Alicia Patterson: Deep Wisdom & Healing of the Pelvic Bowl

The newest episode of our university podcast, ‘Mindful U at Naropa University,’ is out on iTunesStitcher, Fireside, and Spotify now! We are excited to announce this week’s episode features Naropa alumna Alicia Patterson (Somatic Psychology; Dance Movement Therapy program), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) and registered dance movement therapist (R-DMT) with the American Dance Therapy Association.

 play-icon Alicia Patterson: Deep Wisdom & Healing of the Pelvic Bowl

“The pelvic floor muscle tissues are connected very intricately and beautifully, and I feel like it can be complex in some ways to the abdominal muscles. And I think of the pelvic floor as the foundation of a building, it’s like the ground level of the body. If the foundation of a building is off or suffering or it’s not right, the whole rest of the building is off. So, that’s my best metaphor is that the pelvic floor is our foundation. It’s so connected to our legs and our feet and the way that we walk and move and dance through the world. And it supports everything above it. So, the reproductive organs, the digestive system, all the organs, the heart, the voice, the throat, and the brain are supported by the pelvic floor. And I’ve had huge changes in my digestion and rewiring of my nervous system and real cognitive and mood balances from working with my pelvic floor that before, I was trying a million different things to feel better. For me, the pelvic floor is like the Holy Grail.”

Full transcript below.

Alicia is a graduate of Naropa University with training in Dance Movement Therapy, Body Psychotherapy, Holistic Pelvic Care (TM), group facilitation, and more. Alicia is also a graduate of the Boulder Massage Therapy Institute. Alicia is licensed in the state of Colorado as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) and is registered as a dance movement therapist (R-DMT) with the American Dance Therapy Association. She holds additional certifications and training in Birthing (trained as a birth doula) & Attachment, PET-C (couples therapy), energy medicine, Health & Nutrition Coaching, Gestalt, Clinical Supervision & Mentoring, Yoga, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Authentic Movement, and expressive arts therapies. Alicia blends orientation toward soul-work, relationship with the natural and unseen world, and properties of physics and cosmology (the study and science of the cosmos and universe) into her work with clients.

Full transcript
Alicia Patterson
An Examination of the Pelvic Floor, Health, and Wellbeing

[MUSIC]

Hello. And welcome to Mindful U at Naropa. A podcast presented by Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.

I’m your host, David Devine. And itÕs a pleasure to welcome you. Joining the best of Eastern and Western educational traditions – Naropa is the birth place of the modern mindfulness movement.

[MUSIC]

DAVID:
Hello. Today I like to welcome Alicia Patterson. Alicia is a graduate of the Somatic Psychology master’s program in 2014. She is now an educator in women’s health, anatomy, body based healing and sex education. So welcome to the podcast.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Thank you.

DAVID:
How are you doing today?

ALICIA PATTERSON:
I’m doing really well. It’s fun to be here.

DAVID:
Yeah, it’s kind of a fun little environment to be in. So, I was doing some research on you and I noticed that you do a lot of different things. And just to keep my intro short and sweet I didn’t add all those, but would you like to say anything else that you do?

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Sure. So, my background and my training is in somatic psychology, which is the body based therapeutic healing world and massage therapy, energy work — I have a long background in mindfulness, meditation — tons of different kinds — yoga teaching — really the journey to embodiment and dance therapy. So, all inroads to the holistic, but anatomical and emotional view of how to heal.

DAVID:
Yeah. And that was one thing I was noticing — you do a lot of different things but at the same time they seem to have this narrative of what they do. It’s all about healing. It’s all about understanding the energies of the body. They are very women centric as well. Was there like a passion that you had growing up that wanted to lead you towards that?

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Oh gosh, you know it’s so funny that — I mean this is also part of how I found Naropa. I really feel like my personal healing journey and my — just my process of wanting to become a fully empowered, fierce, but soft kind, loving woman really coincided with my work. And so, I’ve fused all of my different trainings and modalities into a very thorough process just based on all my experiences — my own healing journey with my body, my story, my training and incredible teachers.

DAVID:
Yeah.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yeah, that I’ve gotten to learn from.

DAVID:
That’s awesome. So, tell me about your journey to Naropa — like where were you before then and what inspired you to go to Naropa and get a Somatic Psychology degree and to like continue the process of your learning and healing.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yeah, well I mean I always joke about it because I came to Naropa really — I was just feeling kind of lost in my life and I was like I know — you know I know that I’m ready to go on to the next level with my work and like really having a career and with where I grew up I grew up in the D.C. area and it was like I could be a doctor or a nurse or a lawyer or you know it’s kind of these traditional roads that I was seeing in front of me and a friend of mine moved out to Boulder and when that happened I have a mentor — a family friend in my life who has a longtime meditation practice and history and yoga and she was like you have to look at Naropa — your friend just moved out to Boulder you haven’t gone to grad school yet. Like just take a look.

