Posts Tagged ‘yoga’

This past week has been an incredibly intense and empowering week for me. After dealing with feelings of despair in the prior weeks, I decided to fight back. I went to the gym every day this week. I did yoga and meditation four days. (I would have done five days, but my son’s school sent him home for an alleged fever although he had no cold symptoms whatsoever at home.) I did my Bible study. I took an afternoon off to rest and nap. (I try to take a full day each week, but I was too triggered and wound up to take the morning off. However, I did still go to the gym.)

My experience this past week has been being triggered and fighting my way back to calm. Triggered…fighting…calm…triggered…fighting…calm. I feel like a Weeble Wobble that keeps getting knocked down but then still winds up in an upright position. I decided to write this blog entry while I am in a calm place. I don’t know how long it will last, but I plan to savor it as long as it lasts.

My therapist told me that I will never “get over” the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Instead, I will learn how to manage it better. Instead of being triggered for weeks, I will recover within hours or days. I found that very hard to believe in therapy, but he was right. I think this is why some of you have commented that my blog seems much more hopeful that what I write when I am in my dark places. While in the dark place, it feels like I have always been there and always will be. However, the bad times really don’t last that long. I don’t think I give myself enough credit.

Through this recent experience, I have learned that I simply cannot skimp on my healing tools. I must go to the gym at least three days a week (and preferably five). I must do yoga and meditation as close to daily as possible. I need to be doing Bible study at least a couple of times a week. I also need to get back to playing the piano. (Thank you to the reader who reminded me of the beauty of playing a musical instrument!)

It all gets back to the battle of the wolves going on inside of me (and inside of each of us). I have to feed my good wolf. I do this by taking care of myself, being compassionate to myself, and bringing joy and rest into my day-to-day life. It is so easy for me to buy into “The Voice” in my head that repeats my abusers’ lies. The more I take care of myself, the easier I find it to fight off The Voice. However, the more I skimp on my tools, the louder The Voice becomes, and it drags me right back down into the well of darkness and despair.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I have been thinking a lot about the blog entries I wrote on Friday and Monday as well as the many comments that I received both in the comments sections as well as through email. I had an epiphany that I hope will be healing and affirming to all.

I think that the big picture of healing from child abuse is the same for everyone but that the specific details are as varied and individual as we are. Let’s start with the big picture …

I told my therapist my theory on the “big picture” of healing from child abuse, and he wholeheartedly agreed. The way that anyone heals from child abuse is by learning to love and accept himself and his experiences. The more you love yourself, accepting your experiences (past and present) as “mine,” and express your true feelings and emotions, the more you heal. Healing from child abuse really is that simple. Unfortunately, “simple” is not the same thing as “easy.”

Here is where the details come in. Each of us is unique. Not two people suffered the exact same abuses or reacted in the exact same way. So, it makes sense that no two people are going to heal in the exact same way. I have found yoga to be immensely helpful in healing, while Michael shared that yoga was not helpful to him but that Tai Chi has been found to be more beneficial to those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I found that therapy was absolutely crucial to get me through the early years of healing, but Lacey (as well as many others) have had unhelpful experiences with therapy. I found reading numerous books to be immensely helpful, but Michael did not – he found expressive therapy to be much more helpful. My faith has been crucial in healing while many others are triggered by religion and manage to heal without having a faith.

So, who is right? We all are!

To heal from child abuse, I think we always need to keep the big picture in mind and then ask what steps we can take toward loving and accepting ourselves and our experiences. I initially came at this from a more traditional left-brained approach – working with a therapist and reading lots of books, but that was not enough. I needed to branch out to yoga, meditation, and Reiki for more spiritual healing.

I think we need to think of the specifics as tools that we can put in our healing toolbox that we can use as we feel the need. My healing journey is not going to look like yours because I am going to use different tools than you are. The best thing I can do is share what works for me while all of you share what works for you. Collectively, the more tools we add to our healing toolbox, the more resources all of us will have available to heal.

