As self awareness grew, my body became my laboratory, a special context within which to stage valuable experiments. Issues I had long struggled with became more and more visible as I developed greater awareness. As I was in earlier days focusing much on knowledge, physics and “logic”, I was highly cognitive, but dissociated from my body. Self inquiry became an important practice for me, integration of mind, body and breath followed each step, which acted as preparation for the step to come.
Challenges with addictions, negative body image, depression, social anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder all became battles on my yoga mat and in my internal realm. Slowly, yoga became a safe haven when I felt emotionally heated, became a place where I could embrace the dark and shine the light into it. I discovered that self awareness and self consciousness are mutually exclusive concepts that cannot exist simultaneously. As I cultivated self awareness, my anxious tendencies towards self consciousness decreased.
Amazingly, following experimentation with chanting and sound healing, I noticed an even more significant drop in physiological anxiety symptoms. It became clear that lengthening my exhalations while taking short inhalations tended to create a physiological state of calm in my body and quickly and effectively slowed down my heart rate.
Yoga, particularly asana, has become the medicine I take to alleviate the physiological symptoms of emotional fluctuations. According to Western psychology, trauma experiences frequently leave residue on our nervous system, manifested habitual tendencies, such as disassociating from the body sensations and avoiding unwanted external sensory experiences. Asana, Pranayama and meditation allowed me to consciously begin to release the issues and unbeneficial patterns stored in the muscles, deep tissues and nerve cells. Plant medicine ceremonies helped me recognize the triggers that set off patterns of emotional pain.
According to Yoga psychology, every experience leaves an impression on the nervous system. These accumulated experiences are known as Samskara. Peter Lavene, a noted psychologist & medical biophysicist, argues that “trauma represents a profound compression of survival energy that has not been able to complete it's meaningful course of action”. I would add that yoga not only is a great method for building awareness of the issues and the body, but also provides a way to release the physiological energy that can be compressed and held within our system due to highly stressful events like childhood abuse, surgery, a car accident, etc.
For me Yoga goes hand-in-hand with other healing modalities, such as bodywork, somatic experiencing, and shamanic and medicine plant work. It has taught me that the human nervous system can be injured just as any muscle, joint or bone can be damaged. Furthermore, Yoga provides a web of interconnected principles that can bring a balance of stability and flexibility to all aspects of the human system.
With self-inquiry came self awareness; with self awareness came the noticing of harmful actions, which gives me the opportunity to shift previous patterns. Slowly, long-standing negative self-harming patterns of thought and behavior shifted, as Yoga allowed my consciousness to be more equally distributed throughout the entire body and no longer exclusively tied to the mind and the neural pathways. As the inherent link between thoughts, words, behaviors, habits and human character itself became revealed to me, further discipline grew.
This all leaves me with the conclusion that focusing all of our energy in the mind is a mistake--we must do the work to integrate the mind in the body, equally distributing our conscious intelligence throughout our being. Yoga has and continues to be my way of traveling this path to reunion of mind and body. I’m urged to start share this gift with everyone, but in particular with those struggling with deep emotional wounds and issues who still in many cases find it hard to find support in their surroundings and medical community.
- Mario Rockstroh (firstname.lastname@example.org)