“The single most important issue for traumatized people is to find a sense of safety in their own bodies.” Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD
I started taking yoga history and philosophy classes prior to beginning an asana (physical aspect of yoga) practice. Dr. Brooks, my yoga history and philosophy professor, has been one of the most impactful influences in my life (https://rajanaka.com/). After graduating in 2012, I felt lonely and a little lost. One day, while browsing the web I saw a special for 3 months of yoga for $100 (this was back in 2012). I took a plunge and the rest is history.
I first began practicing a yoga asana modality known as Bikram Yoga. Bikram Yoga (BY) is a 90 minute, fast-paced class, that takes place in a room at 105F and 40% humidity. Calling BY intense is an understatement! When I first started, I had a difficult time with balance and back bends (which are now my thing!). I still remember the first time I walked into the premises of the Old Pickle Factory in Pittsford, NY where I was greeted by a stunning Israeli woman. She introduced herself as Naama and told me she was going to be my teacher. I learned a lot from Naama. Naama also was present as my body began to drastically change. After Naama, there was Jacob, Yalile, Billy, Paola from Mexico, Bridget from Australia, Marah from South Africa – my teachers were not only my guides, but became friends. I will always hold the teachers from my early days in the tenderest parts of my heart.
In 2014, I experienced an injury from running a half marathon. After physical therapy, I committed to doing 3 daily hours of yoga for 120 days in a row. These 360 hours in a three-month period were the beginning of a deep immersion which would become thousands of hours of study – both asana (postural) as well as philosophical. This level of commitment brought about the most radical transformation of my life. Yoga was the catalyst to face my trauma head on. It was the trigger to look within. The more I delved into the practice the more it took me from love and light into the dark abyss back into the light.
While, I had partaken in a lot of talk therapy up to that point, it wasn’t until I got out of the mind and into the body that I started to find language for my past and as a result was able to express my stories of hurt to slowly set myself free. It was a yoga asana practice that helped me understand that I was an embodied being with centers designed for pleasure, engagement, and trust. Yoga solidified that: I owned my body. It was mine. I’m currently reading The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body In the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD. The book attempts to define post-traumatic stress and all its complexity. Dr. Van Der Kolk, steers away from the traditional brain-disease model and proposes solutions that extend beyond the traditional pharmatherapeutic and talk-therapry approach. In his book, he presents alternative modalities such as neurofeedback, mindfulness techniques, play, yoga, and others for the management of post-traumatic stress.
For me, a yoga practice is not about being flexible and having a nice ass (though I have both). This practice has served as a pillar of strength, reliability, and trust as I’ve navigated through challenging and heart-wrenching situations. This practice has reminded me the importance of breathing, opening up, and partaking in community time and time again – especially in times when all I’ve wanted to do was hide inside my crab shell never to come out. This practice has introduced me to beautiful people. Has taught me to make space and sit with discomfort. And has taught me how to transmute pain into power. How to alchemize the broken into whole.
Last night, practice was beautiful. Sublime. Divine. As we set into Savasana I thought about my entire journey up to that point. I thought about my battle with anorexia nervosa, bulimia, severe anxiety, panic, suicidal ideation and attempt (my past is a long drawn history). All of these diagnoses were simply symptoms of far more deeply rooted trauma – which perhaps I’ll discuss on here someday. As I settled more deeply into savasana, I felt what I register as immense gratitude in my heart for this beautiful practice finding its way into my reality. As much as I still have a long way to go, I have come this far. I’ve built a career, live in my dream city, and have a very active life. I’m so proud of where I’ve come from and where I’ll go!
Tonight, I have plans! With a human! When I first started writing these on the daily, I mentioned that I was going to commit to writing until something in the external changed. And see – I was right! It always works this way. The universe likes momentum…now go get moving!
PS. This doesn’t mean I’ll stop writing though!
Astrology Report: Pluto, the planet of power, sex, the underworld, and depth, went direct in Capricorn yesterday. Time to call back your power, loves.