This gets me back to the point that a few readers made about my Friday blog entry – that they felt that there was judgment because what worked for me was not working for them in the way or timeframe that it worked for me. We need to remember that each of us is an individual, and we are going to progress at different paces while using different tools to get there. Instead of  comparing the tools, let’s urge one another along our healing journeys by keeping our eyes on the big picture – Let’s do whatever we need to do to learn how to love and accept ourselves.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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This past week has been an extremely busy one for me. My son’s asthma flared up last week, causing him to miss some school adjacent to some teacher workdays. So, the net result was having my son home for six straight days. While we did some fun and enjoyable things together, such as an all-day trip to the zoo, I still “lost” roughly 40 hours of time alone in the house to focus on my job, blogging, housekeeping, etc. By the time he left for school yesterday, my head was spinning from all of the things that I needed to accomplish.

My tendency is to dive in like machine and direct all of my energy toward getting a lot of work accomplished. This time, I took a saner approach. :0) I went to the gym and worked out (my usual routine that I had missed during the six-day period). Instead of jumping in the shower and getting right to work (my usual schedule), I went to my bedroom, put on some New Age music, and did yoga and meditation. I lost my “day off” last week (I have made Thursdays my “me” days) due to my son being home, so it had been almost two weeks since I had taken a breather. It took some discipline, but I succeeded in silencing my mind, releasing a lot of physical and emotional tension, and finding my inner calm. Then, I went about my day at a slower (and saner) pace. I probably got the same amount of work accomplished but without the physical tension and emotional intensity that is typical for me after a week like that.

Sometimes we set ourselves up for being too busy, but at other times, life simply throws too much our way at one time. Either way, we are not machines and cannot simply “blow through” our days without ever taking a breather or break. Everyone needs some downtime, whether you think you can afford it or not. If you actually take some downtime, you will discover that you have more energy to get the work done and wind up getting more accomplished than if you had not taken a break.

This is a good tip for those of you who are in the early stages of healing from child abuse and are working through flashbacks on a regular basis. That is actually when I started exploring yoga. I learned how to do yoga by reading Howard Kent’s Yoga Made Easy, and I started getting up 30 minutes earlier to do yoga in the mornings. At first I thought I was doing something wrong because my muscles felt worse after doing yoga than before. I eventually realized that the “discomfort” after yoga was actually what it felt like for my muscles not to be tense! I had carried so much tension in my shoulders for so many consecutive years that I did not know what relaxation even felt like!

Doing yoga each morning helped me manage my flashbacks because, for 30 minutes, my mind and body got a break from the intensity of recovering memories and working through the trauma. I strongly suggest yoga for everyone but especially those of you who are feeling overwhelmed by flashbacks.

Photo credit: Faith Allen

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Yesterday I blogged about Reiki. I cannot talk about Reiki without also talking about yoga. Yoga has been a particularly powerful way for me to heal from child abuse.

I was surprised to get a suggestion from my pastor to engage in yoga after he learned about my child abuse issues. I thought that yoga was “New Age” and, therefore, “bad” in the eyes of the Christian Church. My pastor assured me that many people do yoga before entering into prayer time, etc. That was news to me.

I bought a book about yoga for beginners called Yoga Made Easy by Howard Kent. I also bought some CDs of relaxing music so I could do yoga in my room.

My first reaction was surprise at how my muscles felt after doing yoga. They felt odd, but I could not pinpoint what was wrong. They were not sore like they felt after lifting weights or exercising. It took me a few times to recognize what I was feeling – my muscles were feeling relaxed! I had spent my entire life (a good 35 years) tensing up my muscles thanks to the child abuse and the aftermath. For the first time ever, my muscles learned what it felt like not to be tense. It took me a while to adjust to that feeling.

One thing I did not know going in is that the purpose of yoga is to silence your mind for meditation. The deep breathing and asanas (postures) of yoga lead you to silence your mind, something that I did not believe was even possible for me. As you discipline yourself to stop that constant inner chatter, you free yourself to “hear” your spirit and tap into a power greater than yourself. Once you figure out what you are doing, it is kind of like giving yourself your own Reiki sessions, only you are doing it in a different way.

I love to do yoga and miss it when I don’t get to do it. Unfortunately, I live with an ADHD child who has trouble sleeping thanks to his medication. This makes it very hard for me to have alone time to do yoga and meditation. (I used to do it right before going to bed at night.) When I get a chance to do it again, I always question why I ever stopped. It is like giving myself a massage and a Reiki session all rolled into one!

