Daring Greatly because Black Lives Matter

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Talk & Discussion with Jen-Mitsuke Peters, MA
Saturday, June 13, 2020
8am–L.A.  9am–DENVER!  11am–N.Y.C.

REGISTRATION REQUIRED–
Recording available for 24 hours if you can’t make it live!

Investment: Optional Donation to the organization you feel is doing the most now for the BIPOC community

In this 75-90-minute gathering, Jen will give a brief talk on Brene Brown’s book “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead” and share some initial thoughts on how vulnerability can be practiced on the mat.  We will then expand on these ideas in the group.

No preparation is required, however, you might like to read the book or check out Brene’s Netflix special “Call to Courage.”  You might like to contemplate times in your life where vulnerability opened you up for special connection and action that you didn’t feel was possible for you ever before.

This will be a space where participants are invited to be as vulnerable as feels right for them.  This will be a space where we don’t have to show up having all the answers, being perfect, or expecting to say all the right things.  This will be a space for growth and inspiration so that we can each cultivate the courage to find the depths of our personhood.  From such a place the most skillful action arises.

If you would like to delve much deeper into this material in June, my new course Home Practice BLAST-OFF! will go into great detail about the nervous system, yoga technique, and how the practice can help us tune up and stay regulated to be our best self in this time of global crisis and opportunity. The course starts Tuesday, June 9th, and early bird ends Monday at noon.

Prana, Chitta & the Body-Mind Connection

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In this video, I talk about the direct relationship of prana (~inner breath) to chitta (~mind), and how the Ashtanga Vinyasa path is so often considered in terms of the Patanjali Raja Yoga definition chitta vritti nirodah (yoga is the suspension of the fluctuations of the mind). However, in an embodied asana practice, we must also be aware of the Hatha Yoga definition prana vritti nirodah (yoga is the suspension of the inner breath), leading to pretty much the same result.  

It then becomes obvious how knowing more about the nervous system and basic physiology becomes imperative for a healthy practice. If we are disrupting the energy systems (and thereby all bodily systems) through improper breathing, injurious alignment and unexamined negative attitudes, we cannot hope to purify either the body or the mind, and can in fact disrupt both of them, since they are never separate from each other.

We see how this law of nature is used by trauma therapists (nervous system technicians, much like yogis) expressed as “story follows state.” This means that our physiological state determines the kinds of thoughts that are possible for us at any given moment to a very large degree. This gives us a new kind of respect for our embodied experience and allows us to fine-tune and deepen our practice to be far more beneficial in our own lives and in relation to all other beings to whom we are intimately connected. 

Tomorrow I’ll be launching a new set of courses leading up to online retreats and a teacher training where we investigate such themes deeply in both theory and practice! Stay tuned… 🙂

Creative BUST-OUT starts Thursday!

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Now, more than ever, we need to carve out time, structure and communities to tap into greater ways of knowing, feeling and loving!

Our new 4-week course starts Thursday, April 16th and runs through Friday, May 15th. Jiyu and I will be sharing our favorite practices with you each weekday morning. We will chant, invoke healing, guidance, protection and inspiration, engage in shamanic journeying, spend some time expressing ourselves creatively, as well as learn and practice nervous-system savvy techniques to remain adaptable during this critical period in history. You will also have opportunity to share with each other in our online group. These practices leave me feeling connected, capable and energized, and I hope you will also benefit from them. 🙂

Early bird continues through tomorrow 6pm Denver time! Live sessions take place on Zoom 7:50-8:50am, but if that doesn’t work for your schedule, the video will remain available until the next one is posted. More details and registration here!

Discounted Online Sessions thru May 2020

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Hi Friends, hope you and your loved ones are safe and well in these turbulent times! We have gone 100% online for now and are thrilled to be offering discounted private or corporate sessions this April. Keep an eye out for us also on our social media. We are currently dreaming up some live events and classes. Can’t wait to see our friends from all over the world 🙂

I absolutely love giving private sessions! Our first exclusively online week felt so rewarding, and I got to work with folks from around the globe. I offer neuroscience-enriched, mindfulness-based and trauma-informed yogacoaching and counseling for healing and thriving. I have extended a deal through March 31st on a package of 3 individualized sessions (50-min each) for $325 to be used by May 1st. You can mix and match topics or delve deeper into a single theme that interests you.  Although in our culture group classes and self-help has dominated, there is no substitute for one-on-one relationship focused on what matters most to you now. Our ability to stay centered and to adapt will have a powerful impact on how we show up for ourselves and others during this difficult period. Read more about me here, and contact me to schedule!

