I had the privilege and opportunity to be a part of a training on trauma treatment this past week with 74 other individuals from around the country and around the world. A training specifically about using yoga as a research-supported adjunct treatment for trauma survivors. This training took place at Kripalu, a serene yoga retreat center in the Berkshires. The experience was profound – and will undoubtedly enrich, deepen, and strengthen my clinical work and expertise beyond comparison. But it also offered an impactful personal experience for which I will forever be grateful.
On the first night I was there, after gathering as a group for introductions, stating our intentions for the week ahead – I received a call from my mother that my father had had a heart attack. Crouched in the luggage room (one of the only spaces we were permitted to make phone calls) I started to breath very heavily – inhaling rapidly from my chest allowing very little oxygen into my body, feeling frozen, and loosing my words. Right then and there, at my trauma-training, I had a real-life trauma-response. My response was palpable, and it offered a present moment, felt-experience that breathed life into the theoretical words we were reading and discussing all week. Putting the details aside – my father is fine. He is well, and on the road to recovery.
Walking up the stairs moments later – I saw a quote on the wall: “Yoga is looking at life the way it is” from Patanjali’s yoga sutras. Yoga is an opportunity to have a present moment experience. To look at things exactly as they are – not as you’d hoped they’d be, or used to be – but as they are now. As you are now. I may have had a vision that this training would offer me the chance to disconnect from the world, relax, and recharge – away from it all, deep in the mountains of the Berkshires. But that was not my reality. My reality was something much more grave. And I was called to be responsive in the moment – to be embodied and present. Yoga helped me to do this.
Walking through the woods on one of the earlier days after hearing the news, I was somewhat withdrawn and cut off from the external world – not really noticing the landscape around me. Days later, after receiving a very good prognosis for my father – it was as if the world opened and bloomed around me. I walked down that same path and saw so many things I was not able to see before. Trauma affects your body on a deeply physical, mental, neurobiological, and emotional level. The trauma I experienced pails in comparison to the traumas experienced by so many survivors in the world today. Survivors that I have the privilege to work with. There is now evidenced-based research that shows how important – if not mandatory – it is to involve the body in the healing process.
Yoga – provided in a unique, safe and supportive way, sensitive to the traumatic experience, has statistically been shown to specifically help in this process. Looking at the whole person – mind, body, and spirit. And it is with deep gratitude, humility, and sincerity that I able to offer this experience to my clients. Through embodiment – healing really can be possible.