Yoga Has My Back

“Yoga is not about self improvement. It’s about self acceptance.” – Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa

I have been practicing daily yoga for about15 months.   I was not sure what I was committing to daily yoga practice. I knew that it was worth trying.

I found Yoga with Adriene on You Tube to undertake this 10 to 15 minutes of yoga every day.

Adriene Mishler would often say that Yoga has your back. I did not know what that really meant.  I knew that yoga made me feel better overall.  I could tell if I missed yoga a day or two. I felt a little off.

What happened when the going gets tough?  I noticed that it became imperative that I do some yoga every day to navigate the rough waters.

I started to think what was different this time for me when I had difficulties to work through.

I had this yoga foundation that I had been building for over a year.   I noticed during yoga that the energy would shift or transform.  I noticed that I could come to yoga practice with pain or rage and transform or release that.   I would often find myself crying during the daily yoga through this challenging period.

Recently, I arrived on the mat and knew that I desperately needed the Reveal yoga practice that was part of Adriene’s 30-day Yoga Journey, Dedicate.   I came to the mat needing to deal with some anger.  I left the mat transformed and feeling better.

In that moment, I understood why Yoga has my back.  If I invest in daily yoga and truly in myself, I build up a foundation in my mind, body and soul and I can move through difficulties with more ease.  One aspect of Yoga is about being able to be in the discomfort with ease and just let go.

Yoga has my back!

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Dissociation – The Pressure Release

 “It is much safer to not feel, not to let the world touch me.” – Sylvia Plath

Dissociation is the disconnecting from one’s body and mind during a trauma, a traumatic memory or a PTSD triggered event.

This disconnection can look different for each person.  Some people have an out of body experience as if they are somewhere else in the room and looking at themselves.

For me, I would look off and up to the right and just not be there mentally.

Why would this happen?  During the actual traumatic event, what is happening in the moment is too much and too painful for me to process.  It is a way to escape the traumatic event when I could not escape.  In this moment, I call dissociation, the pressure release.   Dissociation during the traumatic is a brilliant design for survival.

Let’s take a deep dive into what happens during dissociation.  The freeze part of the nervous systems, sympathetic nervous system is in control.  That means that I breath very shallow.  My muscles are very tense. I am numb so I don’t feel the sensations in that moment.  I leave my body in that moment because I cannot bear witness to this unimaginable event.

Not bearing witness allowed me to go on with my life the next day because I could not escape the relentless physical and sexual abuse.  Not bearing witness is a survival skill to return to the only place I knew as a child, home.

The trauma needs to go somewhere.  There is no flow in me because I am tense and breathing shallow so that traumatic energy is absorbed in me everywhere down to the cellular level.

What are some of the longer-term effects of this dissociation? I do not remember most of my childhood from four to eleven years old.  There are other large parts of my childhood that I do not remember.   Additionally, being dissociative go hand in hand with the numbing myself from my emotions.

In the present, severe dissociation comes back when the trauma emerges years later.  When I had to delve into my past, I was overwhelmed with sensations and memories that I could not bear at the time.

When I dissociated, some memories or feelings became too overwhelming for me and anxiety riddled me.  I felt some sensation in my body that I was not tolerable.   I felt my vision become very blurry and could not see where I was. I would feel myself leaving the here and now. I felt a welcome release in my body as I dissociated.  I felt a calm in a very numb way.

When I was asked where was I? I had no idea where I was, but not in the here and now.  It was disconcerting to not know where I was, but at the same time, I did not care. In the past during the traumatic, I could not physically leave so the only way leave to run away was to leave mentally.

Overtime, the memories and feelings can be processed and dissociation can become less and less.

From a yogic perspective, for energy to be released, one must be grounded with a deeper breath and an energetic flow and relaxation in the body.

From my yoga teacher, Tammy, this is the way to deal with anger and other feelings:

Breathe: Deeply into the diaphragm to clear energy blocks.

Relax: Relax the muscles to clear the energy blocks.

Feel: The waves and sensations.

Watch: Witness what is happening and stay present.

Allow:  Trust/Don’t resist and stay with the raw feelings without acting until you are clear.

This is the antithesis to dissociation!

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The Magic of Reiki

“The best and most efficient pharmacy is within your own system.” –  Robert C. Peale

After years and years of working through the trauma, the EMDR therapist suggested that I try Reiki.  The hard truth about trauma is that trauma is everywhere in the body, mind and soul.

Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) uses bilateral stimulation by stimulating the right and left side of the brain to process fragmented or traumatic memories that are stuck and are not pieced together.  This memory processing was so incredible beneficial to me and moved me forward in my healing.