New Year’s Early Bird Sale Ends Soon!

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Registration and Early Bird Open for the following programs (additional savings for January Soulful Morning Sadhana Members):  4-session TIAVY CourseBandha Workshop15-hour TIAVY (trauma informed Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga) training5-day Advanced TIAVY Intensive3-day TIAVY Adjustment Clinic. Applications for my 200-hour TIAVY Teacher Training are now being accepted as well and I extended the Early Bird for that also until January 8th! Each training is limited to 12 people. Click links for more infos and registration!

Wind down 2019 with a refreshing deep dive: Omen Days Retreat

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Registration is now open! Only 10 spots available. Early bird pricing through November 4th 🙂

Anybody looking for a refreshing and deep-diving alternative to the holiday madness?  Come and join our Omen Days Retreat!  We will tap into silence and listen to our bodies and souls through a variety of powerful methods:  TIAVY (Trauma Informed Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga), meditation, shamanic journeying, expressive/creative arts and movement, chanting, group process and divination…  Prepare to enter 2020 rejuvenated, with a sense of clarity, purpose and readiness.

This retreat will take place at our home studio in Denver at the end of the year during the Omen Days from the Winter Solstice through the beginning of the New Year (December 20, 2019-January 1, 2020), a time considered by many cultures to be especially potent for doing inner work and setting the tone for the year to come. If you find you cannot join us for the entire time, a daily option will be opened after the Early Bird registration period is over. 

There will be free time each afternoon for nature walks led by Jiyu, drawing and journaling, doing restoratives using our extensive prop collection, and optional add-ons like IR sauna sessions. You may also choose to add on a juicing and/or V-GF organic kitchari cleanse package for turbo detox and renewal. 

The bulk of the retreat will be held in noble silence. For our purposes this means allowing ourselves to get away from talking about our usual concerns and identities and speaking only when necessary or when encouraged during group practices. (To whatever degree possible, you are invited to take a break from electronic communications as well, such a relief!) Through guided group and partner activities we will create space to feel seen, heard, held and thoroughly appreciated for the star beings we truly are.

New Year’s Eve will be an even bigger celebration than every other night  and additional members of the community may join in. We will have a healthy & delicious V-GF potluck, dancing, kirtan/sing-along, puja to bring our intentions for the new year into consciousness, and finally we will sit or move in silence for the last hour of 2019. At midnight, we will salute the new year with 108 repetitions of the mantra LOKAH SAMASTAH SUKHINO BHAVANTU (may all beings be happy) and have a brief toast with tea, snacks etc. before retiring so as to be fresh for 7am ceremony on New Year’s Day!!!

Jen-Mitsuke will be leading all of the activities and also practicing and retreating along with you. She will teach TIAVY self-practice on Sundays as well as Christmas Day and New Year’s Day during this period (4x), practicing yoga right beside you on other days. You must therefore be familiar with “Mysore-style” classes and be confident in your own practice, as group yoga instruction will not be offered. (Seasoned practitioners in other lineages are also welcomed. Just let me know where you’re coming from and we can decide whether it’s a good match.) Shamanic journeying, expressive practices and group processes will be thoroughly explained, so no prior experience with those is needed. Please contact Jen with any questions or concerns.

Locals may commute daily, and for those from out of town, we may be able to offer you a couple of competitively-priced options for staying here with us. These accommodations afford varying degrees of privacy and comfort, and all involve a shared bathroom. Please inquire if interested.

Additional Details Here! 🙂

Soulful Morning Sadhana 6-10am Daily in November!