Photo credit: Faith Allen

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Does anyone else feel like you are constantly relearning the same lessons? Here is an example of what I mean…

When I was the early stages of healing, I got into doing yoga. The first few times I did it, I couldn’t get over how “sore” I was afterward. I came to realize that my muscles had not relaxed in decades, so the “soreness” I was feeling was actually what it feels like when my shoulder muscles are not all bunched up in tension. Yoga became a part of my daily routine for a long time, and it really helped me get through the flashback phase of healing.

Unfortunately, life happened, and I fell out of doing yoga. I have recently “rediscovered” doing yoga again, and I find myself in the same place although not quite as drastic. Sure enough, my shoulder muscles felt “sore” again as they learned how to relax. I am gradually moving past the same limitations I have already pushed past. Things are going smoother and faster this time, but a part of me is annoyed at having to “relearn” the same lesson. Can anyone else relate?

I go through this frequently along my healing journey. I will embrace a new behavior that is positive in my life. Then, something will trigger me, and I will “forget” about this wonderful new tool. Then, a year or so later, I will “rediscover” the same thing that I already learned before. If I could just hold onto what I learned the first time around, maybe things wouldn’t have to be so hard in between.

So, why I can’t I just learn a new tool and embrace it for life? Why do I ebb and flow as I learn, “forget,” and then relearn the same lesson? Any ideas?

Photo credit: Faith Allen

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Yesterday, I started to come out of the funk. I still did not have a lot of energy, but all I needed to do was grade papers, which does not require a lot of energy.

As I was grading papers, I noticed how stiff my shoulders were. I guess they have been stiff for a long time, but I have not really been very aware of being in my own body lately. I felt a strong urge to do yoga (which I have not done in a long time), so I dropped what I was doing and did yoga in my room, followed by meditation. I cannot say that anything earth-shattering happened, but it felt nice to stretch out my muscles.

I also went walking with a friend yesterday, which was both good for my body and my spirit. I always feel energized after spending time talking with a (positive) friend. I exercised again this morning, so I guess I am on a roll this week.

I have also been reading a book at night before I go to sleep rather than trying to get more done on the computer. I find that burning a lavender/vanilla-scented candle and listening to relaxing (New Age) music while reading in bed really helps me sleep better.

So, I am doing more things to nurture myself. It doesn’t come naturally or easily to me, but I am doing it. I keep finding that depression is always nearby, but I am choosing to let those emotions pass through me as I need to express them without getting too attached to them. At least I don’t feel depressed when I am reading, exercising, or otherwise nurturing myself. I even played the piano briefly the other day – something I have not done in a long time.

Here’s hoping I can keep this up until January.

Photo Credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Techniques for Accessing the Subconscious Mind: Free Association Writing, a reader posted the following questions:

1. What if what you write is just the same over and over again? Nothing new, just the same thing? This is so frustrating, another block. I want to be able to unlock hidden areas, but I cannot get there, even by doing this exercise.

2. Is what we write a memory, or simply a creation of our current mindset? The reason I ask is because I am wondering whether I am able to trust what I write as being the truth, or is it just fiction? Certainly, I am always questioning myself about the abuse, but I’m feeling especially confused about this particular issue. ~ Little Bird

My first impression of your questions is that you are putting too much reliance on your head instead of your intuition. I had a big problem with this early on my healing. I wanted to think through and reason my way through the healing process, but that is not how it works. So much of healing involves learning how to get back in touch with your intuition, that little voice inside of you that guides you through the healing process. I wanted a step-by-step plan for how to “do this healing thing,” but healing is much more complex than that.

Learning how to listen to your intuition can be a real challenge for child abuse survivors because we were taught not to listen to that voice. Our abusers’ wishes and whims were to override what our intuition was screaming until we finally silenced that voice inside of ourselves. I suspect that this is the reason for your “block.” You are thinking about what you think you should be saying rather than sitting back and releasing what is locked inside.