And so, I read all the programs on the Naropa website at the time and I was like no, no, no, no. And then I read the somatic program and I was like, what is that? I didn’t even know that that was a thing. So, I came out here and interviewed and met the faculty and from meeting the faculty I was like — if I get in I gotta go. And that was all within six months. I found out about it, interviewed moved — you know the whole thing, but really it was a lot also for myself. I knew that I needed some deep healing work for myself and — I feel like I got lucky that I really love working with people and feel like I have a great skillset for therapeutic work, but ultimately I came into Naropa so much for myself and my healing path and those two things just like went really beautifully together.

DAVID:
Were you looking at multiple psychology degrees or was like somatic the one for you?

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yeah, I really was not looking at psychology degrees — you know like I went through talk therapy couple years before I found out about somatic work and I was like you know it’s just not doing it for me. The most impactful powerful really just — it just worked for me was the body based world — when I started doing acupuncture and when I started doing yoga and when I was meditating — that’s when I started really noticing shifts in myself. And so, I was like there’s something about the body and I’m interested in the mind, but I can’t just go that like Western psych route — that was pretty clear that was not for me.

DAVID:
Interesting, I’ve heard a lot of people say that. Do you feel like more people resonate with body based healing compared to talk therapy or do you feel like there’s more healing in body based therapies —

ALICIA PATTERSON:
That’s a good question.

DAVID:
Like I guess resonating compared to like actual healings?

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Right. I mean — I feel like the journey to embodiment and really understanding and knowing the body is such a powerful process. And it’s not that the other modalities or like working with thoughts or cognition or behavior isn’t important, but for me I just really — I feel like this happened honestly like after my training ended and started just really helping myself break it down and understanding that those patterns in the mind and cognition originate from the neural connections that are running through the body.

DAVID:
Oh! Hey, I can get with that. Ok, so there’s like a sense of the quality of body and embodiment is the quality of thought — essentially.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Totally. For me they are both incredibly important and so I don’t want to discount the mental piece. And I’ve worked a lot in mental health. I’ve spent time in the psychiatric unit in Boulder. I’ve spent time in the emergency room. I’ve done a lot of different crisis oriented — like severe mental illness oriented work. And I was so curious about the body part of all of that and some of my biggest inspirations and the innovative body movement and healing world — they started out working in those kinds of environments and just being curious about people’s bodies. And that’s just what always resonated so well for me and you know it’s just — it’s really just a non western approach to it.

DAVID:
Yeah, that’s interesting too because we all have like arms and legs and heads and torsos and the mechanics, but how we relate to it — how our mind relates to the body — we’re all different.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yeah.

DAVID:
Ok, so with like your contemplative education — like the Naropa based style of education — how has that helped you along your way into finding the work you do now? And also, how has it influenced your practices? Do you feel like the contemplative approach to help you go deeper into the healing practices that you do now?

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Totally. Yeah especially with this work that I do — you know it’s so tender for people. It’s like this is the — for me it’s really the power center of the body, but because of our society and really the world and the way that it is right now and this is a place that has been controlled and manipulated and abused and oppressed really by all the systems — the health care system, the medical system, the education system, the — you know all the stuff.

DAVID:
All the systems.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
It is — not that, you know, I don’t want to discount the medical system. I just find that a lot of people need support in an emotional way that they feel that the medical system doesn’t really provide. But this being present and being with sensation and being able to withstand intensity and as you know the Naropa world says to hold my seat when I’m working with people on such intimate — and it can be the clarity that I have to hold for people. And like a clear really clean — I mean like clean energy — like a healing environment, the well-being of everybody in the room is in our minds — there’s boundaries, there’s consent — you know all of this came from my ability to be present and really with myself. I always say that I don’t think I would be able to do this kind of work if I didn’t have my counselling and like mindfulness training.

DAVID:
Yeah, and I feel like when it comes to holding your seat there is a level of responsibility of calling people out when they ain’t holding theirs and be like hey, show up. Like show me what you got. Show me the rawness — because if you’re just showing up and it’s not very held in authentic-ness then you kind of can’t do the healing — do the work that is needed. So, it’s interesting to think about that. All right, well speaking of holding your seat — so we’ve discovered a little topic that we want to talk about and it’s the pelvic floor.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
That’s right.

