Work, Life, Growth

Lately I’ve been thinking back on the process of healing I’ve been undergoing over the past few years. Although I maintain strong professional boundaries, the borders between what I do for work, what I’m interested in, and what I do for my own personal growth and development are as if drawn in sand. The wind blows and the lines disappear.

Some background

It might be because I got into yoga largely through doing a professional yoga teacher training. I had quit my corporate job and was looking for myself. Long story short, yoga teacher training popped up in the right place at the right time, so I dove into the deep end. My own practice developed concurrently with my teaching practice. I was as invested in exploring yoga for my own benefit as I was in learning how to teach the tools I was practicing.

Learning about trauma

Because I wanted to volunteer teach yoga, once I got my teaching certification I found an organization called Street Yoga that trained trauma-informed teachers to teach yoga to under-privileged youth populations. This was yoga for young people living on the streets, in rehab facilities, and in group homes. I’ve always been interested in psychology, and the trauma aspect of this training was particularly fascinating. I’m intrigued. Tell me more about trauma. What is it? How does it affect people? How can we support people with trauma and can it be healed?

Learning about me

I don’t know if you’ve ever read psychology, but I think it’s a common reaction to start diagnosing yourself with almost everything you read about. At least for the naïve beginner. At least it happened to me. Most of my suspicions fell by the wayside. No, I really don’t have hidden multiple personalities even though I modify my behavior in different social situations. No, I’m not clinically depressed even though I’m quite familiar with the blues. But anxiety and trauma, these kept unfolding for me. The more I learned about them, the more I realized I might actually have some of both. Not only was I teaching trauma-informed yoga and practices that reduced stress, I was drawn to keep learning more about these things for myself. It’s been eight years and I’m still studying, practicing, teaching (and in my own therapy for) this stuff. It’s still unfolding. My work, my interests, and my own personal development. The thread runs through it.

What I know now

With all this time and experience, there’s some things I can say. Through my own professional development and personal experience coming face to face with the reality of my lifelong anxiety and trauma-reactive body and brain, I know for a fact that there are many simple tools that can help manage and soothe feelings of overwhelm and discomfort so that life is bearable more of the time. Living a bearable life is worlds’ better than living an unbearable one, but it might not feel like enough.
I know something else for fact. Your body and brain change constantly and are made to change to support what you do consistently, so you can do it with less effort. Your body and brain have the capacity to experience your life differently. Not without the vestiges of sensation, processing, and memory that have comprised your life until now. Not in a way that doesn’t include what has already passed. Barring brain damage (as with stroke, traumatic injury, or dementia), we retain impressions of our past patterns that can dim but don’t disappear.

Even so, with consistency it is absolutely possible to strengthen neural pathways that reduce cascades of anxiety. Pathways that automatically feed out thoughts that acknowledge present challenge and remind you of your fortitude and to take a deep breath. These changes start effortful and, with practice and support, become deeply engrained. It is possible to have a mental choice. It is possible to disregard the old familiar thought and choose the one that helps you feel the way you prefer to feel.

Change is 100% possible

I am convinced that when a person commits to the process of healing and organizes their support system around themselves, they will, over the years, find the various mixes of practice, medicine, nutrition, and tools that make life progressively more tolerable, authentic, and personally meaningful. There is no one-size-fits-all or one-size-fits-me-forever, but there are plenty of resources and people out there researching, discovering, guiding and teaching us how to use those resources for ourselves. 


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