You may be among the millions who posted #metoo on your social media page. In fact, it’s very likely that you are. A recent study found that nationwide, 81% of women and 43% of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or assault in their lifetime.
So to say sexual harassment and assault are prevalent would be a ridiculous understatement. These experiences are wide-spread and affect many more of us than we ever knew before.
Throughout my studies for Yoga Therapy, I have learned so much about all kinds of trauma – from childhood experiences to military situations, to natural disasters, to – yes – sexual harassment/assault.
Depending on a whole host of factors, each person experiences trauma differently. Even the SAME trauma. Even a #metoo trauma. One person in an auto accident may go into fight mode and do everything possible to escape an overturned car, while the other person in the same car may freeze and be unresponsive until well after help has arrived.
What’s fascinating to me about the different responses is that we have little to no choice over how we will respond in any given situation that we perceive as potentially life-threatening. Our body, through a truly amazing chemical process, has decided for us the “best” response before our rational mind has even gotten the full download of what’s happening.
So there’s really no benefit in going back over what happened to figure out WHY we didn’t act differently. Because honestly, it’s not really up to us in the first place.
Regardless of what happened exactly, something important to note is that very often in life- or safety-threatening situations, our frontal lobe (or thinking part of our brain) goes off-line while our limbic brain (survival part of our brain) takes charge. This is important because we process trauma in the pre-language part of our brain. This can be true in any type of trauma, even a #metoo trauma.
But, why is this important?
It’s important because it’s very difficult (or even impossible) to process trauma through talk-based therapy when our language center was checked-out for the event in question. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Our limbic brain is all about fight/flight/freeze and the ACTION that needs to be taken to avoid the threat. So, we can address the trauma through – action. Movement-based therapies have been found to be extremely effective in supporting the healing process. What’s super cool is that we can support healing and movement through past traumas (that we haven’t even been able to talk about yet) through movement therapies like yoga.
(summarized from Yoga and PTSD: A Primer on Symptoms and Potential Mechanisms of Change, Yoga Therapy Today Winter 2018):
All in all, the research and preliminary studies are very positive in showing that yoga can be an excellent support to primary care options*. Trauma-sensitive Yoga Classes are available in many cities. If you think you’d like to try it, check with local studios, gyms, and community centers.
Ah, Taylor Swift! You are a sage of this age. Your peppy tunes and thoughtful lyrics speak to our culture. And not just the kids. I’ve seen many an adult know every – single – word to your catchy songs. It’s possible that I may be among those who know all the words to entire albums. One song in particular caught my attention the very first day it released. Which one, you may ask? Shake It Off! I love simplicity behind taking all the things people say and just “shaking them off.” I find myself wondering though – can it be that easy?
This may seem like a HUGE switch in train-of-thought, but stick with me.
For the past few years I have been exploring how Yoga Therapists are using yoga to heal. Not just things like stress and anxiety, even though these are two very powerful things to overcome, but also deeper things. Much deeper things. Things like trauma (physical and emotional) and PTSD and serious injuries and even chronic illness.
Well, one of the techniques used to help people move through these deeply-held traumas is to, quite literally, shake it off.
We hold some of our deepest emotions, especially those related to traumatic events in the muscles of our bodies. Most specifically, the psoas, or hip flexors. Without getting too deeply into anatomy – these muscle resides deep in our body – starting on either side of our low back, running straight through our mid-section, crossing over the front of each hip, and attaching to our femurs in our inner thigh.
Here’s where Tay-Tay comes into the picture. When, with the guidance of a Yoga Therapist, we purposely and systematically fatigue the psoas, we are then able to put our bodies into postures that cause the psoas to shake. And I mean SHAKE! The tremors exude throughout your body and can feel intense and funny and liberating and so much more. After experiencing this practice, many people find that old triggers don’t set them off as intensely as before, or that deeply-held fears of the past seem softer. Over time and practice, the intense anxiety or sleepless nights start to subside. Our body literally takes those old traumas and “shakes them off!”
When we move through this practice with our Yoga Therapist, we are able to let our body process things that our mind may not remember or understand or be able to process in other methods of therapy. Therapy through movement is showing itself to be a powerful way to move through some difficult experiences that haven’t been very responsive to other treatments.
If this sort of work sounds interesting or appealing to you, please contact me. We can explore if this is a good fit for your specific concerns.
Now, I know you can’t get that song out of your head – so go ahead – listen to it!