Trauma is by definition an experience that we lack tools or resources to handle, process, assimilate, or integrate a lesson from. There is a magnetic loop, called re-enactment, that draws us back into familiar patterns, where we have to learn lessons again and again through similar situations over time. This is essentially the cycle of trauma. It is a loop that never ends unless one learns to develop their internal resources.
While many people don’t like to identify with trauma, we have all met challenges we don’t know how to surmount. Two factors are known to influence the resilience a person develops to trauma: How early in life the first big trauma arose, and whether betrayal was involved. While impossible to turn back time, it is never too late to develop better resilience skills. And when the body is ready to release those long held patterns, many people feel a massive weight has been lifted from their psyche and spirit.
When we are surprised or our senses alerted to a threat, we instinctively gasp and hold our breath. This seals in tension wherever you are simultaneously holding tension- most people lift their shoulders, tighten their jaws and facial muscles first. To begin to release those long held knots, and the bound energy from the heightened arousal, breath must be incorporated with stretching or otherwise bringing awareness to the area of tension.
The primary obstacle to healing is often denial that one is in need of help. One of the greatest illusions is that we are independent. Very few people really want to feel dependent on others, yet we all are, to the degree of embodied, empowered choice we have cultivated individually through introspective practices.
Introspective and interoceptive practices, such as breathing techniques and meditation, have long been touted as effective treatment for addiction and anger management. But anyone who has ever sat down to meditate their first time knows how maddening it can be to be still and try to not think or even observe your thoughts passing. Meditation is Step 7 of 8 Limbs of Yoga, where yoga postures are step three (after basic moral and ethical observances). Yoga was created to soothe bodily aches and pains to allow a practitioner to practice for longer. Yoga is the ability to direct the mind to a sweet place of choice rather than be blown about by the winds of our desires. Yoga is now recognized as cutting edge psychophysiological treatment for PTSD and many other maladies, and is the basis of nearly all physical therapy. The Department of Defense & US Army Surgeon General’s Pain Management Task Force lists yoga, along with acupuncture and yoga nidra (a practice of relaxation) as a primary approach in military, private, university and clinical facilities around North America.
I have often said that my students are my best teachers. The reason for this is that when one of my students cannot do something I suggest, growth happens when we explore what they can do, wherever the resistance is.
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