I recommend that you step away from the free association writing for now and, instead, start doing yoga and meditation. I am not talking about taking a yoga class, which is pretty much just a stretch class. Instead, I am talking about burning a vanilla scented candle in your bedroom (or somewhere else where you feel safe), playing some relaxing music, and doing a few asanas. (I used the book Yoga Made Easy by Howard Kent to learn a few.) Follow that up with meditation.

To meditate, you want to be very relaxed (which is the reason for the yoga, music, and candle). Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight, close your eyes, and silence your inner chatter. Behind that inner chatter is your spirit/intuition.

After you have connected with your intuition, try the free association writing again. I suspect you will find the activity to be much easier, and you will no longer question the truth because your intuition will guide you.

Related Topic:

Positive Coping Tools: Yoga & Meditation

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I always find it interesting to hear that some people do not believe that there is a mind-body connection. To me, it is so obvious. Who suffers from heart attacks? Typically, it is the people with “Type A” personalities – those who are constantly on-the-go and rarely take time to stop and smell the roses. Who suffers from cancer? Typically, it is the “Type C” personalities – those who hold things in. I don’t think it is a coincidence that you can “type” diseases based upon similarities in mental states.

When I read the introduction to the book Safe Passage to Healing, I was shocked to see so many physical similarities between myself and the author. The panic attacks that the author described were eerily similar to my own, and I had never heard one described quite like mine before this.

I was also shocked by the author’s physical profile. She stayed healthy throughout her childhood, just as I did. However, as she moved toward being ready to face her past, she found herself constantly sick, just as I did. Every minor cold turned into bronchitis (or another type of “itis”) that took me weeks to recover from.

Now that I have done the hard work of healing from many of my issues, I have a strong immune system. I rarely get sick any longer, and when I do, I recover within days rather than weeks.

I do not believe that my body just happened to have a strong immune system, then a weak one, and then a strong one again. I believe it was all about the mind-body connection. My body manifested what I was feeling emotionally.

The mind-body connection is what makes yoga such a powerful healing tool. As you focus upon relaxing and calming your body, this calm can carry over to your emotional state as well. In fact, for thousands of years, people have used yoga as a way to calm the mind in preparation for meditation.

As we appreciate the power of the mind-body connection, we open ourselves up to many more healing tools, both physically and emotionally (and some would argue spiritually as well). Love and compassion that we show to one aspect of ourselves has the power to break through the walls in other areas of our lives. It is all interconnected.

Related Topics:

Child Abuse History and Illnesses

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Green Plant (c) Lynda Bernhardt

Yoga and meditation were, and continue to be, very powerful healing tools for me. Now that I have healed the wounds from my childhood, these tools continue to help me grow into a continually more functional and at-peace person. I am talking about these tools together because they really are part of the same process.

In the United States, we have turned yoga into a stretching class, but that is not yoga’s intended purpose. For thousands of years, yoga’s purpose has been to prepare the mind for meditation. So, I do both together – first yoga, immediately followed by meditation.

Yoga is a very spiritual experience when done in the privacy of your own room rather than with a large crowd of people. Yoga helps you focus on being present rather than stuck in the past or fearful of the future. It also teaches you how to quiet your mind – a concept that was foreign to me when I first began these disciplines.

When I first started doing yoga, it almost “hurt” when I finished. I came to realize that the “pain” I was feeling was the release of tension. I had spent most of my life carrying a lot of tension in my shoulders. I truly did not know how it physically felt to relax. Doing yoga helped me to relax my body and, in time, my mind.

Howard Kent’s book, Yoga Made Easy: A Personal Yoga Program That Will Transform Your Daily Life, is a particularly valuable resource for learning the art of yoga as a merging of body, soul, and spirit rather than a series of stretches. It is written for the beginner with no experience in yoga, which is where I was when I started. The book includes lots of pictures and text so you can understand what you are supposed to be doing both physically and mentally.

While Howard Kent’s book also discusses meditation, the best resource I have found is on a blog called The Little Jewel. (If you struggle with religious triggers, skip down to the heading “BASIC MEDITATION TECHNIQUE.”) That blog explains meditation in a very simple way for beginners.

Related Topic:

Positive Coping Tools for Healing from Childhood Abuse

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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