By Anouk Gilmour
The human life journey presents a wide range of possible experiences, encompassing all of the emotions humans can feel. These human experiences and their accompanying emotions correspond with biological responses in our bodies, like tears of joy or uncontrollable laughter.
Trauma and chronic stress, however, can wreck havoc on the body. These types of stimuli and experiences are known to be correlated to the development of depression, anxiety, cardiovascular diseases and lower levels of cognitive performance and immune system functioning, throwing the entire system off balance. Yoga can help you regain that balance though.
Balancing Stress with an Imbalanced System
When it’s time to relax after something stressful is over, your body’s responding nervous system receives signals to settle down. When someone has experienced a traumatic event and developed PTSD however, their body may not stop presently reacting to the stress of the past trauma. It’s like a smoke detector continuing to go off even after the fire has been put out.
Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps The Score, understands that the traumatized body is biologically living in the past. Passionate to help his patients, Dr. Van der Kolk explored new avenues for healing in his research and found that talking alone could not restore balance to the nervous system.
When we talk about stress or trauma, we are not changing how our bodies are functioning in response to it, but when we manually stimulate our nervous system through mindful breath, we can work towards rebalancing this system overall. Although this may seem like information any person could use to understand stress better, it has a special relevance to cam models.
Read more about how mindful breath can help your work focus here.
Cam Work and Stress Imbalances
Many of us as models use our genital area as the focus of our work. It takes confidence and focus to work with our bodies because they are still part of our lives when we turn off our camera. Our genital area is where we experience pleasure, where reproduction, menstruation, and birth happens, where waste is excreted and where some bodies have survived traumatic experiences.
To use our genital area and our bodies in sex work means to include our whole life experience with what we do, even if it’s only subconsciously. In a literal sense, we need to allow our hips and legs to be open to best work with our pelvic area. Even that can be difficult too due to stiffness.
Stretching alone is not enough to truly care for the body, but for now the focus will be on stretching for awareness and health. The following is a mini yoga flow to stretch the hips and lower back. It’s also for anyone who feels stressed out. It’s is designed to not only stretch often tight areas of the body that we use while camming, but to also create feeling in the body that can ground us in the present moment.
Do this on the floor with enough padding beneath you to support your body, such as a yoga mat or a thick blanket. Throughout this practice, breathe steadily through your nose. To transition into your practice, sit comfortably for a few moments and breathe normally. After a few moments, shift your attention to your breath and make your exhalations slower.
Move into Seated Spinal Twist.
Seated spinal twist helps increase the range of motion of the spine, which can be stiff from computer use. Follow along in the progression of images below.
Place your right hand on your left knee. Inhale, sit up straight, then exhale and twist to the left. Rest your left hand firmly behind you with your palm flat on the floor. Look in the direction your chest is facing to protect your neck from overstretching. As you inhale, continue to sit up straight. As you exhale, twist deeper from the hips and lower spine.
To come out of the pose, exhale and twist back to center. Bring your hands back to your sides and switch the cross of your legs. Repeat the twist to the right side.
Move into Bound Angle Pose Forward Fold.
This pose opens the hips and stretches the spine. Follow along in the progression of images below.
Extend your legs out in front of you, then bend your knees and press the soles of your feet together. To turn on the leg muscles, flex your toes back away from each other slightly. Adjust your distance of your feet from your pelvis so that you aren’t in discomfort in the groin or knee area. Inhale and extend the spine up out of the pelvis.
Exhale and fold forward over your legs. First, hinge forward from the hips with a straight spine as far as comfort allows…
…then fold over your legs and let your neck relax downwards. Breathe steadily here for a few full breaths. Increase the time spent in this pose with practice.
To come out of the pose, walk your hands back towards your body and sit up straight.
The next three poses are done reclined.
Move into Reclined Spinal Twist.
Reclined Spinal Twist adds movement and stretches the lower back muscles in a healthy twist. Follow along in the progression of images below.
Rest on your back again with your arms extended out from your sides, palms facing up. Inhale and bring both knees into your chest.
Exhale and move your knees over to the left side of your body, slowly letting them come to the floor. Aim your knees towards your armpits and have your neck and head in a neutral position looking up. Breathe fully here for a few breaths and let your body melt into the floor as it opens up.
To move to the right side, inhale and bring your top leg back to the center first, then bring the bottom leg. Take a breath, then bring your knees to the right. Let them come all the way to the floor and look up with a straight neck. Breathe fully here for a few breaths. To come out, bring the top leg back to the center, then follow with the bottom leg.
Move into Happy Baby Pose.
Happy Baby Pose is the final pose before Final Relaxation. It is a deep hip stretch that can make some students feel vulnerable. If you want to try this pose, be sure to know how to safely come out of it if you are concerned about how it may feel. Follow along in the progression of images below.
Still on your back, separate your knees to the sides and lift your feet up so that the soles face the ceiling in a straight line over your knees. Inhale, clasp your hands around the inner our outer arches of your feet depending on what is easier. Exhale, let your thighs relax towards the floor. Press your lower back into the floor by tilting your pelvis and breathe steadily as your hips and pelvis open with gravity.
To come out of the pose, bring your hands to the sides of your thighs and guide your legs back into your chest with bent knees.
Move into Savasana.
It’s time for Savasana, or final relaxation pose. Savasana helps transition out of a yoga practice into another task so we get up feeling mentally and physically grounded after a period of activity.
From happy baby, bring your knees into your chest and extend your legs out in front of you. Let your hands, arms, legs, and feet relax at your sides so that nothing is resting on a hard surface. Rest here while breathing normally. All you have to do now is simply breathe and know your body is taking in all of the good work that was just done.
Closing your eyes is optional, and it’s okay to not feel relaxed during Savasana. When you feel ready, bring your knees into your chest, roll over to one side, and push yourself up to a seated position with your hands.
Take a moment to thank yourself for your practice, and then go out and love your life experience!
Check out three more simple and useful yoga postures here.
Anouk Gilmour is a registered yoga teacher at the 200-hour level. Eight years after trying camming in college, she is an amateur adult model again.
Header image via Steve Knight. All other images via the author.