pattern of not being able to maybe sleep very well, maybe not digest your food very well.

It affects your microbiome. It affects, you know, the choices you make. I mean, I even think that there's a pretty profound model here that a lot of people like are talking about when it comes to addiction and the way that addiction is related to a feeling of distress in our bodies. And of course, you're going to reach for that thing that's going to smooth you.

That's going to make you feel better, you know, whether it's food, you know, kind of food addiction or whether it's a drug or whether it's alcohol, right? Because it's a somatic response. It's a reaching out for something that's going to help our bodies balance out in some way. And it may just not be, you know, like you said before, something that's actually helpful. It may be something that over time makes the problem worse. In the case, obviously, of like drugs and alcohol, that's very true.

M: Yes. Yes. I love that you mentioned that because something that feels very, very important to me in the work that I do is we are so, you know, conditioned and programmed to seek comfort and safety outside of ourselves, either chasing after love in in abusive relationships or toxic relationships.

This is a huge theme, turning to alcohol, turning to drugs, turning to food, turning to sex, turning to anything outside neat TV, anything that just helps us to get some relief and to get some comfort and to feel relaxed when in reality, that's actually just perpetuating the system to go more into overdrive. So I am all about teaching people the tools to not feel like they have to seek safety and peace outside of themselves, but they can actually use their nervous system and these incredible tools that our body is literally designed with and built with to find that peace and that safety and that comfort. Perfect.

A: Yes. You're speaking to the choir here. How are they singing to the choir? I'm not sure how the phrase goes, but. Basically, this would be a great way to segue into the breath work piece because we have our breath.

That's something we immediately have. We don't need any special equipment to do breath work, but we do need guidance in the beginning, especially when our nervous system doesn't know how to breathe in a way that is productive to the down regulation or the self-regulation of our nervous system. And there are a lot of different kinds of breath work out there.

There's breath work that is designed to kind of make you high, so to speak. It's psychedelic breath work, breath work that's supposed to be extremely stimulating, you know, really kind of like stir shit up. And then there's breath work that is more, you know, mild and relaxing, you know, and then there's many different types. Would you kind of describe what it means to be working with people in a trauma informed way around breath work? Yes.

M: Yes. Such a great question. So yeah, I do every single one of those breath work styles you mentioned, I do all of them. And in fact, the type that I do most often with people is the more activating psychedelic breath work, because it is great for self discovery and for healing, but you have to be in a place where you can go there in a way that feels safe to you.

So the problem with a lot of breath work out there that has the potential to be really harmful is when you're doing an activating breath work style, it can literally feel very intense. There's a lot of energy moving through your body. You can feel buzzing. You can feel tingling. The physical sensations of your body can feel really activating. And for people who don't understand how to work with their nervous system in a way where they know that this is safe, they start to panic. And then it can be very re traumatizing, like you said.

The problem too, when people don't understand what is happening is you have breath work facilitators who aren't trauma informed and they're telling you to keep going and to breathe through and to go deeper. You are just sending somebody into a tailspin where they don't understand how to regulate themselves and they feel like something is wrong with them. And it can just go off into so many different directions on a mental level, on a physical level, on an emotional level.

And it can be very re traumatizing for people. So really understanding where somebody is at in their baseline and understanding how their nervous system functions, where their nervous system is currently at, because if somebody comes into a breath work session and tells me that they're very overwhelmed, that they feel like they just can't sit down, they can't rest. Sometimes that can be really helpful to get some excess energy out and to come back to a place of completing that stress response and kind of resetting your nervous system.

But a lot of people need something more regulating first and to train their body that they know how to handle when the physical sensations can feel overwhelming. And this relates to breath work and outside of breath work.

So who have said that they've tried breath work before, but that it felt super, super overwhelming. And that either means that the facilitator themselves was not aware of the type of state that they were in. And they couldn't tell those signals of when it was becoming too much and how to bring them back down. Or they were even worse trying to push them through it and get them to breathe even deeper to try to get to the other side of it.

And so it's just so important that people understand how trauma impacts the body, impacts the nervous system and working with people on an individual level, because not if we use breath work in a one size fits all, it's not going to be helpful. It's going to be really harmful.

