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Embodied Wisdom: Yoga and Healing from Trauma

As I wrap up the first “Embodied Wisdom” 200 Hour Trauma Informed Yoga Teacher Training hosted at Revolution Therapy and Yoga, I am reflecting a lot and wanted to share openly a bit about some of my experience and why I chose to host this training through a trauma-informed lens, as well as what that means in this context.

Firstly, if you know me, you know I’ve been on a seeking journey for some time—well over a decade. Many people have travelled this path, and, if you ask me, this path is always winding. It leads through various spiritual or religious practices or explorations/questions, through self-regulation and meditation or movement, perhaps yoga, traveling, improving family relationships, and friendships, etc.

For my own articulation, I’ll say my “seeking” journey didn’t really become my HEALING journey until a few years ago, even though I had encountered violence, disproportionate resources, and traumatic events from a pretty young age. I’d always carried on and put myself out in the world to learn and try new things with a really authentic heart. It wasn’t until later, about two or so years ago when that energetic veneer finally crashed. I didn’t realize that that very thing—that always striving—was a partial coping mechanism covering a lot of pain and sadness I had not and was not acknowledging from historic encounters with abuse and, especially, from a long relationship marked by intense gaslighting and emotional neglect. This compounded with the empathy pain I experienced during covid—which sounds crazy but was very real for me—during which, for about a year and a half, I completely lost my appetite and could hardly force myself to eat from the stress of the world. I wanted to stop people from hurting, and even though its pretty obviously wishful thinking, I internalized great disappointment in myself that I had not risen to the role of “Earth Alchemist” and artfully dissolved our collective pain through skillfulness. No I had not. And in fact, I felt I was slipping into darkness— I lost a lot of weight I didn’t have to lose and couldn’t eat so I became more exhausted even though I remained very physically active. I was hurting too, so I was avoiding new experiences, or at least avoiding over exposing myself—which actually unlocked a lot of insights about how I put myself into the world. Glad I was gifted the opportunity to make changes here via the catalyst of not-preferable events.

I recognized, finally, that I’d been spending years giving away my creative juice—my soul’s energy—wherever it might be even only partially received or respected out of a deeper, less acknowledged need to be—well, needed, I guess. I think we are wired to feel that way, but not necessarily trained or taught to communicate that need healthily or to live it through our dharma—our work. I had to retrain myself this way—putting my energy, first, back into myself so I could live and have energy at all. I took time to grieve and put down the stories of the past while acknowledging that I’d never really slowed down enough to look at how I felt. I then had to feel those things and write a new story with my very being—with my thoughts, breath, words, and deeds—and how I relate to the community that is the world through my present actions. I had to redefine “relationship” and “value”…or, perhaps, define it for the first time, so that my past story wasn’t coloring my new experiences—which it was during that time, where I was living in a very avoidant way. I was very active and visible in the world, but my inner world and outer worlds weren’t mirroring each other or making sense—because I was changing and because a REAL PERSON rarely fully adheres to societal maxims or idealized expectations—sorry ;).

Yoga supported me COMPLETELY through this process. It kept me embodied when my head was all over the place judging itself or feeling alone, inadequate, and ashamed. It kept me healthy within that trying period—to the best degree I could maintain. I edited my book “On the Move: A Return to Vastness” during this time--from the jungles of Central Colombia, healing and breathing and healing and breathing, where I had slipped away to teach yoga and do murals. During this time I had also begun creating the manual for my YTT.

Thus, the 200 Hour Trauma Informed YTT was born. It became an act of love and service once I’d integrated my experiences and resolved to alchemize it through action. I had also spent the time —the last ten plus years—studying embodiment through movement, fitness, yoga, martial arts, , spirituality, mindfulness, and neuroscience. I explored many paths and put in real hours of study, but it was my own abrupt limitations onset by a trauma reaction that taught me more than any of that study. Trauma left me in a state of frozen self-doubt and healing with it has taught me about consistency, self-talk, self-love. Consistency is that real example of LOVE because we have to keep showing up for ourselves—tend this field—care for this person through all the shit that comes up. If we don’t understand the commitment it requires to take care of ourselves, it’s difficult to fathom the ceilinglessness of love—a kind of love for life that can grow and grow us.