However, I had places with EMDR that I was just stuck.  I had memories especially in my body that I was unable to get past.

When I went to Reiki, I had no idea what to expect with Reiki.  I had a little Reiki long ago when I saw a sports massage therapist.  I knew that in that it felt good.

I was already finding benefit from my once or twice a week yoga practice and Reiki practitioners seemed to be highly connected with yogis.  Reiki and yoga are both about moving energy and bringing the mind, body and breath into balance.  I asked yogis for recommendations and recommendations are what I got.  There was one particular Reiki practitioner that I spoke with that in my gut felt right.

What is Reiki? Reiki is a very specific form of energy healing, in which hands are placed just off the body or lightly touching the body, as in “laying on of hands. In a Reiki session, the practitioner is seeking to transmit Universal Life Energy to the client. The intention is to create deep relaxation, to help speed healing, reduce pain, and decrease other symptoms one may be experiencing.

I went in not knowing what to expect.  My energy flow was highly blocked.  My trauma caused a lot of negative energy to be trapped in my body.  In the beginning, I just cried and cried because there was a lot of negative energy that needed to be released. I did not need to talk or figure anything out. It just happens while I lay there and while this incredible gifted healer worked her magic.

After the first time, I felt a little better. I was exhausted, but felt better.

After the second time, I felt my feet for the first time in my life! I could actually feel the fibers in the carpet and grain on the wood floor. This was a miracle!

Not only did I get Reiki treatment, but she suggested that I practice meditating every day.  How could I not try meditating because I was feeling better. I did this every day for three weeks because three weeks creates a habit. Something magical happened, I felt calmer and less anxious.

The Reiki practitioner would give me tips on how to deal with the trauma or other things in my life.  Sometimes a different perspective is what you need.

As I trained for a triathlon, she gave me tips for a workout recovery that involved some yoga poses.  Those poses greatly aided my post workout recovery.  I was less anxious after a very long workout and those yoga poses calmed my nervous system down.  I learned that a simple yoga pose can calm the nervous system.

Then, after about a year of so, the Reiki practitioner said that I needed to do yoga every day.  I thought that she was right about so many things that I would give it a try for the same three weeks.  Of course, she was right about this, too!

Reiki is a magic that heals in such a deep level.  There are so many layers that I needed to heal.  Now, when I go for Reiki treatment, I can often feel that life force energy that feels warm and comforting.

Trauma sits in the body and needs body work to fully heal. World renowned experts like Dr. Peter Levine and Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk discuss the need of somatic work for trauma survivors.  There are many types of somatic healing.  Reiki is just one of many.

During my journey, I do need each healing method that I encounter.  Each one has a specific purpose in healing.

Reiki was and is magic and a miracle to me.  Reiki and my Reiki practitioner forever changed my life!

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Feelings – The Universal Language of the Body

“Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings – always, darker, emptier and simpler.” –  Friedrich Nietzsche

Early when I was in therapy before knowing that I had PTSD from, the therapist asked me questions on where I felt things in my body. I answered this question many, many times and it was always the same. I felt nothing in my body except for inexplicable pains.

She looks at me and says, “You get it all in your head.” I say, “Yes!”  I am thinking to myself that I get it all in my head because I am smart.  I, also, think that she thinks that I am pretty intelligent.

After this exploration, I  would learn from her that feelings are meant to be felt in our bodies.  I had no idea that is what feelings meant.   Now, I felt very broken because I could not do this basic human function.   It was one of many times when I felt shattered as I would slowly uncover the long-term trauma effects.

The only “feeling” that I had was massive amounts of anxiety.  I came to learn that anxiety is the result of not dealing with other emotions especially anger.  The other place that I lived was numb.  I was an expert at numbness. I numbed myself by being very busy all of the time.

I feared that my family may have this terrible “no feeling” thing. I went home and asked my family if they felt in their bodies and they did.   I was thankful and grateful that they were not “broken” the way I was.

To feel these feelings, name these feelings and have the feelings match the event in time space would take years and years of work.

The therapist had a poster with different emotions and pictures of what those emotions looked like on a child’s face.  I would spend many times in therapy trying to the name those emotions.  I called this, the “Wall of Emotions.” At first, it was a guessing game for me. Then, I gradually determined if it was a “good” or “bad” feeling.  That was the limit of my emotional vocabulary and range.

Also, I had no idea that one could feel multiple emotions at a time.  I thought that they were singular.