A: Ah, I hear you. And I think the other piece here is like when people have gone through trauma, when their brains are wired in that way, there's a disconnection that they have in their own ability to sense themselves and their own ability to regulate and know where their like boundaries are. They don't know their disoriented. There's a disorientation. And so it's going to be harder for them to know whether they should go deeper or more or whether they should back off. They're not really, that's that like ability to sense that measure that is kind of disabled in them for a little bit.

Right. And so as a breath work facilitator, and I can definitely imagine this from you as a somatic, you know, therapist as well, is like helping them find that again for themselves, rather than you being kind of like the one to tell them where to go in their breath experience. And there's a difference between that, right? Like facilitating someone versus like, you know, kind of coaching them and getting them to a point versus just accepting where they are in their process right now and helping them to figure out how to navigate that in the moment.

M: Yes, absolutely. And in fact, people who have experienced trauma and who are in a state of dysregulation because of that trauma, that is coming from a place of not feeling in control of their own lives and their own experiences. So that is the work is helping them learn that they are in control of their bodies, that they are in control of, you know, not necessarily that we can't ever control how we feel, but we can always control how we approach the feeling and how we can build our what somatic therapist called the window of tolerance to be able to tolerate bigger emotions, bigger feelings and be able to make them not feel quite so overwhelming over time. Right.

A: And I love what you said before about kind of bringing something to completion, because, you know, that is something that our nervous system craves. It craves the cycle of completion where we can go into an experience, go through what's meant to be felt in that experience, right? At that moment and then come out of it and come back to zero and come back to like the home plate or however you want to describe it, right? And when we are stuck somewhere along that path and we don't get to complete that, there's that anxiety and that tension that we feel in our bodies, right? But it's also going on physiologically that things are not really there.

There's this sense of being, you know, arrested in some area of our development or some area of our lives. Can you speak to that a little bit, the value of like completing a cycle?

M: Yes, this is such a great question. And it's something that there are so many different directions that I could go in it because everybody is so different on where their cycle starts and ends. And really a lot of that cycle, for example, with somebody who's had a history of trauma, they're going to go through life feeling like that cycle of safety was never completed.

They've always felt on edge. They've always felt like, you know, our nervous systems, we've always been designed that if a tiger were to come around the corner, our nervous system is going to go into fight or flight mode to literally keep us alive. We either fight it or we flee or we freeze, right?

Whatever it is that we need. And then when that tiger goes away, what's meant to happen is that our nervous system is meant to go, I'm safe and go back into a state where you can rest and digest and recover again. But what's happening for people is that that tiger comes around the corner.

And today that tiger can look like a fight with your spouse. It can look like emails from your boss. It can honestly be so many things because our nervous systems are not designed to live in a world of constant going and technology and news being bombarded and sent into our brains constantly.

And so what's happening is that we're constantly getting stuck in this fight or flight mode where that completion isn't ever happening and that feeling of safety isn't coming back. And so even for people when I first start working with them, sometimes that completion happens after they just take a long, deep, slow exhale and they realize, oh, wow, I can come to this place of rest and a place of safety.

And that is like one completion. You know, it's really important to focus on these long term, slow, nourishing healing processes because we can't just reach that completion once we have to reach that completion over and over again. So when we go out the next day and then we get another email from our boss and we feel our body rising and we feel that sense of feeling unsafe, even though we know that we are, our body feels that we're not.

Being able to bring tools back in to relieve that and to send the message to our body and our brain that we are safe. And it sounds so silly to some people like, well, it's just an email from my boss. Like that can't be really doing that much to me, but it's not one. It is ongoing, repetitive, constantly nonstop in this world and day and age that we live in.

A: Right. Well, and an email from your boss and not performing well at your job could equal losing your job, right? Or not getting that raise. And then you don't get to, you know, pay for, you know, pay off your debt or move forward or get the education for your kids. There's a lot of charge around these things that we think of as just every day and we're so adapted to them.

