I am passionate about using yoga as a tool for healing. Unlike our minds, our bodies are incapable of lying. We can suppress the truth for so long but, eventually, it leaks out in our bodies, through injury, tension, disease, chronic poor health and pain etc. So, if we choose to, we can work consciously with our bodies in conjunction with conscious breathing, to uncover the truths that the body is trying to reveal to us and, in collaboration with body and breath, we can begin to heal what is crying out to be healed.
Our bodies store unprocessed emotions and trauma, experienced at every scale, whether accumulated during this lifetime or inherited through our ancestry or picked up through pressures from societal conditioning. Often this trauma stays buried for a long time, and indeed we may never come to face it in this life. But, usually, the body refuses to keep it hidden forever because the body wants to heal and, to heal, it needs to release everything that is blocking the free-flow of energy.
On one level, everything can be seen as energy – emotions are energy, thoughts are energy… And energy intrinsically wants to move and flow. If we are unable to process intense emotions and psychological or physical trauma at the time of experiencing them, the energy that wants to flow through and out of us becomes stuck in the body. This stuckness then blocks the free-flow of other energy trying to move through the body, and the blockage only increases, like an energy backlog. Eventually, if not addressed, it manifests physically in the body as tension or pain. If we still ignore it we might then move onto experiencing an injury or an illness, often in the same area of the body. Basically, the body will keep giving us bigger and bigger signs that something needs addressing, until we can no longer ignore it, such is the body’s urge to be in balance and its wisdom in knowing what needs to be addressed for this to occur.
So, we can use our yoga practice firstly to introspect and come into dialogue with our bodies. Instead of ignoring its feedback, we learn to listen to what it is telling us and respect and act upon its wisdom. This process becomes more and more subtle and, eventually, we may be able to discern how energy is flowing through us and where it is blocked, therefore finding ourselves able to dissolve the blockage before it manifests physically. And, for those things we’ve ignored so long that they are physically apparent in the body, we can use our practice to address them, release what needs to be released, strengthen what has become weak and return to balance and wholeness.
If you’ve ever found yourself experiencing inexplicably strong emotions during a yoga class you are probably releasing old emotions that you couldn’t handle at the time. If you are able to breathe consciously and calmly through whatever arises – tears, grief, terror, anger etc – and stay present with yourself in a loving, gentle way throughout, then this can be incredibly healing. Similarly, if you come across postures that seem to stimulate deeply uncomfortable feelings in the body such as nausea, severe irritability and restlessness, acute anxiety, ticklishness etc, or that trigger disturbing memories that you may have suppressed – these are all signs that you are hitting upon some kind of buried trauma that is aching to be released yet there is naturally huge mind-fear within you about going into this trauma. Go very gently and steadily into these postures, probing oh-so-sensitively into the sensations with conscious breathing and a loving, nurturing attitude. Never force yourself to go into sensations that you are not yet ready to fully experience. However, working with a sensitive, experienced teacher and knowing what is happening to you can both help you to begin to unpick and heal old trauma, by holding yourself steady and breathing calmly as you gently allow yourself to touch into hitherto unknown parts of yourself.
Finally, if an energy blockage has got to the stage where you are expressing illness or injury then of course you need to modify your yoga practice accordingly – by listening carefully to the body you will know what is OK and what isn’t. You may have to be much more gentle in your practice for a while, until you rebuild your energy levels, as illness indicates energy depletion.
I don’t claim to be an expert on trauma release, and I speak only from my own experience with this, as I’ve gradually begun to appreciate the healing power of yoga, and also from working with students in the moment, when releases have spontaneously happened in class.
The combination of an embodiment/movement practice with conscious breathing and the application of the mind to contemplate what is being revealed, in the context of a wider, spiritual perspective on a human life, have all helped me heal and, more and more, avoid various energy blockages within me. Yet now, as I write this, I am facing illness in my body for the first time in a long time. So I know there is something I haven’t yet been able to look at that is crying out for my attention. A recent physically and psychologically traumatic experience was the trigger, but the source is older than that, I can feel it. This energy blockage feels ancient, bigger than just that. This area of my body where the tension and, now, illness is manifesting has always felt extremely ticklish to me, to the point that I couldn’t let others touch it. What is this guarding pattern hiding, I wonder? So, I take a deep breath, put my faith in spirit and in myself, open up to heeding the wisdom of my body, commit to feeling what I’ve not yet been able to feel, and own up to what I’ve not been able to accept about myself, but always at the pace I can deal with. Unconditional self-love, forgiveness and complete acceptance are vital when we move into ourselves in this way.
And then healing becomes a possibility. We are healing miracles, every one of us… 🙂