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PLEASE NOTE: We have expanded our schedule this month so as to accommodate asana from 6:25-10:00am (details below)! We have also added a new 5-class Punch Card. You must pre-register to join…

Got Yoga? Sauna? Ceremony? Creativity? We do! Start each day the Jen-Mitsuke and Jiyu way! 😉 We invite you to join us each and every day in November for Soulful Morning Sadhana at our extremely well-appointed and pleasant home studio in Denver. We encourage you to undertake a diverse and individually-appropriate practice that helps to ground you and serve that which is most meaningful to you in life.

Schedule:

  • 5:55am–Doors Open
  • 6:00am–Meditation & Puja / Ceremony
  • 6:25am–Creative Free-Time (or Asana if necessary)
  • 7:15am–Ashtanga Vinyasa Invocations
  • 9:45am–Group Savasana & Closing Chant
  • 10:00am–Tea with Friends
  • 10:15am–Bring Your Best Self Out Into the World!

Description:

Feel free to include kriya, pranayama, meditation, strengthening exercises, preps with props and restoratives in your Trauma Informed Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga routines! We have a plethora of specialized equipment for your enjoyment and encourage a non-competitive, relaxed, loving and therapeutic attitude. Need help tailoring your personal practice or incorporating additional creative or healing elements? Set up a private session with Jen!

Creative Hour (6-7am) will consist of a brief neuroplasticity-stimulating meditation for happiness and resilience followed by puja, chanting and drumming/rattling led by Jen. You will then have about 35 minutes (or more if you are not in a hurry to begin yoga) to engage in personal journaling, dream analysis, divination, artwork, and/or movement exploration as you see fit.

We have a variety of animal, tarot and archetype card decks as well as very simple crayons, pencils, markers and play-doh, but you may also wish to bring your own tools for enticing Psyche to share her rich gifts. (For example, Jen loves to write stream-of-consciousness, practice Authentic Movement, play with rocks, do Active Imagination with items from Nature, draw on her iPad and cut up magazines, etc… If you aren’t yet convinced, don’t worry, inspiration will come!)

You may attend whatever times work for you, but in order to retain a sacred and restful atmosphere, please refrain from arriving or departing during ceremony or group savasana (6:00-6:25am or 9:45-10:00am). You are welcome to do creative work during yoga time or yoga during creative free time if your schedule does not permit staying the full morning. 45-minute IR sauna sessions can usually be booked (at least 24 hours in advance) as early as 5:30am and finishing as late as 10:45am.

Because we are looking to foster a sense of regularity and support in community we are not able to offer drop-ins. We offer monthly memberships or multi-packs expiring the month of issue. Our friends from out of town or locals looking for a retreat may purchase week-long memberships on a space-available basis. We will be a group of 10 or less.

Please note, PRACTICE WILL END EARLY (at 7:30am) on the following days due to Jen’s shamanic training: Thursday 11/07, Saturday 11/09, Sunday 11/10, Thursday 11/14, Thursday 11/21, and Wednesday 11/27. We will have a full practice on Thanksgiving! We celebrate moon days by practicing 😉

Jen will lead the chanting, puja, drumming/rattling & meditation each day. Additionally, she will teach TIAVY self-practice from 8:00-10:00am on Sundays (November 3, 17 and 24). At other times Jiyu is there to supervise as Jen practices beside you. Contact Jen with questions!

Investment:

  • November Unlimited (includes 2 IR sauna sessions) — $180
  • 15-day Punch Card (expires end of November 2019) — $150
  • 10-day Punch Card (expires end of November 2019) — $120
  • 5-day Punch Card (expires end of November 2019) — $90
  • 1-week Retreat Card (space permitting) — $80
  • 5-pack IR sauna 45-min Session (use in November 2019) — $75
  • Single IR sauna 45-min Session — $20

Click here for additional details and registration!

Daily Morning Sadhana in October

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Got Yoga? Sauna? Ceremony? Creativity? We do! Start each day the Jen-Mitsuke & Jiyu way!

We invite you to join us 7 days per week during the month of October for morning sadhana at our extremely well-appointed and pleasant home studio in Denver. We encourage you to undertake a diverse and individually-appropriate practice that helps to ground you and serve that which is most meaningful to you in life.