Even just getting behind the wheel of a car and driving around is an unnatural thing for a human body and some people's nervous systems really don't like doing that. And then other people, they don't even register that it's a stressful experience to be hurtling through space in this like metal contraption at like 60, 70 miles an hour. You know, your body is very aware that if the car crashes, you're going to get smushed, you know what I mean? Your unconscious body is very aware of that, but our conscious minds can get really adapted to the stress that we ongoingly experience and just make it normal.

M: Right? Yes. Yes. I love that you said that the conscious mind just sees these things as no big deal. This is not a problem. That's why a lot of people are like, I've never had any issues. I've never had any trauma.

I've never had any of the stuff. And then when you actually dive into it, you're like, Wow, well, your dad died when you were 13. Like that's a trip. Like your subtle body. When we work with somatics, we're working with that subtle body that's inside of us that we're not consciously aware of until we're trained and taught how to be consciously aware of it. Our subtle body is picking up on all of that and literally wiring how we respond to ourselves, to the people that we love in our jobs, how we're showing up, how we're not showing up.

The subtle body really is like the driver of it all. So when we can learn how to work with that, that's when and complete those stress responses that it automatically goes into throughout the day. That is when we can really feel deep peace in our lives.

A: Yes, absolutely. I mean, I heard someone actually, it was at like, I think an event that there was a woman and she was like, gosh, it's so funny. I think it was like a juice plus event. And our mutual friend was there, but he was with his leader or coach or something and she said this thing and it just like stuck in my brain. I was like, oh, yeah, that's a perfect description of like something that I've thought about before that now I just understood it from like another angle.

So it's like when we come up with stories and make up reasons why someone did something, it's because our brain is looking for that conclusion. We have the start, the middle and the end. And when we don't know what the end is, when we're uncertain about the end, our brain just comes up with something even if it's not like ideal, you know, and what your brain comes up with can be really telling. It can really tell you where you're at.

If you come up with some like positive imagining, maybe you're in like a, you know, positive place mentally. If you come up with something that's anxiety written and fearful, like that's information about like where your nervous system is currently like living, right? When we imagine like why somebody didn't call us back, right? It's because our brain, our system is craving that completion. We want to know what the end is.

M: Yes, absolutely. I love that. I love the way that she described that and it's so true and it shows so much about where we subconsciously are and how we feel. And if you're telling yourself like, oh, I'm feel good, I feel fine, but then you're constantly thinking of the worst case scenario and you're afraid of something like it's a signal that your nervous system is just feeling a little bit dysregulated. And the best part is that, you know, a lot of people think that they need to change the way that they think and switch their mindset, but really you can switch your mindset all you want and that will send signals to your body.

But if you can start from the body and more of a bottom up approach and really work with the physiological parts that are happening and learn how to return to your breath and reduce your heart rate. We can control how fast our heart rate goes. We can control slowing our breath down and really bringing ourself back to a place of peace. And when you can do that on a physiological level, it is so much easier to actually make that mindset shift and have it be believable and long term.

A: Right. Well, it's kind of like if we are just trying to change our mind, but we're not changing how our body is perceiving things. It's limiting, you know, how deep that shift can actually go.

It may just be kind of like a surface thing. I've been all caught up in that before myself with thinking that there was like a simple way to just like think my way out of my feelings, right? Instead of actually feel them.

Yes. But you know, we're built to feel such a wide variety of things and to move through those feelings to that kind of completion point. And sometimes it has, you know, like some drama to it.

And then there's other times, especially the deeper you get into it, where you kind of like don't quite get that drama. You just your body knows how to let go or release and you don't have to go through the kind of catastrophic experience to be able to let that go. You know, like, for example, when I, you know, was in my 20s and I would have anxiety in my relationships, you know, especially like if my boyfriend was like out really late at night and like wasn't responding to my messages, I would get all wound up and like frustrated and upset, you know, and then over time as I learned to work with my nervous system more and calm myself, it's like, instead of getting all wound up and upset, you know, in a later relationship in my life, it was like a little bit of annoyance, you know, where like I didn't have to go into this intense feeling.

I could feel the feeling and it wouldn't overtake me and I could like come out of it and end up like being able to go to sleep that night and not be up fretting all night long, you know, like, so it's the same circumstances, the same situation, but my body is responding differently to it because I'm not at the same baseline level of stress, right?