DAVID:
Yeah and we were talking earlier, and I thought it was like a woman base thing and apparently, it’s not.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
That’s right.

DAVID:
It’s a everyone base thing. Can you just go ahead and explain to us what is a pelvic floor and how it relates to human beings?

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yes, totally I love that we found that distinction before we started recording — the pelvic floor is a very important muscle network. It’s like a system — it’s not just one muscle. There’s a bunch of them — if you put your hands on your pelvic bones like the sides of your waist.

DAVID:
Your wings on your side.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yeah, it is. It looks like a butterfly actually when you hold up the pelvic model — it’s really beautiful and everybody who has a pelvis has this pelvic bowl. And so, it’s really no matter what our organs are — we all have this network of pelvic floor muscle tissues that’s like lining the very bottom of our pelvic bones and they are incredible. The pelvic floor muscle tissues are connected very intricately and like beautifully and I feel like it can be kind of complex in some ways to the abdominal muscles. And I think of the pelvic floor as like the foundation of a building — it’s like the ground level of the body. And if the foundation of a building is off or suffering or like it’s not right — the whole rest of the building is off. So, that’s my best metaphor is that the pelvic floor is like our foundation. It’s so connected to our legs and our feet and the way that we walk and move and dance through the world. And it supports everything above it. So, the reproductive organs, the digestive system — all the organs, the heart, the voice and the throat and the brain are supported by the pelvic floor. And I’ve had huge changes in my digestion and rewiring of my nervous system and real like cognitive and mood balances from working with my pelvic floor that before I was trying a million different things to like feel better or whatever. You know for me the pelvic floor is like the Holy Grail.

DAVID:
Yeah. I love how you state that too — it’s the foundation because below it are the legs and those are the things that connect to the earth and above it is everything else that connects to the heavens, connects to the body, connects to cognitive decision making and just being a person. So, you have this interplay of it just holds everything together — so foundational. And I feel like when it comes to healing and therapy starting at the foundation is where the healing actually begins. So, it’s almost like you kind of rooted it out — ha, ha.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yeah, ha ha ha the root. Yes, you’re so right. And it’s so incredible you know — once I started really focusing in on pelvic bowl work. And I still do a tiny little bit of therapy work and have reduced that over time, but all my therapy clients they’re like — can we do a pelvic bowl and meditation — you know it’s so resourcing — it’s so grounding. It is our connection to the earth. I loved learning about other cultures and how they talk about the Western world is very overdeveloped in our mind and our like cognitive abilities, but that we’re not a grounded people. And we don’t have the connection to the base of the body and it’s like the support is so vital. I just feel like we have all this development around technology and these like really expansive thinking processes, but we also have a huge amount of health issues. One of the physiologically — one of the sickest cultures. Right? It’s this huge kind of paradox and the public flaw is — it’s our ground — it’s our connection to the ground.

DAVID:
Yeah, we want to see stats. Sometimes we need to investigate what’s in the heart too — you know and not be like oh the ratings show continuous growth — yeah for us and it’s like well, we’re sick at the same time. So maybe we need to look into that? Like where does that start, you know. So, you say you do like pelvic bowl healing. What is that? Well, like oh I got an issue with my pelvic bowl — help me. How do people show up?

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Totally.

DAVID:
…needing healing in that.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
So, I was just talking about this today that there seems to be like three inroads to the way that people find me. And the first one is when you know people have a really specific — maybe they have a diagnosis or they have some kind of symptom like endometriosis — debilitating, extreme menstrual struggles — infertility challenges or pelvic pain or pain with sex or incontinence which is leaking urine. A lot of people have like leaky bladder issues after they give birth because the bladder sits on top of the pelvic floor and when they give birth it really changes things. And so there can be this like — it’s a symptom. And usually those people know that they need some healing around it. They want attention — they’re like this is really affecting my lifestyle. The second road is people who want to just learn more — who are ever learners, who don’t really have a symptom, but they’re really curious about the body. They know that their health and their sex life and their relationship can be so much better than it already is — and you know they just want to learn and they want to grow more and they’re super curious and they just want to know about the reality of their body and maybe they feel that they have something to let go of — like shame and guilt about this area of the body is just pervasive. So — and then the third in road is people who have gone through some kind of really challenging experience — like gosh maybe — you know everyone always goes to oh pelvic trauma equals assault or rape or abuse. Definitely that is a really big piece that brings a lot of people into this work. But it could also be something like a medical procedure or an abortion or a miscarriage or they fell when they were really young and they broke their tailbone, but they didn’t really ever understand what that meant and now they’re like oh like you know I have a theme that I really want to work with. And it can be so extensive. Like I just worked with someone who didn’t really have any issues, but she had a family history of a bunch of her family members dying from reproductive cancers — like very specifically dying at a young age and she’s like I have all this grief and fear about it and talking about it is not working for me. I need to release this from my body.

