The effects of trauma on the body 

As discussed in a prior post, unhealed samskaras can create energetic blockages in the body which can have physical manifestations.

Several years ago after a particularly traumatizing period, I experienced night terrors which lasted for months. At the time, I felt like I must have been imagining it but I recently connected with someone else who shared with me the same story. Eventually the night terrors stopped and I returned to a normal sleeping pattern but for a while, I felt that there was a presence keeping me from being at peace. I now realize that though it was energetic in origin, it held such a strong force in my mind that it was actually able to emerge in the physical realm. While it can be easy to assume that these traumatic events only affect our psyche (which is bad enough!), there is much evidence other than the anecdotal to suggest that PTSD does linger in the physical body long after our conscious mind has moved on. 

I believe the subconscious keeps record of these events, which is why some people experience physical manifestations of them. It’s clear we need to find release, not only so that we can get some rest, but also so that it doesn’t go on to have adverse effects on the functioning of our organs and long term health. I’ve seen yoga asana suggested as one of the best ways to overcome trauma, which I obviously believe to be true but I also think this is where some of the less talked about yoga practices can maybe have an even more profound impact. Pranayama, or breathwork, literally translated as expansion (or contraction, depending on how you use it) of life force energy has been proven to take a person out of the fight/flight/freeze trauma response by activating the parasympathetic nervous system and bringing the body back to homeostasis. It’s important to realize that pranayama can also be very energizing and when healing from trauma, please research which types of breathwork are calming rather than activating before you begin a practice. Another very important daily practice in my life has been meditation. When healing from PTSD, it can be extremely difficult (if not impossible) to calm the mind so please start slow and be gentle with yourself if you cannot sit still for more than a few minutes. If you would like to get started with a meditation practice, please see my video on How to Meditate for Beginners. Finally, another practice I would suggest for releasing samskaras would be what we call svadhyaya or self-study, getting more in touch with your own needs and always prioritizing self care: which may mean doing some additional reading and beginning a quest for your individual spiritual path, finding groups of others who’ve had a similar experience, and of course finding a mental health professional if necessary. The importance of community cannot be emphasized enough when it comes to the healing process. At the time of my experience, I had no idea others had also gone through what I went through and wish that I had found connection through identification instead of burying it in the hopes it would go away.

You may find other practices not listed above that can aid in your healing. Do your research and find what works for you. There is also bhakti, devotion, finding your relationship with God (or a Higher Power if you prefer) that has been immensely transformative in my life. 

Releasing samskaras is a lifetime matter. It will be a practice that will ebb and flow. It’s important to remember that progress does not always happen on a linear upward trajectory because we are humans moving through this world which is constantly shifting and changing. Consequently, we are always altering our course based on how the path is currently presented in front of us. Remain present for what life brings to you but go gentle on yourself and take the time to pause for reflection before taking action if necessary. The most rewarding part will be finding ways to help others once you have healed. That’s where you will find the most growth and liberation from your ego mind because you realize we are all connected on a deeper level on this journey. Transcending your pain will become a secondary motive as you find your dharma in assisting others to overcome theirs. 

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