M: Yes. And you literally just gave the perfect example of somatic attachment therapy where it's coming from that attachment wound of like, they're going to leave me, what are they doing? They're not going to come back. I'm going to be alone. I'm going to, you know, and your nervous system is getting really anxious.

You can't sleep. And what you've been, what you said that you've been doing basically is widening that window of tolerance where you can handle things where now in your relationship, if your partner, you know, doesn't text for a few hours and you're like, oh, this is kind of weird that they're not home yet. You know, you're not going straight into the worst case scenario because you've trained your nervous system to not start panicking and you're teaching yourself that it is safe. And then lo and behold, they text you a couple hours later and they're like, we just got caught up and we're having so much fun. And you're like, oh, everything's fine, but you're not waiting for that text to give you safety and comfort. So I love that example.

A: Yes, perfect. I love how you kind of brought that into like full circle with the story and brought back in the somatic attachment theory. That's perfect. I love that I got something out of that, honestly. It's really interesting when we start to see how these things all intersect and come together.

Maybe we can kind of go back to one of the things you mentioned earlier, which is that, you know, there are some pretty big gaps in our knowledge base when we're talking about working with people in a clinical way, like, right, as a psychotherapist or what therapists are being trained to do, what medical professionals are being trained to do versus what people are actually needing in their physical bodies. And there's a gap here that, yeah, that you have something to say about. Let's, let's get into it. Yeah.

M: I've got all sorts of things to say about it. And I want to start by saying I am a firm believer in talk therapy. I was in it for seven years. It saved my life. It changed my life.

I have nothing against it. And while I was being trained to be a therapist, I was like, there's so much focus on helping people think a different way, you know, cognitive behavioral therapy, which is all about reframing a, you know, a negative thought, quote, unquote, a negative thought into a more positive thought or, you know, really challenging how true your thoughts are.

And like, that's all very important. But I see a lot of people and a lot of people come to me after they've been therapy for a very, very long time, because they're like, well, I feel like I'm making all these connections and I understand things logically, but I still feel anxious. I still feel overwhelmed.

I still am noticing these patterns that are showing up. Even though I logically understand it and I logically know it, I can't like change it. And that's when nervous system regulation and somatic work really helps because we're bringing in those bottom up approaches, which means we're working from the bottom and the body up into the mind rather than using the mind first as the focal point to help calm the body, which just feels so hard to do and take so much years and years and years of training when you can merge the two together and bring in the body into it and the nervous system and help people understand that.

And I had such a hard time when I was going through graduate school because, you know, knowing what I do know about the nervous system and about somatics, and I hadn't even been certified in it yet, but I had such a deep understanding of it because I had taught myself so much throughout my own healing journey. We were meant to diagnose people.

Every single person that came to us, we had to create a diagnosis for them. And I always just wanted to put adjustment disorder because you can adjust to anything like your nervous system is adjusting to a move, a divorce, you know, the loss of somebody, you're not automatically jumping to you're depressed. You have major depressive disorder. You have generalized anxiety disorder.

You have this and this. Like there were so many times where I was like, maybe they just had a really hard life and they don't know how to manage it and cope with the emotions that they feel and they don't realize that they're stuck in this fight or flight mode. And of course, you know, people who have schizophrenia and people have bipolar disorder, like there are actual neurochemical imbalances that create long term behaviors that cannot necessarily be changed.

They can be worked with and it's so possible to live a really, really amazing, beautiful life with any mental illness with the right care. But when it's going just directly towards this person has anxiety and it is a neurochemical imbalance and like we need to adjust, we need to approach this from an anxiety and give them medications and like it just felt like they even though we were in the mental health world, it felt like they were just missing this huge factor of how everyday life experiences and little tea traumas and all of these things can impact somebody's nervous system, which affects the way that they think, which affects the way that they behave.

And then it's automatically getting slapped on with, okay, well, you're just depressed and here are these medications or you're anxious.

Here are these medications and it just didn't feel there were just so many times where I was like, well, what about the nervous system? What about the body? What about the spirit?