Feel free to include kriya, pranayama, meditation, strengthening exercises and restoratives in your yoga routines! We have a plethora of specialized equipment for your enjoyment. You are also welcome to do creative work during that time if your schedule does not permit staying the full morning. Need help tailoring your personal practice or incorporating additional creative or healing elements? Set up a private session with Jen.

Creative Hour will consist of puja, chanting and drumming/rattling followed by 40 minutes to spend as you choose for personal journaling, dream analysis, artwork, movement exploration, etc., and ending with a neuroplasticity-stimulating meditation for happiness and resilience.

You may attend whatever times work for you, but please refrain from arriving or departing during group savasana, ceremony or meditation times (8:30-8:45, 9:00-9:15, 9:55-10:00). 45-minute IR sauna sessions can be booked (at least 24 hours in advance) as early as 5:30am and finishing as late as 10:45am.

We are looking to foster a sense of regularity and support in community, so we only offer monthly subscriptions. Our friends from out of town or locals looking for a retreat may purchase 7-day memberships on a space-available basis. We will be a group of 10 or less.

Please note, there will be no practice on October 25, 26 and 27th (Friday-Sunday) as Jen will be traveling for her PhD studies. Otherwise, Jen leads the daily chanting, puja, drumming/rattling & meditation. Additionally, she will teach TIAVY self-practice from 6:30-8:45am on Wednesdays and Sundays. At other times Jiyu is there to supervise as Jen practices alongside you. 🙂

Schedule:

  • 6:00am–Doors Open
  • 6:30am–Ashtanga Vinyasa Invocations
  • 8:30am–Group Savasana & Closing Chant
  • 8:45am–Tea & Satsang
  • 9:00am–Puja & Ceremony
  • 9:15am–Creative Free-Time
  • 9:55am–Closing Meditation
  • 10:00am–Bring Your Best Self Out Into the World!

Investment:

  • October Unlimited (includes 2 IR sauna sessions) — $180
  • 15-day Punch Card (expires end of October 2019) — $150
  • 10-day Punch Card (expires end of October 2019) — $120
  • 7-consecutive-day Punch Card (sign up for October dates) — $80
  • 5-pack IR sauna 45-min Session — $75
  • Single IR sauna 45-min Session — $20

Click here for additional details and registration!

Jen-Mitsuke is headed Back-to-School!

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Congratulate me!  😉  Jiyu is toasting to my future as a PhD student (yet again!) at Pacifica Graduate Institute in California.  I will be studying Depth Psychology with a concentration in Integrative Therapies and Healing Practices.  

In working on the curriculum for my TIAVY (trauma informed ashtanga vinyasa yoga) teacher training this past summer, I realized just how committed I am to spreading the word about trauma and how we all need to whittle away at our own ever-replenishing load!  It became clear to me that I wanted to integrate some shamanic and expressive modalities into the yoga and psychotherapeutic-neuroplasticity framework I have been developing over the past 6 years, so this program seems to be right up my very interdisciplinary alley!  

I’m hoping to meet a lot of inspiring colleagues from various healing professions and learn a lot.  The first time around (2000-2004 at Princeton University studying neuroscience), I wasn’t far enough along on my own path to feel confident of making my own contribution to the field.  It was fascinating, but it seemed like I was just doing more of what my predecessors did and not likely to make a lasting difference in peoples’ lives.  I was still meandering towards my deeper purpose. 

My own illness, subsequent contemplative trainings and counseling degree have added to my way of understanding the healing process, with all of its universals and particulars.

I hope to stand with myself and others on their healing journeys and expand my ability to tap in to Spirit, the unconscious, conscious relationship, and eastern and western techniques for nervous system regulation in my sessions and workshops.  I increasingly hope to attract students and clients looking to make a profound investment in their intrinsic intuitive, relational and creative abilities.  