DAVID:
Yeah.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
ItÕs so beautiful. And you know you look at her and you hear about her life and there’s nothing wrong or that needs to be addressed, but she’s like I’m petrified that I’m going to die at a young age from something like ovarian cancer. And so, working with the imprint and the emotionality and the way that I do that is uterine massage, pelvic floor massage — which is internal — intervaginal — it’s so intimate for people. They’re like what? Wait you do what? This is the clarity piece.

DAVID:
Yeah, yeah. You don’t hear that very often.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
No, it’s really — especially in the United States — you know in France it’s common standard protocol that anyone that gives birth gets pelvic floor therapy. In the United States, nobody gets prescribed it until they have a real serious issue and then it’s like people are walking around with mild issues that then eventually turn into pretty severe issues. And it’s just so backwards in my mind.

DAVID:
Ignoring the issue just compounds the issue too. I’m always like curious about this because I talk to a lot of holistic healers — people who have not your normal western medicine approaches to healing — what part of the healing journey do people find you in? Is it normally at the end after they’ve tried the doctors or is it they have such a unique way that they want to heal that they find you first because they’re you know Googling something or they’re finding something different and they’re like oh this resonates a little bit of what I’m looking for — like is it different all the time? Like what part of the healing journey do people find you in?

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yeah it definitely can be super varied for sure. Again, there seems to be these little like subsets of what you’re talking about and some people they have gone through medical stuff — they’re like you know ok I got good feedback from this. I know what’s going on, but I’m not really getting any support and I don’t want to take medication, or I don’t — you know I’m just looking for a more holistic approach. I hear that all the time. Or maybe they’ve tried pelvic floor physical therapy in a clinic and it you know didn’t really allow for the emotional peace and they were like that was pretty painful. You know I really need this. I need the emotional piece — like I have to include it. There’s some people who are — you know super duper — especially in Boulder where we live there’s people who are really into the holistic healing world already and they just want to try something new and they’re like totally up for it. It’s definitely a little bit of a taboo thing.

So, it kind of depends on who I’m talking to. Like you know there’s some people that are so open and so ready and we just have to be really clear about what it is that we’re doing and then there is some people who they don’t really have a relationship with this area of their body yet. And so, that can just take a lot of time and a lot of education. A lot of support, some normalizing. I mean really, I love the way that the woman I trained with her name is Tammy Kent. She’s one of the first pelvic floor PT’s — physical therapists that started saying, hey everybody this is emotional. And she’s like these are just body parts. Let’s just be mature adults here. These are body parts. Why is that area of the body ignored? You know something’s going on with a different area of your body —

DAVID:
A lot of activity there.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Totally — we need attention. We need attention around this area of our body that is so closely attached often to shame. So many people feel ashamed about this and allowing that to release and allowing them to feel loving and respectful and adoration of their body is an incredibly profound process for people.

DAVID:
Do you feel like shame is there because something happens down there that is shameful, or they think is shameful and / or do you think shame happens externally and then they store it there or is that kind of like — does it happen like both ways?

ALICIA PATTERSON:
All of the above. I mean it’s really incredible the stories that come out with people that I work with and I love working one on one with people in my office. But I also work virtually — there’s so many people that don’t have access to anything like this in their area and they can’t travel. You know they just need — I love teaching people about their bodies and the stories that come out are like the first messages they got about this area of their body whether it was from an educator or I mean sex ed — right? It’s just like mostly unless you go to a small private school most of the sex ed that people get at least in this country is just ridiculously limited and narrow and like fear —

DAVID:
It’s like disease prevention.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
You know it’s just inducing fear and —

DAVID:
Don’t do it.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yeah like a lot of people from their families or from — maybe they had a partner who was nasty to them or said hard things about their body or religion. You know there’s so much that people do kind of like it lives in their tissues the way they think about their body — the way they’ve been talked to about their body, the way they talk to themselves about their body is a shameful guilt oriented or like you need to be afraid of this. And that — like we were talking about the nerves that shows up in the tissues. So, when we open up to allowing for there to be love and respect of this place — as like this is the place that makes life — its creative force in the body.