Like, what about all these other factors? And they would talk about it and talk about how somebody is a whole being and there was more to it, but it just still felt so sterile and it felt so medical. And I'm like, the human psyche and the human experience cannot be pathologized. Yeah, it can't be pathologized and it can't be labeled down to this very, very small specific set of symptoms. It just didn't make sense to me.

A: Yeah, I hear you. And then like the way that our life circumstances affect how we're feeling, right? How much of that like with that, you know, diagnosis that you were more likely to make adjustment, what was it called? Adjustment disorder. Adjustment disorder, which is like, you know, it's something happened.

Right? Maybe it happened last week. Maybe it happened like 10 years ago, like you pointed to that. Maybe they've had a hard life and there are things that they haven't adjusted from that experience of their father dying or from some sudden relocation, a refugee situation, something that happened at some point in their lives.

They never finished that cycle and adjusted and came back to baseline. And it doesn't have to mean that they have this disorder. It may just be that their system is trying to find balance and it's struggling to find that balance. And I don't know that it's always helpful to give someone a diagnosis. Like you said, I'm sure there's plenty of people who have, you know, legitimate brain imbalances, things like schizophrenia, even that, you know, can be helped by working with their nervous system. Absolutely. They, you know, don't have that issue anymore.

It doesn't mean that they don't have to contend with that. One of the ways I like to think about it is that I have clients, you know, sometimes you have recovered from a stroke or maybe they were born with cerebral palsy, which is kind of like their mother's body had like a little mini stroke while they were in utero.

And so part of their body might be like frozen or tight or pulled in like, you know, towards their body, they might have like one side of their body sort of like crumpled and tight. That's a very common thing with stroke, right?

Or with cerebral palsy. It doesn't mean that they can't still regain and build pathways and function in that area. It doesn't mean like the somatic works, not going to make it so that the stroke never happened. It's not going to make it so that they no longer have cerebral palsy, but it's going to return a certain level of function and mobility to their physical body, to their being that they wouldn't have otherwise just by giving them a medication. A medication is going to take care of the ongoing pain, but it's not actually getting rid of what's causing the pain.

It's just covering it up, right? But working with the nervous system is going to make profound changes that can shift and grow new pathways and create more function. So it's the same way with something like schizophrenia, like bipolar disorder. There's still going to be value to working holistically with someone's nervous system.

And I think that you're right. I think it's really unfortunate that we don't have this being taught to our mental health therapists. And yeah, so then they can come to you to learn those extra tools and to learn them in their own bodies first, because that's where you really do need to learn this stuff. And you can say something about that too. I'm sure that learning it in your own body first is actually the natural way that somatic knowledge gets passed on.

M: Yeah. Somatic work is all about feeling it and experiencing it. And so, you know, I actually have a really hard time when I've, you know, there have been people who are very well intentioned, but they're like, maybe you could teach me something about somatics really fast that I can use with my clients. And I'm like, this is something that has to be experienced. It has to be felt. You have to do this work yourself and like feel this and feel the transformations and feel it long-term building over time.

But yes, I mean, that is one of my biggest goals is to help people who are really curious about the mind-body connection and more holistic approach to this and even bringing in a lot, a little bit of grounded spiritual approaches into their work, because that's another thing. Like when people want help, they tend to go to the mental health world and get therapy or they tend to turn to religion and spirituality because they want to create something that's going to make them feel better and or create some meaning and some purpose in their life.

And so people find one of those two things. But if we could find a way to really merge those two together in a way that's very safe and that is giving people the tools that are backed by science and rooted in neuroscience and rooted in evidence that can help them kind of bridge that gap and create this life of freedom and this life of purpose and this life of meaning and feel peace in their bodies while doing it.

I think that is where this world is headed. I think we have a long way to go, but I think that we're starting to shift in that direction. And I think that's what's really going to help people get the tools that they need for their lifelong, not only healing and peace and safety in their own bodies, but transformation in the types of relationships that they have and the type of work that they do and the way that they show up to work and the way that they just live their everyday day to day lives. Yes.