I will be traveling to CA monthly but remaining in Denver at other times so stay tuned for upcoming offerings!  And please sign up for my blog and email list if you have not done so already 😉 

Getting Practical About Ending Suffering

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“Trauma is the most avoided, ignored, belittled, denied, misunderstood and untreated cause of human suffering.  When I use the word “trauma,” I’m talking here about the often debilitating symptoms many people suffer in the aftermath of overwhelming experiences…  The field of psychiatric medicine has chosen to view most of the long-term effects of trauma as an incurable disease…  I believe that trauma is not only curable, but that the healing process can be a catalyst for profound awakening, a portal, a door, an opening to emotional and real spiritual transformation. 

Though it is a fact of life, and it is, trauma does not have to be a life sentence.  I have little doubt that as individuals, friends, partners, families, communities and even nations, that we have the capacity to learn how to heal and prevent much of the damage done by trauma, and in doing so we will be able to significantly increase our ability to achieve both our individual and collective dreams.” — Peter Levine in Healing Trauma: Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body 

If what Peter Levine says is true (and most trauma experts agree whole-heartedly), then perhaps all of us interested in the cessation of suffering might perk up our ears. As we will review below, ending suffering is the whole point of the 8-fold Buddhist path as well as the path of Ashtanga Yoga laid out by Patanjali. Sometimes, however, I get the feeling that we are so enthralled by tantra and transcendence, promises of love, light & levitation, or at least getting the leg behind the head, that we fail to understand that most of us have not constructed the most minimal foundations for eliminating the grossest forms of suffering in our lives.

How then, would we expect our efforts on the cushion or mat to be effective? As Peter notes, we greatly underestimate the impact of trauma and its insidious effects on our nervous systems. If we continue to leave these effects untreated, the value of our more subtle work will be lessened, or in fact, we may exacerbate certain kinds of imbalances and form unhealthy relationships that cause us to suffer more rather than less.

If we are honest, we see that many efforts are in fact not working that well, as some of the most “practiced” and “accomplished” teachers and students continue to propagate extreme suffering amongst themselves and others. Granted, these paths are generally thought to work little by little over countless lifetimes, and numerous stories glorify the brutality of certain gurus as catalyzing an enlightenment we aren’t even able to imagine, but nonetheless, what qualities do we really want to manifest in our own lives, and are our practices actually helping us become who we want to be in the world? Are we interacting with people whose qualities we would want to emulate or gawking over people who inspire a sense of other-worldly awe that bears little relevance to our embodied situation?

For those of you who fancy yourselves to be advanced tantric practitioners for whom this world no longer matters in all of its illusoriness and impermanence, you can continue to do your visualizations and just ignore this post. The work I’m talking about is for the rest of us, granted yes, those of us who are able to do the hardest-ever practice of admitting honestly that we are perhaps at an earlier stage on the path, or at least temporarily having to deal with circumstances that require attention outside of our traditional sadhana.

When I hear teachers I consider truly great, they seem to hold all life in high regard and have a keenly developed sense of wisdom and compassion, so I wonder whether some others are missing a certain necessary foundation. There is no use doing advanced practices when you are fundamentally unprepared. Would you put a spire into thin air without the rest of the building? Well you could, but results would be predictably disappointing…

I would like to briefly summarize my own personal story about healing from trauma, but first, let’s just start by reminding ourselves that our starting point is suffering! That is what these practices we are doing purport to alleviate. Almost sounds like a buzz kill… It’s less glamorous than a tight yoga butt or superpower. But actually, there’s a lot of magic in it, and starting where we are doesn’t mean we can’t touch into the mystical. In fact, we have a greater chance to do that when we can be real about our true biological needs and get them met.

In the Four Truths of the Nobles (commentary by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, the Buddha suggests that:

1) Suffering comes along with taking birth: “The obvious aspect of suffering is immediate pain or difficulty in the moment. Subtle suffering is more difficult to recognize because it begins with happiness. But by its very nature this happiness must change because it can’t go on forever.” (I often feel relieved to work with my psychotherapy clients rather than yoga students, because at least they understand the first Noble Truth and are actually looking for ways out.)