DAVID:
Seriously, right?

ALICIA PATTERSON:
It’s incredibly healing and it’s so profound — you know its life altering really.

DAVID:
Literally.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Literally.

DAVID:
OK. So, when I think of pelvic floor — I think of women’s health generically or specifically. How often do men show up in a practice like this? Compared to like women showing up. Because it sounds like you do pelvic floor — anybody? But it seems more women based right?

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yeah, I work with women that you know my training — well I shouldn’t say I work with women — I work with people that have a vaginal canal. I center most of my work around women’s process. You know I so deeply identify and that’s what I’m often speaking to is the womanhood journey. But for any body — we can work with the pelvic floor there’s just different parts and different techniques. So, there’s rectal — rectal work can orient toward the pelvic floor. And for people that have a prostate — you know the prostate is a sexual organ. A lot of people have prostate struggles later in life. So, the prostate and the uterus are seen as the center of bodily wisdom in the holistic pelvic world. It’s the only Oregon that becomes hollow. It’s like this —

DAVID:
It becomes hollow?

ALICIA PATTERSON:
It can become completely empty — hollowed out.

DAVID:
So, it’s just like a container.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yeah.

DAVID:
That is just waiting for something to happen.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
And it fills and empties with fluid. So, you know no matter what the body parts are whether it’s prostate and penis — there can be rectal work with that — whether it’s uterus, the vaginal canal — there’s work through the vaginal canal with that. If there’s intersex, right, like both combination of a mix of the parts — we can work with the public floor no matter what. And they can be external in a way — like you can work with the whole pelvic bowl from the outside and working with the pelvic floor internally is like for me the most efficient healing tool because it’s direct — you know there’s no skin barrier, there’s nothing between you and those fluids — blood vessels, immune fluid, nerves and muscle tissue and fascia. You know there’s all these different layers of the body — it’s incredible to directly contact it. And I teach people to work with themselves and I do the work too and it changes everything in the body. It’s really different than working on top of the skin. If you imagine like all of the different layers that can be contacted on the inside. There’s no other way to work on the inside of the body unless you have surgery like — so I think it’s incredible. I feel like it is an incredible gift and so many people have had really challenging experiences with that area of their body. And so that can lead to like they feel fearful or ashamed or guilty about it, but really, it’s one of the most effective healing tools that I’ve ever found and it’s a wild ride. You know it’s — it’s not for everybody because a lot of people are like whoa you know —

DAVID:
Probably benefit them though.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yeah, I mean I really feel like that’s just my biased opinion — everybody needs it.

DAVID:
Do you feel like stretching and mindfully placing your thoughts and actions could help internal?

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yeah, you know —

DAVID:
So not just essentially like going in?

ALICIA PATTERSON:
No and it’s really — I mean when I do body work with people I always — so I do uterine and abdominal massage — that can also be really healthy for people that have a prostate — this abdominal massage can really help anything that’s going on with the prostate. So, it’s like for all bodies we want to warm the body up and it could be — you do abdominal work and you don’t do internal work. Or it could be that you do a really beautiful massage that includes warming up and stretching and then maybe you do internal work like eventually — like many months later. You know there’s no pressure — there’s no requirement. People come in with such a — different goals, different needs, different life stories. And that’s really the piece that I love the most and I — I draw on my counselling training for that. It’s like how do we meet people where they are instead of invading or pushing past a boundary — you know that’s like some of the biggest repair work that I do is to teach people to respect themselves and also to know that they can do healing when they’re ready. You know it’s — that’s a little bit of a different orientation. You know there’s lots of people that are like — you got to go right in there and get right to the pain and it’s like high pain tolerance type work that’s different than what I do. That’s not what I do.

DAVID:
I like what you just said of respecting yourself before you go there because it — it’s kind of like in those sort of settings you have to be willing to invite someone else to help you, but you also have to be willing to invite yourself to help yourself. So, unless you do that then you’re kind of just — I don’t know you’re probably not getting it the way you could be getting it.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yeah totally.

DAVID:
So, when it comes to your patients and people coming up to you wanting help — what is the thing you see the most?

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Like the goal or what they need?

DAVID:
Or what they’re looking to heal or wanting help in? Is there like a narrative that kind of comes out that you see — like wow 50 percent of the time I treat people this is what shows up.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yeah, I feel like that kind of relates to the body armor spectrum for me.

DAVID:
Body armor!