A: Well, because our brains, our ability to understand things really top notch. Most of us, you know, most of us are very good at understanding something they can get and grasp as concept or an idea right away, but retraining your body to experience the world differently is a practice because it is already something that your nervous system has been unconsciously practicing your entire life and to retrain that into a new way of experiencing things is a process and it's not going to happen in one session.

It's not going to happen in one day. It's going to happen, as you said, in increments over time. And so, yeah, there really is no like quick somatic fix model. You know, there's a process and there's a process in respect to the individual who has their own pace, their own timing that their body is going to know during that process and it can't be rushed. Yes.

M: And the more that you deepen into that process and the more you learn where you can apply that process to your life, to your relationships, to your health, to anything, it just gets better and better and better and better. It really does. It just gets better and better. It's like you learn the process and you really learn how to like deepen into the practice of it and the devotion to that practice. Your life will change on the inside and your life will change on the outside. Guaranteed.

A: Guaranteed. And through that, yeah, quite a lot with the somatic work that I do, which is, you know, the neuromuscular release is kind of like, I see it as it's getting to like the residue that's left in our muscular structure from the different life experiences that we've gone through. And, you know, I think that combining different kinds of somatic work on your journey is really valuable because there are these different angles that we can come in at. And at any given moment, like someone is going to be more available or more ready for a specific kind of angle to approach their nervous system from. Yeah, absolutely.

M: Going back to what you said about spirituality, right? And the way that we can be very drawn into spirituality and the way that sometimes we don't get what we're seeking there because, you know, for me, I was very involved in yoga and the yoga culture for a long time. And one of the things that I, you know, some been critical about this before on my podcast is that it can become very dogmatic. It can become full of all these like rules and it can become like polarized in its own way of like, this is the right way to do something or this is the right way to experience something.

This is what, you know, the posture should feel like or should look like, you know, and that's challenging when we're trying to heal because our individual experience is our individual experience. And so having like a model of what it, you know, same with Christianity or something, this is what it means to be a good person. This is what it means to be virtuous, right?

And we're holding that standard, that model. It's not that there's anything wrong with doing that. It's just that when we're on our healing path, things are going to be a little bit all over the place that are not going to be fitting into this structure, right? Can you say a little bit about that or maybe also about like the way that sometimes our spiritual journey doesn't address our physical needs in the way that it needs to, the way that we're craving?

Yeah, absolutely. Well, going off of what you said about it becoming kind of dogmatic and, you know, we start to get this picture in our mind of what it should look like and what our life should look like and what we should feel like and what we should be experiencing. And then people start to chase after this particular feeling or this particular thing or this particular outcome. But in a way that feels like, well, I'm doing it from a spiritual approach, but like it actually starts to kind of blur the lines of like what is actually happening right here.

And I don't believe that spirituality is getting to a point where you feel really positive and you feel really, you know, like where you feel a bunch of meaning and a bunch of purpose, like you don't get to that place.

You create that in your body right now, every single day in every single moment. And I think what the danger is of that is when people start to feel like they have to get a certain pose or they have to feel or think a certain way, they're kind of bypassing their, you know, toxic positivity, they're spiritually bypassing what's actually happening in the present moment. And when we're focusing on where we should be, but we're not, it's actually starting to create more separation and more distance and start to kind of feed that cycle again of like, something's wrong with me, I can't be fixed.

Like everybody's doing all these things and it's working for them, but it's not working for me. And like, I feel like the spiritual world is really lacking people who are taking people deep into their bodies to feel the human experience. You know, I like to think that we are a soul inhabiting a physical body. And like the only reason why we experience things like anxiety or fear or pain or joy or love or anything like that is because we have a physical body that sends sensations through our body when we have that feeling. And, you know, people try to get towards one feeling or one preferred outcome over another.

And really the healing happens when we can make peace with what's happening in our bodies right now and really working with what's happening in our bodies right now in a way that feels really safe. And when we do that and we can just fully accept where we're at and create meaning from that in a way that feels right for us and it feels natural and authentic to us, that is when we can actually have deep lasting healing and transformation. Yeah.

