When we think of trauma, we think of huge catastrophic events that change our lives forever.
My trauma experience was much different; it was more compounded over time and insidious in that I did not even recognize I was carrying unprocessed pain from a traumatic childhood.
Did you know that trauma could be something as simple as a parent who does not want to be in your life? Think about it; children tend to take everything personally because biologically, that is how our brains are designed.
When we are young, we often take responsibility for our parent’s choices as something we did wrong, so our minds concoct stories informing the body how to respond.
For instance, the thought of “Perhaps if I can be quieter, and I don’t say how much something hurt me, my parent or caregiver will find me worth loving.”
This is just an example, of course, but perhaps you can see how trauma impacts us on more than just a psychological level.
I have found that yoga allowed for a true mind, body, and soul transformation.
Here are my top three reasons why:
1. Yoga Gets Us Moving
I know I’m so innovative, right? I kid, but I feel this one is of great importance as the mind is incredibly powerful. Our minds feed our bodies all kinds of stories about the world we live in, and then our bodies store that information in our muscles and tissues.
For example, Eastern medicine teaches that the liver is where we store unprocessed anger.
Ever know of someone who died of liver problems?
Would you say they might have been an angry person?
I have yet to meet one person who can say otherwise. So what does all of this have to do with us moving?
Eastern medicine also teaches that we have an energetic highway system in the body through which everything is connected to everything. For example, when we look at acupuncture, we can see how the needles go into certain parts of the body (meridian lines) to bring healing.
In yoga, when we start opening up the energetic highway system of our body through movement, breath, and stretching, we start releasing stored memories created by the mind, thus allowing for the healing to begin. This leads me to number two.
2. Yoga Gets Us Breathing
Anyone who has experienced a traumatic childhood knows what it is like to hold the breath. I used to hold my breath all the time. I had little awareness of the fact that I was doing this until I started going to yoga. I remember feeling embarrassed to breathe. Can you imagine?
I felt embarrassed to do the most basic and fundamental thing our bodies have to do. It wasn’t until much later along my journey that I understood that holding the breath is a measure of self-protection. We hold our breath to prepare for the next onslaught of trauma, as we are always hyper-vigilant and ready for something bad to happen.
So hopefully, we step onto our mats in the space of safety facilitated by a yoga teacher, and we are encouraged to use our breath with our movement. We start allowing ourselves to be in our bodies as we flow from one pose to another, and we learn what it’s like to let something in and let go. Which leads me to the number one reason why yoga can help heal trauma.
3. We Get to Let Go
I don’t mean this necessarily in the whimsical fairy way that some yoga teachers are depicted as stating, but rather our central nervous system is allowed to unwind. When we have compounded trauma stored within our body, our nervous system resembles something of a wound-up coil. Yoga helps us unwind the coil. So, if you read this and made the connection that all of these reasons are not so separate from one another, then kudos to you!
When we do deep breathing (reason #2), we activate what’s called the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain stem down through the body and connects with several organs and tissues, which can begin releasing energy blocks (reason #1).
This activation of the vagus nerve also leads to our rest and digest or parasympathetic nervous system coming online, which implies to the body that it is okay to relax.
The body then responds accordingly, and then we have all of the workings allowed to help us release and let go (reason #3). Yoga means to yoke, so I guess this post is a word depiction of what yoga does. It is all connected.
So there you have it, my top three reasons why yoga can help heal trauma. Now maybe you might decide to give yoga a try yourself! I promise it is so much more than handstands and pretzel shapes!