Dr. Bessel A. vanderKolk, founder and medical director of the Trauma Center, often refers to trauma as “a disease of not being able to be present.” With trauma there is a total lack of choice. Trauma can be things like rape, war, domestic abuse, car accidents, death of a loved one or childhood neglect.
Our bodies have great capacity when it comes to storing bad memories. The body processes some of these memories and experiences and the rest is passed on to our nervous system, where it rests in our bodies untreated for several years to come, until one takes a conscious step to get rid of it. The unwanted trauma can be a source of many mental and physical ailments that exist in our society today. The negative feelings associated with this state of health can cause damage beyond one’s wildest imagination.
With many of my clients and students, I observe a tightness held in the body for protection and unconscious holding of the breath. The jaw is often unknowingly clamped shut and the shoulders held rigid. Our body remembers the pain from trauma and screams out for attention. The common physical symptoms experienced are weight gain or loss, IBS, chronic hip pain and back pain, chronic shoulder pain, and infertility. If left untreated, disease will eventually follow.
In most cases, I have seen healing when a survivor learns to make conscious choices daily in relation to their bodies. Choices that are kind, gentle, and caring. Choices that include the mind, body, and the spirit, as these choices were missing during the trauma. Due to the complexity of a wounded past, if one chooses a pathway of healing, it may be dynamic and challenging. The experience of isolation on this pathway slows and may diminish.
If healing is not selected or accessible to a person, their wounded state ripples into the web of humanity impacting those directly and indirectly interacting with their lives. “People might experience their bodies as the “enemy”…not able to truly connect with others because [they] are not in touch with [them]selves.” (Emerson & Hopper) I invite readers to consider yoga, a complex system of applied knowledge, as a tool for trauma recovery.
Raechel Morrow is the founder and president of GR Center for Healing Yoga. With a BA in psychology and training in myriad yoga therapies, her greatest desire is to help others live fully alive and free from trauma. GR Center for Healing Yoga is the first practice in Western Michigan to offer private and group yoga classes to assist in healing from and living with trauma.