A: And in the somatic work, you know, I have one of my clients recently has been, you know, through the somatic work through like coming into her body, possibly for like the first time in her life has started feeling all of these emotions that she didn't feel before. Because she was kind of separated from them. She was detached from them and she had these different ways of dissociating and ignoring her feelings. And now because of the somatic work, you know, and she it's come through releasing and relaxing things that she's now feeling the stuff that was going on all the time, the stuff that's been going on her whole life.

And she's actually no longer able to like ignore it. And it's been very intense for her. But the way she describes it is a revolution because while this is happening, she is able to simultaneously feel even when she's in like her emotions and crying a lot or having, you know, intense anger or things like this come up. She says, I feel so held. I feel so held in this process. And how I kind of think of it is like, when we start to activate and come back into our body in like this really present way and create this presence in our body, we actually increase our capacity to be with whatever shows up in our body because we have this larger container of our whole body, not just our head, not just our, you know, our heart or like our emotional body, right? But we have a larger container of our whole body to be able to, you know, manage and host and move through whatever comes into our view.

M: Yes, I love that you said that so much. And what I would consider like my spiritual awakening when I had had that whole lifelong experience of all these traumatic experiences and then went into my relationship that was very abusive. And I started going to therapy and diving into the spiritual world and like reading books and like just trying to figure out how to look at life through a new lens. I cried for like four years straight. I just cried and cried and cried and cried. And it was really hard and it's really painful. Like I won't sugarcoat that.

But there is a freedom that comes with that. There is this deep sense of peace and like knowing that and like you said, like being held, feeling like you can actually work with your body in a way where you know that it is safe to do that. And you're completing stress response cycles that your body has been holding onto these your entire life and you're allowing yourself the opportunity to complete those stress response cycles. And I just love that you mentioned that because I think that's a huge part in the spiritual world that's not talked about. And I think that that's the hard part.

And even the mental health world is like people are still trying to change the way that they think so that they don't feel these feelings as much and they don't feel so anxious. And it's like, well, if you can actually train yourself to just be with what you're feeling and give yourself the opportunity to let your body physiologically complete that stress response cycle, that is when you completely experience a sense of freedom and liberation that you've never experienced before. And people tend to run from that and be like, no, I don't want to feel sad. I don't want to feel angry.

I don't want to feel any of these things. But when you can actually just sink into that and allow it to come through you and allow it to be released from your body, that is what freedom and liberation actually is.

A: Absolutely. 100%. It is, you know, a very interesting thing to realize that we, our bodies are holding all of the information and the life experiences. And if we're not feeling, and we're just putting it away somewhere, right, you could think about like filling up your closets with stuff. It's like, oh, I found a thing that I don't really know what to do with this object or this thing kind of like makes me mad or annoyed.

And, you know, I'm just going to go put it on the shelf in the closet so I don't have to look at it. Well, then our closets get filled up and that, you know, shows up as chronic illness, tension and pain in our bodies. It shows up as mental health challenges, right? And so when we start opening up those closets and sorting through things, it's uncomfortable, right? You know, and that's why we seek out guides.

That was why we seek out facilitators. That's why it's, you know, some of us start doing it on our own, but it's always an easier process when you have people with you on that journey, when you have a community of people who are all doing that together. Because you know, then you're not alone, you stop doing that thing where you think that other people don't have closets full of stuff.

They do. We all do. And that crying for, you know, four years, like, how incredibly beautiful that you got to unload, you know? My client who's going through this, like, I admire so much how much awareness she has of that. She's like, this is better, better out than in. I've been holding all this in my entire life. It's coming out. I don't like it very much, but I can withstand it because I've made this safety in my body to withstand it. Right? Yes.

M: Yes. Well, and that's, that is also the other thing too, is when people want to cry or they're like, I can't cry and they're like, I want to have this emotional release. It really all comes back to like, you just got to build some safety first. And it's literally one or two tools. If you learn two tools, you will be able to have an emotional release whenever you want to, when your body is ready to have it.

A: Yes. And I mean, I'm experiencing that more and more in the last couple of years, like just, you know, it's sweet. My husband actually appreciates it because it used to be like, I would kind of just tense up for a little while, but now it's like, oh, I'm feeling sad. And then as I go a little bit deeper into that sadness, like, I start to feel tears coming, you know, and then I cry a little bit.