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Body armor, yeah. It’s cool — so really one of the first somatic psychology people — he started talking about body armor. I mean really it was his western way of putting a label on what Eastern cultures have always been healing and talking about.

DAVID:
The martial arts talks about that a lot.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
For sure. Yeah — there’s you know all the Eastern traditions — their energy work or energy medicine — like a really deep science and study of it — there’s nothing woo about it. It’s based on the glands and the muscle tissues and the organs that are in that area of the body. It’s actually a scientific study. So, the themes are — you know it kind of ranges along this whole body armor spectrum. So, the spectrum that I work with a lot of people use the word body armor in different ways. The way that I talk about it is numbness or frozenness or kind of disconnection or dissociation — like they can’t feel anything. They feel numb. They want to enjoy their life. They want to feel pleasure. They want to open to pleasure and love and bliss and ecstasy is on the way other end of the spectrum.

DAVID:
Is that always based in sexuality or is that based and just like living life too?

ALICIA PATTERSON:
No, it’s just being an alive fully embodied, connected human. It can show up in sex, but that’s one little fraction of it. And so, from numbness to love and ecstasy and bliss there’s a pathway. And it often looks like pain or tension or a lot of emotion. And so, people enter into this work on all different levels of that spectrum. Some are super disconnected. They’re frozen, they’re traumatized — some are feeling a lot of pain or tension patterns. Some are very — it’s so emotional — like this area of their body they’re like I feel that I have really challenging things living there and I don’t — I just don’t want that to be my story for the rest of my life. Some people enter in with you know they already feel pleasure and they want more. There’s so many different — and the themes — you know the content — I mean there’s so much people’s preverbal memories like from being a baby, really. You know our first touch on this area of our bodies from when we’re a baby. So family — like early life stuff often comes up and wants to be healed and addressed — anything about sexuality, any kind of experience around sex whether it’s really beautiful or really painful or anything in between — accidents, injuries, traumas to the body, body image like eating and exercise stuff and the orientation around the reproductive organs and fertility. It’s like how — for me fertility is the creative life force. It’s not about having a baby. It can be a baby — doesn’t have to be about that. And so, there’s learning about this process is really like opening to the fullness of who we are in a culture that says you shouldn’t be doing that. I mean it’s huge for people and it’s a real — it can feel really isolating for people who start to orient this way — is that they feel so differently now about this area of their body and the world that they live in just doesn’t support them to be that way. I relate to that. You know I feel like I’m always like fighting against the cultural norms and I’m like I don’t — I don’t accept that you know this I don’t do — this is the recommendation. I won’t do that — you know this is what’s expected of me — this I don’t do. It’s like — it’s — can be like a real path for people to walk along.

DAVID:
Yeah, I really like how you said that though because the healing starts in that area.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Mm hmm.

DAVID:
It just seems like the central point to where things get better and it seems like that’s where most things can get stored — it’s taking like dirty water and shaking it. And like that’s where it settles.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Exactly. I love that metaphor. I’m so glad you brought that up. Tammy — my person I trained with — I try to always call her when I’m using her words. She says, the public bowl is an emotional storage house. And in all the energetic systems and all energy healing systems when something’s going on in the upper centers whether it’s heartache — it’s so incredible that people that experience a lack of ground in their system or they’ve experienced some kind of abuse or assault — their voice changes. So, anything that’s going on the upper centers that can’t fully just be there — it’s like sediment, right? It like just falls down into the bottom of the body and it will gather and collect and sit there and there’s a lot of tension in that whole area. And sometimes it’s very emotional, but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s just — there is a physical pattern going on there and its tension and its stress. And so, we can relieve it just like we would with any other kind of massage.

DAVID:
Yeah, wow ok I just had a thought. It sounds like trauma gets in the way of development.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Oh yeah.

DAVID:
It like stops development and or hinders it or slows it down or just gets in the way.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yes.

DAVID:
And that’s kind of what I’m hearing — like how the voice changes and or it doesn’t change — it doesn’t develop anymore. It just stays where you’re at.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yeah.

DAVID:
Interesting.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yeah, it’s incredible. Like I’ve really watched my own voice change and now I have a little bit more depth and like deeper tone in my voice and years ago I was like way up here and kind of like falsetto (like) —

DAVID:
Like high chest?