Eventually, the emotions came a little at a time. Sometimes, they were very overwhelming and from the past.  I would have rage or great pain and sadness at times.  I would have to match the sensation in my body to the emotion.  I often had to guess at which bodily sensation matched the sensation. I had to learn this language from scratch.

As the emotions slowly revealed themselves to me, the timing of what happened and the emotions were out of sync.  It could be days after the event or after some past event discussed before the emotion came up.   This made it quite difficult to figure out what event went with that emotion. Over time, the reaction time between event and emotion became closer and was down to about a day or so.

Then, eventually the time between event and emotion was hours.  As time went on, I would notice that I could feel multiple emotions at the same time.  The “feelings” were very uncomfortable for me.  However, sometimes I would do a secret cheer for myself that I could feel and name “anger.”  This meant that I was healing and feeling what I was meant to feel.

Then, one day, it happened.  The event and the emotions came together at the same time! I finally achieved the “normal.”  The “normal” is uncomfortable for me.  I will continue to learn this new language.  Many people have a lifetime of this language. For me it is new, but yet exciting!

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What is My Diagnosis and How Could I Have That?

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

The triathlon is completed. I am in therapy for anxiety and because I can’t sleep at night.

The therapist is kind and wants to get to know me.  We explore different things in my life.  I am, also, there because I need to deal with my parents who are not doing well financially and mentally, but I have not communicated with my parents for years out of self-preservation.

So, I was in therapy to figure out how to deal with this difficult situation with my parents.

In therapy, we talk about my childhood. I talk about my mom who never left the house. My mother who took a lot of opioids every day for her bad back.  My husband had already concluded that my mother was drug addict.  I had not come around to that. I believed that it was her bad back “medicine.”

My mother always had very unkind things to say to me like “no one will ever like me” when I was about to go to college.  Life as a child revolved completely around my mother.  We talked about that in therapy.  Maybe, my mom was mentally ill, but all I could really see that she was very physically sick.

In therapy, I recounted about how as a child that my dad “spanked” me because I did something bad. Those spankings were harsher than I would have liked to admit then, but I could not see that at that time.  I thought that there were a few instances where my dad may have crossed the line.  Overall, I thought that my father was not physically abusive and I was punished for being bad. Once, I did have a note to not change for gym because of one injury and I knew that injury may have been suspect of physical abuse.

As we discuss these things in therapy, my life is getting worse. I am having more and more difficulty sleeping and any symptoms that I have worsen.

One day, I very nervously ask the therapist what is my diagnosis.  She says in kindest way possible that I have General Anxiety Disorder, Depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  There it just sits… PTSD.  What could I even have PTSD from?  What trauma?

I am a researcher at heart.  There is nothing like researching yourself.  In therapy, I entered a long phase of studying myself as well providing my nuggets of information to the therapist.  Every once in a while, I would have some new information or insights for her.  Let’s be honest, she knew this information.

Anyway, that night, I googled PTSD and I checked many websites over and over. The symptoms were so undeniably me.

I had so many of these symptoms that I could not believe it.  I was agitated, irritable, hypervigilant, mistrusted and I had severe anxiety, insomnia….

For reference, people may experience (source Mayo Clinic):

Behavioral: agitation, irritability, hostility, hypervigilance, self-destructive behavior, or social isolation

Psychological: flashback, fear, severe anxiety, or mistrust

Mood: loss of interest or pleasure in activities, guilt, or loneliness

Sleep: insomnia or nightmares

Also common: emotional detachment or unwanted thoughts

It was undeniable that I had PTSD, but from what trauma? It was a shocking and shattering diagnosis.   Yet, I still did not know the trauma that caused PTSD.  How could that be?

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What??!! Yoga Everday!! Enter Adriene Mishler and Yoga with Adriene

“Inhale the future. Exhale the past.”

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I had been seeing a Reiki practitioner for about a year.  Reiki provided me with big leaps in healing  my mind and body.

The Reiki Practitioner had recommended meditating every day.  I noticed that after about three weeks of these meditations that I was feeling a new found calm in my life.

I already had found yoga out of desperation a few years earlier and went to the yoga studio once or twice a week.  The Reiki Practitioner suggested yoga every day for 10 to 15 minutes a day. Really?!!

Yoga poses had helped me train for my return to triathlon (as recommended by the Reiki Practitioner).  The Reiki Practitioner was correct about this meditation thing.  So, I felt I owed it to myself to at least try this yoga everyday thing.  I was not going to go to a yoga studio every day during the week.

