We all have experienced trauma in some way or another in life. Some of it sits unprocessed, caught, and causing further suffering in our cells.
Sometimes you remember exactly when it happened, you felt yourself freeze, hold your breath, perhaps go into autopilot, or stop feeling pain. Your miraculous body helping you navigate through horrible experiences by numbing emotional and pain responses to get you through something. After this weekend’s tragic bus accident it feels like we can all feel that trauma as recently as Saturday morning when we woke to the news of 15 young lives lost. Collective grief as intense as if each of us were personally affected.
What we need to know is that our miraculous bodies try to shield us from the initial pain and fear that jolts our system when we experience trauma (yes a loss of a loved one, an abuse, an injury, accident, or sudden tragedy of any kind). We feel a hyper arousal of our senses, a constriction tightening in our chests and muscles, a dissociation, and an immobility or freezing (from Peter Levines “Waking the Tiger Healing Trauma). This immediate response is your body sparing you as much as it can from the immediacy of the trauma and allowing you time to respond in a way that keeps you safe. But, at some point we need to help this trapped, seized, fearful pain move through us. Crying, shaking, feeling – for as much as we may not want to – once we are in safety, allowing our bodies to acknowledge the sensations blocked from us with the trauma.
Have you ever felt yourself start to cry in a yoga class (massage, CST session, bodywork of any kind), and wonder – what is happening to me? Why am I crying? Most likely you were in a safe place, your body felt ready to release some old lodged trauma from your cells and as easily as that you let it go. Freeing your body from hyper arousal, constriction, dissociation, and immobility in some way – sometimes small and sometimes life changing. We can feel this in our yoga practice. We feel the safety and support of the space we are in, the flow of our breath, we connect with our physical self, accessing tucked away corners and unknown areas of our body with breath and movement, offering the opportunity for any lodged trauma to come out, be felt, acknowledged, and to let go.
So… if you ever find yourself experiencing something in your practice, something that feels emotional or overwhelming, take a breath. Do you feel safe? Can you notice and be with that feeling? Watch it as it passes? Let it go?
If you know you have trauma held in your body, and you need a safe space to start to work through it, then perhaps private sessions would create that for you. For some, letting a tear slide down in a group class is enough, or for some the community of a a small group therapy class can feel supportive.
But know, if you practice yoga long enough, this is bound to happen, and when it does, do your very best not to shove it back down again. Let it move though you and be replace with healing.
So let the tears we all felt welling when we heard of the the Humbolt accident flow. Feel the grief, allow yourself to honour that sadness, feel what you need to feel. Those most affected will need the rest of us to continue to find space to help carry their grief. So know that when we allow our own trauma to heal, we help to heal the trauma of our whole community.