Yoga and Trauma: How to work through it

Trauma can come in many forms and experiences, and ultimately overwhelms us to a point where we no longer feel able to cope. These experiences can leave us battered, bruised, or emotionally scarred, and they can trigger an underlying fear of death, even if you are not aware of this at the time.

 In 2011 I lived through the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima disasters. We fled the initial disaster and then spent months on the road evacuating to ‘safer’ cities south, before eventually relocating back to Byron Bay, Australia. During this time I was deep in domestic violence with my now ex-husband, and a couple years later, after finally divorcing, I witnessed a friend die at my feet on the beach from loss of his lower limbs following a shark attack.

 It’s safe to say that all three separate events put me in varying states of Post Traumatic Stress, or PST. I tried to deny it at the time, but the trauma affected many areas of my life, from feeling safe and trusting in new relationships, to maintaining love and respect for myself, to surfing less due to a heightened fear of sharks. I found myself in a constant state of spiralling, taking on too much work, always making myself ‘busy’, over-talking, drinking, reacting to others with anger, and neglecting my self-care.

 Working through my trauma through yoga has been groundbreaking for me. When I feel overwhelmed, I know I have to hit the mat. Breathing and moving takes your mind out of the past, out of the trauma, and into the present, right where you need to be. Establishing a regular yoga practice and cultivating this on a daily basis is phenomenal for trauma healing.

 Daily ritual is priceless, but life is unpredictable and hitting the mat every day for an extended practice or yoga class may be impossible at times. That is ok. Cultivating positive daily yoga habits can be five minutes of grounding breathwork or ‘pranayama’, coupled with a few light asanas (poses) in the morning or night (or both if you can!) to re-center yourself into the present moment and gradually dissipate the trauma from within.

 Grounding asanas will connect you with the Earth, and Mother Nature is waiting to release the weight of burdens you are unable to carry. Use your breath and the gentle movement of your asanas to start shifting the trauma and pain from within and offering it up to Mother Nature to compost on your behalf, breathing out the trauma, breathing in new, recycled energy from our divine Mother. Sitting in child’s pose more frequently during trauma release will allow you to re-connect to the breath between poses, feel safe and loved, and feel into how your body is responding to the asanas.

 As you create space in the body and are able to move into more strengthening asanas, you empower your Divine Goddess within; as physical strength increases, mental strength will follow, but you must do the work and cultivate regular practice. Humans thrive on progress, and with a daily practice - however small or large - you will achieve progress, from increased flexibility to remaining non-reactive in times of stress.

 A healthy diet is paramount to establishing a beneficial yoga practice. I highly recommend removing alcohol from your life during trauma healing, and adopting a plant-based diet. Alcohol consumption is detrimental to yoga practice and it’s imperative you are working from a clean, nourished vessel to truly receive the powers of self-healing.

 Yoga teaches that joy, or ananda, is deep within us. Your practice will release this joy from within, elevating your moods and cleansing your trauma. As you tap into your inner peace and happiness, you enable yourself to respond to life with positivity and create happiness for yourself and others on a daily basis. It is the small acts of life that truly paint our radiance, and when they are completed with love and happiness this emanates throughout the whole of your being. This is the power of self-healing. Witness and admire the magic of regular yoga practice and its affect on your entire being and life.

By Angie Davis



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