Zen and the Art of Vroom Vroom
My dad once told me he likes to ride motorcycles because, “the bullshit blows off in the wind.”
I agree. And there’s almost science to prove him right.
My dog and I used to live in the mountains, with lots of wildlife frequenting our windows and yard. On one occasion, a bird flew in the house (to my dog’s delight), hit a skylight (not to the bird’s delight), and fell to the ground, motionless.
Knowing the trauma response common to many animals, I wrapped him up and took him outside to a safe place, where he lay still for hours, until finally shaking and flying off to wherever tiny mountain birds go.
When an animal faces a traumatic event, once clear of the danger it pauses and shakes. This is how animals naturally respond, as kind of a system reset so they don’t carry stress with them, like humans do.
(Read more about this in Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, by Robert M. Sapolsky.)
People are just bipedal animals with egos. We have the same need to release trauma and stress as our four-legged and winged friends, and when we don’t, it gets stored in our bodies. We need to shake sometimes, just like we have a need to lie down when we’re tired or how our bodies bruise when we run into a table.
But because we’re humans, we also have the incredible ability to ignore how we feel. We can stifle trauma, stress, grief, and pain for a very long time before the body gives up and forces us to listen. Have you ever had a really stressful week, and then you’re sick all weekend? That’s your body asking you to slow down. Shaking is one way to release the stuck stuff in your system.
Don’t believe me? Listen to this PTS survivor’s relationship to trauma and shaking.
So here’s my theory: The vibration of a motorcycle is similar to the stress/trauma shaking response. It’s literally shaking your whole body while your system’s stress or, “the bullshit,” moves. You can also call this “wind therapy,” if you like.
I don’t have research or scientific evidence to back this up. But from my experiences on motorcycles, there’s certainly something freeing, something that shifts the present experience into something lighter and more manageable.
If you don’t have easy access to a motorcycle, luckily there are other tools to help us learn to listen to our bodies and prevent or deal with the eventual “crash” of ignoring symptoms. Therapeutic yoga can help connect you to these tools. Whether you’re ready to join a public class, try a one-on-one session, or receive tools from a virtual session in your home, know that the tools are available for you, and all you have to do is ask.