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yeah, when people do pelvic healing work their voice deepens and there’s this like settling and that development piece — yes, trauma completely interrupts or stops development of like a healthy vital system. I mean really, it’s so incredible, for example, when we’re working with the pelvic floor — especially when I do this work specifically with my own hands. I can feel if I’m on a nerve — like I’m directly contacting a nerve. There’s no barrier, there’s no skin — it’s vibrating — it has this like vibrational tone to it. And it can be very wired and taut and like frenzied — kind of like panicked nerve pattern. And when we just give loving contact — we’re not like digging at it — we’re not saying you need to be different. We’re also not saying oh you’re freaking out I’m just going to leave. It’s just loving supportive contact and we breathe, and we just check in and when that nerve starts to open up and settle down — people have incredible shifts through their whole body. It’s a neural pattern — it’s a network. Those nerves connect up through the spine into the brain. And so, that’s — I’m so glad we talked about the body brain piece in the beginning.

DAVID:
It’s kind of like their body gets to take a full breath.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yes.

DAVID:
They’re like oh, finally.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yeah. It’s incredibly relieving. And that’s that — you know that pattern of healing happens all throughout the body. It happens through blood vessels, right, like arteries and veins. It happens through the facial network, which is this gelatinous jelly layer of the body — it’s not fluid but it’s not solid. It’s very unique.

DAVID:
It’s very plasma.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
It is it’s — I heard it called the human consciousness of the body because it runs through the whole body without any breakages. So, it’s like one fluid system where itÕs just — it’s so beautiful. So, we’re working with fascia — you know all these fluids regulating is incredibly helpful for just overall physiological health. And I mean that’s orgasm — you know orgasm is just vitality running through the body. And so, the sexuality component like it is a part, but the work that I do is not hyper focused around that — it’s not like hyper sexual. There are some teachings out there that really do work with that.

DAVID:
In what ways can women and men — but I feel like there’s a more focus on women — in what ways can people focus on their pelvic floor and address you know some things on a daily interaction with their bodies — like a checklist — a daily checklist of holistic healing for the self?

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yeah. The — probably the most basic and easiest way would be to pay attention to walking patterns. It’s called gait in the body work world. Like what is someone’s gait — like how are they walking. When we’re walking and we’re shifting the pelvic bones and we’re really allowing the pelvis to move — to like rock back and forth and —

11:30 Acupuncture — 1 hour
Scheduled: May 13, 2019
How do you swing?

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yeah. I used to walk really bound up in that area. I see that all the time — just to like let those pelvic bones shift and move and to just feel the bottom of the body is probably a really easy non-intrusive basic way. To do you know stretching like you’re saying — like pelvic stretches whether its wide leg stretches or lunges or more like slow softer, like gentle yoga stretches those are all just really easy things. For people who want to — they’re like I’m so curious — like I want to feel my pelvic floor. You can do — most people know what a Kegel is. You contract those muscles and it’s like you’re stopping from going pee. So that’s a really gentle way of feeling your pelvic floor. What most people miss is that a lot of times when they do that — they’ll feel their legs, or their abdominals also contract and that’s a compensation. So, we want to feel isolated around the pelvic floor. So, when you feel like you’re stopping from going pee — if you feel your belly and your legs like helping you to do that — that might be just a sense that the pelvic floor is probably a little weak. And a weak muscle is usually tense or taut. So, the strongest muscles in the body are like — ability to be responsive and strong, but they’re also very flexible. You know it’s this like — they can open, they can breathe, they can rest, they can close in.

DAVID:
They got more spectrum of movement.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yeah. And to soften the pelvic floor down is a lot of people miss out on this — a lot of people are like Kegels — you know strengthen, tone — but they’re missing out the softening piece. So, I love teaching people to bear down like just like 5 percent — like you’re going to have a bowel movement or release some blood out of the body if you’re on your menstrual cycle. And just like a little pushing down toward the floor — softens the pelvic floor. And you can just experiment — you know. Like feel that engagement and notice what you feel. If you feel emotional, if you feel weakness, if you feel like wow I — I can’t even do that. If it makes you afraid. If it brings up a memory — you know being in this part of the body is so connected to our history.

DAVID:
Yeah. Notice what you notice is a really great tool too. And honestly you can probably figure out what to do if you need some stretching, if you need some meditation, if you need some lying on the floor — pushing, contracting and just figuring it out — just feeling what’s happening and then asking the question like what is happening and then having intuition kind of take over or your body mechanics take over and just seeing what happens after that. It’s usually a good place to start.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Totally.

DAVID:
All right. So, what would you say to students who — potential Naropa students who are looking at Naropa thinking like, oh should I go here? Should I not? How would you encourage them?