2) Suffering has a cause: “The truth of interdependent origination is that if we do unvirtuous actions, we are creating suffering.” (Even if we were to genuinely believe that a certain master’s apparently abusive behavior is intentional and meant for our spiritual development and even if we took something exceedingly valuable from our own experience with such a teacher, there is still no excuse for other students and teachers to perpetuate abuse as happens every single day whether subtle or gross. If that “guru” is truly beyond generating karma, that is exceedingly rare and the rest of us had better be very careful about the seeds we sew at every moment, because there is no way they will fail to come back at us sooner or later.)

3) The cause can be uprooted: “If we abandon unvirtuous actions, we remove the possibility of experiencing suffering in the future… Therefore the Buddha has said that we should give up the causes of karma and the disturbing emotions.” (If you are practicing with a teacher who greatly disturbs your emotions due to gaslighting or other means, it is time to consider whether you are developing “equanimity” and “taming your ego” by trying to ignore your feelings and suppress your gut reactions, or causing yourself a slow trauma train wreck that will surface at some point of stress down the road.)

4) We have methods (the 8-fold path) at our disposal to end future suffering: “correct meditation, correct mindfulness, correct intention, right view, correct speech, correct action, correct livelihood and correct effort.” (I would simply like to add that the Buddha grew up pampered in a palace. If your upbringing was a little different, you might need to do some preparatory work to get to the point where you are able to jump in to these limbs in a meaningful way.)

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Chip Hartranft edition) echo these 4 truths as follows:

II-15) Everything is suffering: “The wise see suffering in all experience, whether from the anguish of impermanence or from latent impressions laden with suffering or from incessant conflict as the fundamental qualities of nature vie for ascendancy.”

II-17) Suffering has a cause: “The preventable cause of all this suffering is the apparent indivisibility of pure awareness and what it regards.”

II-16) Suffering can be ended: “But suffering that has not yet arisen can be prevented.”

II-29) The 8-limbed (Ashtanga) Path is our method for ending suffering through the development of discriminative awareness (quite different than blind faith): “The eight components of yoga are external discipline, internal discipline, posture, breath regulation, concentration, meditative absorption, and integration.”

Having seen the 4 truths spelled out by Buddha and Patanjali, we can see that Peter has laid out something similar with specific reference to trauma. 1) He calls trauma a fact of life. 2) He implies that the cause (which lies in the nervous system rather than in an external event) is becoming increasingly well-understood. 3) He and others have seen thousands of people heal and blossom from the 4) methods that are currently being developed and refined. So there is hope, even if you have felt like a hopeless case for any number of reasons or started to wonder whether all of your efforts may be futile.

Thrangu Rinpoche in the same exposition I quoted from talks about the necessity of eliminating the grosser obstacles on the path before focusing on the finer details. Patanjali also notes the obstacles to yoga and some suggestions for getting them out of the way, but I believe many of us need more help, help that often gets poo-pooed in spiritual circles.

It’s time for a brief personal anecdote. After twice moving across the world for my yoga teachers and making every effort to practice diligently and well-roundedly over a period of the past 16 years, one of them asked me why my practice wasn’t working (since the “happiness” that he claimed comes as a natural result of the practice wasn’t manifesting in me. In fact, I was severely chronically ill, angry, pathologically depressed, and generally incapable of doing much of anything other than my practice and some minimal teaching). I really wondered why myself, since I believed what I was being fed, something not quite as simplistic but nonetheless along the lines of “Practice and all is coming!”

Well, long story short, having now trained in counseling and specializing in trauma for the past few years and having done quite a bit of shamanic and psychotherapeutic work in addition to my yoga practice in a healing vein, I am now feeling better. The yoga in the form I was engaging would not have sufficed. I would have continued to suffer tremendously (like mega-high-amplitude) and become all the more ill. I would have inadvertently continued to be isolated from the rest of humanity, which would have made all of my afflictions worse.

Know what? I had no idea that I had trauma. I considered myself very fortunate in the grand scheme of things, but lo and behold it turns out my nervous system had perceived a high level of threat for a long time and felt very, very traumatized. (Many people cannot point to a single event or set of aversive circumstances and therefore ignore the possibility that there is trauma stuck in their bodies and attribute their pains to other causes. In fact, as I myself found out AFTER graduating from counseling school and writing my capstone on trauma, my own memory and perception of certain events had been skewed and obscured in a way that makes trauma very slippery to pinpoint for many and very easy to deny in those of us who actually want to take control of our own lives and not sit around feeling fragile and sorry for ourselves).