Through this process, I learned about the healing of transparent being, inquiry, and communication. I had to be honest about how I felt. I had to learn to communicate my needs, to ask to be seen in a sense, because I got tabbed a long time as “strong” and no one ever seemed to think I needed emotional support—so I didn’t really get any, and the truth is, I never really asked—for most of my life. People can’t read our minds. Communicating from deep-level honesty is definitely an aspect of healing—or has been for me. We need that piece to make real connections. Still working on it. Anyhow…

Seeking deeper meaning and value (which is natural) became reflected in my effort to contribute, in some small way, to communities that offer healing space, which though growing, are always needed in greater numbers. I studied the mind’s (self-talk) affect on our nervous system via polyvagal theory and inherent brain biases that have developed through THOUSANDS OF YEARS of evolution (primal urge to avoid pain/threat) and how these realities cascade through our body in the hormones they trigger. Yoga postures have innumerable physical benefits, but also have a direct impact on regulating the nervous system, hormonal system, and belief system. We could say that meditating and yoga makes us feel better—but there’s always that scientific bit that proves—the messages we send ourselves or reinforce through our behaviors are speaking to our whole system—sending signals to our hormones and triggering homeostasis or dissonance/disregulation.

The human being is complex, so in present day, homeostasis goes beyond mere physiological balance and into soul realms. WE DESIRE TO CONTRIBUTE, to be seen, felt, heard— to love and to be loved. This is now evolutionarily tied into our physiology…so this disconnect that is being experienced culturally—whether with each other as community, ourselves from our families, or generally through the screens of technology—we have a lot of work to do tending our soul gardens! Yogic community helps heal this aspect of life also.

The body is an extension of nervous system and using it in creative or fresh ways can actually transport the brain (spiritually or biochemically—whatever you prefer) into an alternative state. Yoga is a Life-Cultivator. We tend the fields of our minds and bodies. We learn to observe cause and affect, to take note of our inheritance, our conditioning—and learn to pause between the triggers and reactions.

You put poison in a lake, it’s poisonous. You keep it clean—it stays clean. So it is true for our minds and bodies. Negative thoughts DO create measurable stress responses in the body. Yoga is a lifestyle that keeps our inner waters clean. We use posture to bring alignment to the physical body, but also to the mind which affects the nervous system—and all the other internal systems (digestive, cardiovascular, lymphatic, etc). We cultivate a sense of presence, which is the opposite of trauma-induced responses—which tend to ‘disembody’ a person in some way—taking them out of the moment. The breathwork soothes the systems and adapts one to greater resilience, and over time, one can realize that their homeostasis comes with greater intention—with aligning one’s intentions with a lifestyle that supports healing, peace, respect of self and others, etc. Healing is hard to do if you’re still dumping in that lake. What’s the point of clearing out the wreckage if more is added? Yogic philosophy and mindfulness practices offer support from integrity-growing observances that help keep us in place as life changes around us. This sounds broad, and deep, and wide, because it is! Yoga really is a complete system that can offer the body-vehicle stability, flexibility in some cases, and the freedom to grow past the mind’s current limitations. Of course, yoga is not at all about being flexible or doing handstands. It’s about growth, I think—in every direction—certainly inward—and those inward shifts are, indeed, reflected outwardly.

So, this is the first blog on this topic. I’ll share more but all of this to say THANK YOU. To the yoga community, to my students, to those that helped lay the path, for being a supportive, transformational, circle with constant capacity for contemporary creativity—and one that is always deeply healing for me.

“Embodied Wisdom: Trauma Informed YTT” was meaningful, exploring the deep ecology of yoga posture, philosophy, and history as well as breathwork and trauma-informed approach to sustainable practice as well as teaching mindful cueing within the realms of being invitational rather than mandatory, explorative rather than idealized. More trainings and workshops with the goals of offering movement, yoga, breathwork, and training to help people deepen their practice and share it with others will unfold with time. I look forward to greater transparency, connection, and healing with you all. May your own journey be supported and driven by love. Feel free to write me on any healing topics you may be interested in discussing/exploring. Namaste <3

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