The memory of the trauma is imprinted on the human organism. I don’t think you can overcome it unless you learn to have a friendly relationship with your body. The big question: How can you help people confront their internal sensations? Yoga is one way you can do that. – Bessel van der Kolk (The Trauma Center)
I find yoga very helpful for this and also ecstatic dance. I’ve started calling ecstatic dance my self-directed body work because it’s so good at getting deep holding patterns in the body. And I should be clear that my ecstatic dance is also largely informed by my yoga practice…and I do many yogic like stretches while dancing as well. These practices have become vitally important to me and are one of the cornerstones of my healing process.
I made some comments on Will Spirit’s blog yesterday too about this. He was talking about some of the difficulties he finds with sitting meditation in particular. For him specifically he finds it triggers traumatic memories and flashbacks. I have found that sitting meditation, especially on its own, is overrated. That’s not to suggest it’s not helpful as well as important, but I have found bringing mindfulness into all aspects of my life to be far more important.
This is what I said in response Will’s post:
I could not possibly continue my meditation practice without my body/movement practices. There much emotional release and traumatic release happens. I think that is in large part what is missing in many western Buddhist circles…consciousness about the body.
I practice hatha yoga and more importantly now ecstatic dance that has been deeply informed by my yoga practice. With dance one can move and writhe any which way allowing for what I’ve come to see as self-directed body work…catharsis happens regularly.
I think anyone dealing with any significant trauma really needs to have a body practice…or several…I walk mindfully and swim too.
Mindfulness alone…sitting practice, anyway, runs the risk of people getting lost in dissociation it seems. With the body practices along with the more passive practices I think those risks become largely minimized.
I should write another piece on how body oriented mindfulness is critical for a good number of us.
You can see some of what I’ve written here: Meditation, not all bliss and roses
More on Trauma and PTSD
The below two posts by William Harryman outlined a three hour talk by Bessel van der Kolk. If you didn’t see these posts when they were first published I highly recommend taking a look now. William did an excellent job.