Trauma can be defined as an event or a series of events that is out side the range of “normal” human experience which threatens the physical and emotional safety of oneself and/or others” Sarah Holmes De Castro
When a traumatic event happens it can be completely overwhelming, the nervous system can become overloaded which can leave a person unable to fully process what has happened. The automatic nervous system is comprised of:
The sympathetic nervous system – this triggers energy, our nerves and muscles become in a heightened state of arousal, ready for “fight or flight” if need be. Adrenaline is triggered. It’s not only activated when experience a potential threat we can also experience this when feeling any kind of stress.
The parasympathetic nervous system is the opposite, it calms us down. It helps us to be in a state to recover. It also triggers the freeze response if sensing danger.
Both systems work together to regulate our emotional and physiological states. They are activated when we feel under threat to be able to deal with it and then work to calm us down when it’s passed.
When trauma or chronic stress occurs these systems can malfunction leading the person to either be in a hyper state of arousal (for example high anxiety/ panic attacks) or to completely shut down (for example amnesia, dissociation and avoidance). The bodies sense of time is distorted and the individual may re-experience the trauma as if it’s still happening now. Certain things can happen that remind the person of the trauma and trigger the nervous system as if it’s happening again.
Just a few examples of stress responses that can be triggered from a trauma are:
- Hyper vigilance
- Poor concentration
- Disturbed sleep
- Panic attacks
- Emotional overwhelm
- Numbing – being unable to feel your body or emotions
- Difficulty to trust
- Problems with boundaries
- Lack of interest in life
- A feeling of helplessness
After experiencing a trauma there can be a sense that your body has let you down, that it’s no longer a safe place and it’s no longer your own. A feeling of disconnect with the body can occur. This when yoga can be a big support in recovery from trauma alongside seeing a professional therapist.
Yoga helps you to connect with all aspects of your being; your physical body, your emotions, your breath, your ability to be a witness to your experience and your spiritual body, your connection to bliss. Simply put it helps you feel in your body again, to feel connected to it and the knowledge that it can be used as a resource to support you, to control how you feel and to feel safe in again.
A mindfulness-based practice of yoga can be a powerful tool in supporting recovery from traumatic stress. A traumatic sensitive yoga class can be:
- A safe place to cultivate a safe and compassionate relationship with your body
- An opportunity to practice being in the present moment
- An opportunity to learn and practice self regulation techniques that give you resources to draw upon when triggers occur through out every day life, for example breathing practices that help to calm down the system
- A chance to be in a safe supportive social places with others
Yoga can empower you, it can give you the tools to handle anything in your life. Trauma sensitive yoga does not only have to be for those who have been through trauma, it is also a valuable resource if you are dealing with a high level of stress in your life,
I am trained in trauma sensitive yoga so if you feel like this could be of benefit to you please do get in touch. I offer one to ones and in the New Year I will be looking to set up a group class in the Brighton and Hove area. This will be different from my usual Monday and Wednesday night classes at Revitalise.
If you had told me a few years ago that I would be spending a Saturday singing devotional chants for 11 hours, and it feel like home, I wouldn’t have believed it. That’s precisely what I did yesterday though at Be Love 11 hr Bhakti Immersion; it was inspiring, emotional, uplifting and completely heart opening.
Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of devotion, yoga means union and Bhakti Yoga brings you together with Divine Love, God, Consciousness, what ever you choose to call it. By chanting the same sounds repeatedly over and over the vibrations go through your body causing you to drop into your heart centre, into a feeling peace and love – our true state of being. There is a silence in between each chant and it’s amazing how easy it is to experience that complete silence within which is often so hard to experience when just sitting trying to meditate.
Tim Chalice one of the singers said yesterday that chanting is great for those people who have busy minds and are too lazy to try to just sit and meditate. All you need to do is keep chanting the mantras and eventually you drop into meditation. I can relate to this, as much as I aim to meditate every day, often I am sat there in silence still with a completely busy mind! Plus I love listening to the drums they play, I get completely lost in the rhythm of them which again makes it easy to switch off all other thoughts.
For those who have not experienced this and are still a bit unsure of their beliefs around anything bigger than us, I know this might all sound a bit bonkers! I was in your place just a few years ago. The first time I experienced chanting was in an ashram in India and I didn’t like it at all, I didn’t know the words, I couldn’t connect with the devotional aspect and I just thought every one looked a bit “religious”.
It was only a matter of days practising it anyway that I started to enjoy it, by the end of the two weeks I knew the Sanskrit words and was even joining in with a tambourine! Even the times when I did it feeling tired I was completely energised afterwards. I also left with a strong deep knowing with in that God existed, even though I wasn’t sure of the details or how I could believe it.
So yesterday we all gathered in a wonderful space in West London for 11 hours of devotional chanting. Through out the day I made a few notes of things people said and thoughts that came to mind. I’ll share them with you now in hope you get an essence of what Bhakti Yoga is all about:
- This place right now is exactly where you are meant to be (after chanting this with Tim Chalice)
- “I’ll borrow your sorrows and share your tears, I want to sing my heart out to the One who hears” more beautiful words from Tim Chalice and his teacher Babaji. This made me feel like we are all in this crazy thing called life together and we join together in love.
- Be free from attachment, so often we feel like we need money, our possessions, our phones, our diaries, photos to feel safe, we look outside of ourselves to feel security when it’s within us always.
- We are all one, it’s like a little drop of the sea thinking it’s separate.
- Be yourself, be your truth, be authentic, be love – our true state of being.
- Those things that trouble or upset you are not really who you are.
- Venus Cumara read some beautiful devotional poetry and one was about goals. How her life had always been run by achieving something, and realising this led her to write a poem about sandcastles being washed away by the sea. We can so often think we know what is best for us then get attached to that but there is a greater plan and it’s often even better than we could have ever imagined.
- Be still and listen to your heart.
- Choose to focus on love, not the negative thoughts that arise in the mind.
I’ll end with a little chant….
Lokah Samastah Sukino Bhavantu
May all beings everywhere be happy and free