And then eventually I just stop crying and I start feeling better, you know, and the sadness kind of goes away or maybe it's there a little bit and it's kind of like a slow fade, you know, but it's definitely more preferable to me than just balling it all up like I used to, you know, but it's been a process. It's been a process to actually have that available in the moment to be experienced by me.

M: Yes. And that was another really beautiful example of like how your body just naturally completes that stress response cycle. And when you actually allow yourself to do that and train your nervous system, how to do that in a way that feels safe, it just becomes part of naturally who you are and it gets easier and easier over time. And it becomes less overwhelming or I don't want to say less painful necessarily because it depends on what you're experiencing, but it becomes less overwhelming to the point where you feel like you can't handle it.

Like it is such a powerful feeling to be like, wow, I am in, you know, the depths of some really painful shit that I've experienced in my life before and like I can hold this and I can be with this and like it's building a muscle. Absolutely.

A: Yes. We don't get to like remove our conditioning or remove the experiences that make us human. We actually just get to learn how to work with them and help them integrate back into our being so that, you know, we suffer less. It's not that we're, you know, never going to suffer. Of course, we're still going to suffer different times for different reasons.

It's part of being human, but we can learn to suffer less than we do when we're stuck and when we can't complete our cycles and when we're trapped in fight or flight and not able to come down and be back in our bodies again. Yeah, I completely agree.

Yeah. Well, it's just been such a wonder to have you here and your precision, the way that you show up. I can feel it. It definitely, you know, you have this kindred spirit. I think that's what a lot of healers and coaches and therapists who work with me probably feel is like, it feels like you're my friend and you're on this journey with me.

You know, you have an authority because you're super smart and you know what you're talking about and you've lived through it, but your authority hasn't come across as like being hired that comes across very rounded and level and like just with me. And I love that. I love that about being around you.

M: Well, thank you so much for staying that. And it's, I love that you just said that because one of the things I say in my membership that I have with my own clients is I am doing this work with you.

I'm doing this work alongside you. Like I have tools because I've been trained and I've spent a lot of fricking money to learn these tools. And that is literally all that it is. Like I just have the education that I've spent a lot of time gathering, but like I am doing this work alongside you very, very deeply all the time. And I think that that's how healers and teachers and leaders should be.

A: Yes, I believe so too that that's how we can really lead from our own beingness. And that is a leader that is going to inspire others to also lead themselves, not just help people, what to do, but actually inspire people to be free and liberated, which I mean, that's the leader we want in the world, right?

We want someone who's going to help us be liberated rather than someone who's just going to, you know, be some kind of mommy or daddy courses us to do things, right? Right. Absolutely. Yeah.

Wonderful. Well, if people want to connect with you, if they're enjoying what you're saying and they want to learn more about working with you or about what you do, where can they find you?

M: Yeah, come and find me on Instagram. My handle is at Malia.Rose. It's spelled M E L E A H dot Rose. Wonderful.

A: Yes. And we'll have your website and things like that in the show notes. I know you do have a membership going where you do breathwork with people monthly. Is that still going on?

M: Yeah, I do. That is called somatic self healers. And I do breathwork with people twice a month. And I also do a somatic repatterning thing with them once a month. And basically it just has all sorts of tools around every single thing that we talked about today with retraining your nervous system, to having emotional releases, to doing, you know, widening your window of tolerance, all of these tools in one place that you can just learn to implement and grow with. And yeah, it's a really beautiful space, a really beautiful community.

And just brings me so much joy. So if you're ever interested, you can just come and message me on Instagram and we can just chat about if it'd be a good fit for you. Awesome.

A: Thank you. Thank you. Okay, everybody will be hearing again from Malia, maybe over the next year and see and check in on how things are going. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing your expertise, sharing your heart, sharing your story.

M: Yeah, thank you so much. I appreciate you.

A: Thank you. You've been listening to the Free Your Soma podcast To find out more information about today's guest check the show notes and to find out more information about me Aimee Takaya and the radiance program visit www.freeyoursoma .com

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