“The mind may not remember,” Hala Khouri said. “The body will always keep the score.”
Khouri, a yoga teacher and somatic counselor, said every person’s body is like a Global Positioning System, giving us signals on where we are in our lives. Body language, aches, pains, illness are all signals that need to be paid attention to in today’s hyper-active world. Khouri said they could be the manifestations of stress and trauma the mind has forgotten about or repressed, but the body will not let go.
Khouri has dedicated her practice to helping people deepen their mind-body-spirit connections through yoga and psychological counseling. She has found the biggest difficulty people have is simply being “still.”
“It’s a reflection of our society,” Khouri explained. The constant stress of doing more, electronic intrusions, and pressure to perform in the classroom, job, even online (competing for likes and shares), has not allowed “us to learn to just be.” Learning to be still lets us align our outer and inner selves and live by our deepest values, she said. But it is an active process.
Yoga and other mind-body-spirit movements like Tai Chi are more than just relaxation exercises, she said, they are “an attitude.” The movements become “a creative expression of who you are.”
Reaching that level, though, means releasing pent-up energy and stress, especially for adolescents. Khouri, who works with incarcerated teens, uses power and strength poses at the start of her sessions to help teens expend the excess mental and physical energy that keeps them “dis-regulated.”
Part of that lack of regulation is natural. There is a struggle within adolescents about taking risks. And it is that struggle that helps teens learn resilience and develop grit. However, there is a balance between pushing them too hard and protecting them too much. There is a saying that if you cut a cocoon open too soon, the butterfly will die, Khouri said. Likewise, if the cocoon never opens, the butterfly never develops.
Teens are susceptible to “the bad stuff,” but they are just as open to “the good stuff” if they learn how to regulate themselves.
That is why it is so important for adults to serve as role models and help adolescents learn to “self-regulate,” Khouri said. And that first step toward self-regulation is the cultivation of the spirit. And the first step to cultivating the spirit is learning to decompress. And, she added, the easiest way to decompress is to have fun.
“The most important thing in life is to have fun.”