Just attempting to write on the topic of trauma is incredibly triggering—at least partially in a good way. The good part of this triggering is that it is bringing more aspects of myself to the fore for healing. Another good part is that my anxiety is real. I feel it. I know it. I trust it. It is mine. I can breathe, focus, attend to it with my breath, and know I am okay. I can practice yoga, and claim for myself once again, my body, mind, and heart from the grip of terror.
What came up for healing just then were memories from childhood when people who loved me tried to control what I understood of my truth for me. This experience happened more than once and was incredibly traumatic, and ultimately had the effect of profound self-doubt and confusion on top of an already painful situation. They must have thought (the people I’m referring to have died and are not available to ask) that since I was a small child when my mother was removed from my life for mental illness that they could paint a picture of that time that would make me feel good. What would be the harm in that? A small child can hardly know what’s happening, right? Wrong. What they said conflicted with my sense of the situation, and with what I had heard from other people who were around at the time. I needed them to be my allies, and so I listened. It was not an easy time for people who were a part of it. Lie to the child and they will think they are normal and grow up to lead a happy life, right? Well, maybe—but not without some serious healing work if they’re anything like me.
I now associate my trauma with that safe, healing space that I’ve learned to cultivate in my yoga practice and in community—no way could I do this alone! So when I began to focus to write about the process of healing trauma with yoga, some stuff came up, and good. I say this because I strongly believe that awareness is everything. If I have stuff coming up, I need to be there to witness and support the process as I can.
Most of the time yoga works gently, slowly and affirmingly to support awareness that provides a welcoming home for all memories and thoughts. There is a place in myself for everything in the foundation I build in yoga for my mind, emotions, body and spirit. There is enough room to process my pain, suffering and to hold my yearning, anger, jealousy, and lust.
It is essential to cultivate a psychological and physiological anchoring base in the body through an understanding and practice that can be learned in yoga. I found my body-based home in the study and exploration of pelvis. This practice also provides safe space for psychological and emotional aspects of healing.
Hara (self-energizing earth centre within the pelvic bowl) is the rock on which we build the temple of the body. Those who are centered in the chest have too much ego and those who are centered in the head have too much intellect. The chest and head must rest on and be stabilized in the center of gravity.
~Dona Holleman, ‘Centering Down’
Who defines trauma? Trauma exists as invisible wounds inside individuals. Each person defines what is trauma for their self. A yoga practitioner goes within to create the space for their own healing with the support of technique, experience with practice, and a trusted teacher (sometimes the teacher can be ones own body).
Who defines healing? This is also something a person can know for their self. When someone feels better, safer, more alive, and curious or motivated they may feel that they have had healing.
One common misconception about healing trauma that can be harmful is the idea that “healing” means that the effects of a situation are removed or taken away. To me “healing” means that something that used to block my vibrancy or joyful celebration of my life has shifted so that I can more fully love, accept and celebrate myself and trust my ongoing healing process.
I have survived difficulty. I have hurt people unwittingly as a result of my own wounding that other people can’t always see (and that I can’t always see). I can sit with, practice with, and live with the imperfections in my situation as I strive to see more, heal more and to love more people in my life!
So: no. I don’t strive to rid myself of trauma. It is false to do that. It would just serve to continue the repression and self-doubt that the situation with my well-meaning family members started (and that our culture encourages) that I described earlier in this piece. It would be like trying to erase part of my lived experience, or lying to myself about it. I see great dignity and value in welcoming my full self to my practice and life.
I am a rich resource of experience and healing that is continuous, loving, and caring.