Trauma and Mindfulness
We don’t need to look too far to see that as a society, we are suffering – mass shootings, homelessness, addiction, suicides – all causes of trauma. Trauma is often the root cause of physical and mental suffering. Unless the root of the problem is dealt with, dealing with the symptoms is time wasted. And yet, it is often hard to differentiate a symptom from the causal problem. We all know that untreated trauma, whether it occurs in childhood or later in life, leads to mental health issues – anxiety, depression, mood, personality and psychotic disorders. It also leads to physical issues.
The human mind has incredible protection mechanisms as well as coping skills – some coping skills are much healthier than others and unfortunately are not our typical go-tos, meaning we don’t reach for the healthiest coping skills first. Healthy coping mechanisms usually have to be learned after some unhealthy ones are already in place. Still, trauma varies from person to person, and the path to healing is fortunately a very wide one, with many options. This is why I wrote and am releasing Healing Trauma With Yoga , Cardinal Publishing, Nov 2019.
People living with residual trauma are continually getting ready for the next attack or life-altering event. When someone is preoccupied by a real or imagined threat, the resulting fear, rage or disappointment will be reflected in the body. Research shows that trauma survivors suffer more illnesses – muscle tension, disease and injury are typical manifestations of this preoccupation. Trauma has such a severe impact because of the way it affects, and ultimately rewires the brain. Enter yoga, mindfulness and meditation. To move past trauma, survivors need to learn to befriend their body, and practicing yoga asana, meditation and mindfulness can help them do that.
We now know yoga allows us to be the Witness to the body, mind and emotions, and make better choices that contribute to a healthier lifestyle, positive mood, better relationships, improved quality of life, and balanced living.
From the Witness, trauma sufferers can then seek the appropriate treatment with clarity.
In yoga and mindfulness we learn that if we can find contentment and focus in the present moment we will find joy. Trauma survivors can lose this connection to the present moment, and as a result, can easily lose their sense of peace, joy and connection to others. This has been my personal experience as well.
While practicing yoga, mindfulness and meditation you can:
Learn to be the Witness to your body and mind
Get comfortable being uncomfortable
Accept the body you have today
In certain respects, one may never heal completely from trauma, but we can certainly learn to mitigate and cope with the daily symptoms and feelings as they surface.
Applying these mind-body healing tools and principles for ourselves will help with PTSD, trauma, addiction, anxiety and depression. Mindfulness allows us to stay open, curious, positive and present to our unique and individual process of healing. Awareness is the key component to managing the day-to-day shifts and storms. My own approach to living with trauma, depression and emotional dysregulation is simple yet complex.
I’ve done a lot of experimenting. I can honestly say that taking the power into your own hands for your healing is one of your most empowering courses. We all heal in different ways and what is most important is that we recognize our victories on the path to that goal. Celebrate your progress, be kind and loving to yourself. May you have more sunny days than ones that rain, and if it is raining – don’t forget to dance in that rain!
As my friend Snatam Kaur says in the chant I play at the end of every yoga class I teach
… “Peace to all, love to all, life to all.”