So, I looked online for yoga that I could do at home. I stumbled upon Yoga with Adriene.  Apparently, Yoga with Adriene had over 3.5 million subscribers on YouTube.  Adriene Mishler has a yoga video everything from anxiety, depression, bedtime, running, movement, triathlons, etc.   Adriene is funny and makes you want to be your best self.  Her dog, Benji, is super cute.  She tells how you awesome you are every time!

I started with the library of over four hundred free videos and decided that I would commit to do this yoga at home thing for three weeks because three weeks creates a habit.

I found myself falling in love with Yoga with Adriene and the Yoga with Adriene community. Every Sunday, I get a lovely email from Adriene with a new video and a note that makes you think about being your best self.  The comments on the YouTube videos are about how Adriene has changed people’s lives with yoga. It is literally the happiest place on the Internet!  Honestly, where can you even find that kind of happiness, joy and sense of community on the Internet anymore?

Adriene is personally on a mission to bring yoga to everyone all over the world.

After my three week commitment, I started feeling much calmer every day.   Then, in January, I did the 30 Days of Yoga where Adriene takes you on a yoga journey. I was all in!

Here is the truth.  Sexual trauma causes a separation of the mind, body, breathe and soul.  Yoga which means to join brings the mind, body, breathe and soul together.  Yoga teaches one to learn to be with the discomfort, love yourself, be fine with where you are today, and “Find What Feels Good.”  Yoga brings the parasympathetic nervous system online.

Yoga has been scientifically proven to help with PTSD and trauma.

I found myself becoming a Yoga with Adriene walking advertisement.

A woman on a mission in Texas to change the world changed my life so profoundly.   Doing yoga everyday heals my mind, body and soul. Yoga brought together my mind, body, breathe and soul that had been splintered during the trauma. It alleviates many of my PTSD symptoms.  I just feel good.  Every time I watch a Yoga with Adriene video, I smile.

I will be honest.  Doing yoga every day is not just about healing from trauma. Yoga really can be beneficial for everyone. It is doing mental hygiene every day.  I feel so much better because yoga moves the energy in your body, teaches me to breathe deeper, helps me connect with myself and the world around me and I overall feel great.

So maybe, you will join me and become part of the happiest place on the Internet, Yoga with Adriene.

Yoga with Adriene – YouTube Channel

Yoga With Adriene Website

 

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Here and Now: Let the Sun Shine In

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart” 
― Helen Keller

Yes, you can heal from childhood trauma or trauma!!  A quick fast forward to the now!

I decided that the now was important and then, the very interesting story can be revealed. What does today look like?

I live my life so that I can keep my nervous system in a calm state.  Please know that my mind, body and soul were separated to survive the trauma. Breathing deeply was not something that I was unable to do. I could not feel feelings in my body or even truly feel my body itself.  I often lived in a state of anxiety and I was hypervigilant.  I have PTSD.

So, I have over many years made changes in my life that allow me to bring my mind, body and soul together and sometimes, I, with great joy and wonder, am able to experience the universe fully.

I try to eat clean and stay away from highly processed foods and sugars.  I know that sugar and processed foods adversely affects my nervous system.  I try to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. I could do better on those veggies!!

I meditate every day for ten minutes. It keeps me calm and peaceful.  If I don’t meditate, I feel off.  I started off by using the breathing app for three minutes on the Calm app.

I do some yoga every day for 10 to 15 minutes.  It was suggested about a year ago to incorporate yoga every day. I figured if mediation was helpful then, why not give the yoga a go?

If I don’t go to the yoga studio which is most days, I do Yoga with Adriene, https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene.  Adriene Mishler changed my life.

Yoga brings the mind, body and breath together. In order to fully heal, this is what I needed. There is a great body of scientific research that yoga helps PTSD.    I do yoga every day because I feel better and more peaceful.

Reiki also has helped move negative energy that was stuck in my body.  Yoga can do this as well.  I have a good cry on the good old yoga mat more than once.

Eating clean, meditation, yoga and Reiki are all tools that can really help anyone with or without trauma.  They have changed my life so profoundly.  I am like a walking advertisement for everyday yoga and Yoga with Adriene.

Every once in a while, I can feel my body which may sound strange.  When I do feel my body, I embrace it with the joy and wonder of a young child.

Some days, I can feel the grass under my feet and the sun or the rain on my face. I can truly hear all of the sounds and smells that go with a beautiful day. I embrace that moment fully.

I know that if I don’t feel these sensations today that there will be a day in the near future where I will embrace the human experience as I was intended to feel life. To me, it is like a miracle that I can feel the way that I do now. I am grateful.

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