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yeah Naropa — oh gosh I mean for me Naropa was a very integral like pivotal part of balancing myself out. I grew up in a more conservative — not super conservative — you know my family is very liberal, but still conservative on the side of healing. So coming to Naropa for me like really opened my eyes to mindfulness, meditation — I had a background before but it just gave me a structure and it gave me access to all of these things that I knew that I wasn’t going to get if I went into a more traditional career or a program. So that kind of balancing out — I feel like — like whatever it is that you’re seeking — just really feel into if Naropa is going to give you something that fits into your journey. And you might — you probably won’t know how that’s going to look like when I first went to Naropa if you’d told me that I was going to be doing what I’m doing now I never would have believed you. It’s been a total evolution, but you can do anything. It’s like I’m using all of that training and now I’m forming this beautiful business that you know it’s like that evolved out of my whole journey. So, whatever it is — you know if you want to create a business, if you want to have a corporate job, if you — if you want to be a therapist, if you — whatever it is that you’re looking at I mean there’s so many other programs too that I don’t know as much about. I just speak about the therapy one because that’s what I did. There is a way to integrate it and it’s an incredible experience. So, you know it’s not right for everybody, but I encourage people to check it out, to do their homework, to interview faculty, to talk with past students and like really wrap themselves around if that’s the right choice for them and you know do your diligence. Don’t be lazy. It’s a big commitment. Consider if it’s the right thing.

DAVID:
Yeah, and there’s — there’s a lot of work involved, and I think most educational pursuits — you don’t realize the work is you — you’re just like I’m going to read this, write a paper and like get a grade. It’s like well you know you don’t get a grade for how you deal with emotions. I mean maybe you do — it’s just not a letter. So, it’s very interesting — it’s very empowering to move forward and it’s so relevant to the world to be able to regulate your emotions, to be empowered, to make good decisions, to show up and be a good person and to just be a powerhouse to know how to function. Like people are looking for that. It’s super valuable nowadays.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
It is — definitely. It’s a unique experience — you know going through something that — I mean Naropa is not the norm. You know it’s not the standard —

DAVID:
You will not find the norm there.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Exactly. And it is incredible and it — you know there is such power in it. And now you know I’ve had all these experiences and I mean suicide awareness, crisis environment, severe mental health — like all these things that I’ve been introduced to and gotten a lot of support around — now when I go out into the world I feel like I can handle anything. I did not always feel that way. I’ve really had to like — you know Naropa and my training and all my internship and all those crappy jobs — they’ve worked to my system and now I’m creating something amazing. And so, I mean just look at like all the high powered business people who are super unhappy with their own lives and Naropa is really like the balancing effect to that kind of phenomenon.

DAVID:
Yeah. How can people find your work? How can people look you up? Are you digitally based? You said you did some like video training — so if people are interested and want to find you how did they do such things?

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yeah, I am online. Probably the easiest way would be to find me on Facebook. I have a pretty robust — I have a bunch of videos. I have writings I’ve done. I have a free Facebook group — my Facebook group is oriented around women. So, women who want to be in a safe protected space to ask their questions and talk about these things. So, my name’s Alicia Patterson. You can find me on Facebook. My business is called, The Way of Inner Power. You know people can find my website and my email and all those things from that area. And you know I have a whole bunch of other things too like YouTube and Instagram, but probably just perhaps starting with the first one and then you can find all those other things later.

DAVID:
All right. Well thank you so much for speaking with me — it was very interesting. Like I — you know I have like a relationship with my pelvic floor I guess, but I never really focused it in the way in which we spoke of, but I do have this new mindset of how to work with it and I really appreciate you speak with me and I love how you have this passion and wanting to help women be empowered and realizing their sexuality, their healing, dealing with their traumas and just raising them up. And I just really enjoy that from you. So, thank you so much.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Thank you. I just appreciate the opportunity and I think the last thing I want to say is just to encourage people — you know this has been a long journey for me. It’s been over 10 years of trying to sort myself out and understand this area of my body, understand how I related to it, work through old traumas you know it’s really deep. And so, no matter where people are — it’s really a life path.

DAVID:
Okay yeah. Cool. Thank you for sharing everything. It was such a pleasure to interview you.

ALICIA PATTERSON:
Yeah, thanks for having me. And thanks for listening in.

DAVID:
Yeah. I’d like to thank my guests Alicia Patterson. Alicia is a graduate of the Somatic Psychology program graduating in 2014. She is also an educator in women’s health, anatomy, body based healing and sex education. So, thanks again.

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On behalf of the Naropa community thank you for listening to Mindful U. The official podcast of Naropa University. Check us out at www.naropa.edu or follow us on social media for more updates.

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