The idea that our salvation is in our own hands and that we need to walk our own path and the teacher cannot walk it for us is quite unfortunate, as it feeds into our modern pathological individualism, incessant self-blame and pressure towards self-improvement, and desperate need to heal in order to even survive in a hostile economy. While ultimately true and liberating, a greater recognition that the teacher or our community or others around us could walk the path WITH us is direly needed. Indeed, these paths were developed with the expectation that seekers would have intact nervous systems and deep trusting relationships with truly accomplished teachers, conditions that are rarely met in the yoga world today, though I do not exclude the possibility that it could happen, or even deny that there have been times (for which I am inexpressibly grateful) when I have experienced it myself.

While we can dissolve many kinds of samskara/conditioning with pure awareness (if we are in a state where we are able to cultivate that), traumatic conditioning seems to be a special case. When we have been traumatized in relationship to others, we often need others to help us to repair ourselves. This is not a pathetic failure to practice correctly. This is the truth of interdependence, something a lot of spiritual teachers like to give lip service to but seem not to comprehend when they leave us hanging with a bunch of practices to do as if that is all we should need.

That is not all we need. Interpersonal neuroscience demonstrates that our nervous systems need others to co-regulate with in order to develop properly and that even under optimal developmental conditions, various forms of trauma can disrupt these systems to a point beyond what we can fix by a little bit (or a lot) of breathing or posing by ourselves or even with our million Instagram followers. 😉 We are all being bombarded through media with the suffering of an entire world teetering on the brink of disaster. Even when we feel we are on a conscious level cool as a cucumber, there may be parts of us that desperately need reassurance through mindful contact with others.

Hence, all the hype these days about self-regulation, be it in the yoga or therapy realm is really a lot of hooey if you are speaking to somebody with any degree of trauma load, which turns out to be quite a majority given that oppression can cause trauma, not just shell shock, and that trauma is now believed to underly a great majority of mental and physical symptoms and disorders, not to mention how we all have various forms of ancestral trauma that we can see in our genes as well as behaviors… In other words, if you have any kind of problem, consider trauma as a possible underlying factor and investigate whether you are suffering needlessly from it.

There is nothing heroic about suffering, whether it’s torturing yourself with an inadequate or inappropriate yoga practice, mild insomnia or something that seems far more grave. If you can just get rid of it, go ahead. If I had only known sooner, I would have had a very different life. (No regrets per se, like Peter says, it has opened my eyes to worlds I am so grateful to know, but then again, maybe the cost would not have had to have been quite so high… I also do not mean to say that it will be a quick fix. It has taken an extreme investment in my case and is still a work in progress, but some additional relief has come at every stage of intervention.)

So maybe you’re young and fit, love your yoga teacher and are enjoying your life. That is wonderful and please don’t think there is anything wrong with that either. However, if there comes a point where any of this shifts, and you find that what has worked in the past no longer serves you, that is when I hope you will remember that other kinds of help are available.

I do not mean to knock the methods and profound philosophical roots of yoga, which I do trust from my own experience as being extremely powerful under the right circumstances. I still practice and teach them with conviction, but not with the naivety I once did. I have started to see that so many of us need some supplemental work at some point or another.

I felt sooo much shame on my own path, wondering why I needed extra help when I pretty much collapsed after working so hard for so long and gaining so much training and apparent competence. In the end the mantras did less for me than a hug from a person who truly cared for me as a person.

There should be no shame in getting the help you need, and my hope in writing and teaching about trauma is to get the word out so that more people will understand how it is affecting us all, and how we can more skillfully and compassionately work through it and move on to the more subtle suffering that at least at first masquerades as happiness LOL! 😉

To stay up to date with my writings, TIAVY (trauma-informed Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga teacher trainings, private consultations and more, please subscribe to my blog.