How can yoga help you through trauma and healing as you journey towards awareness, acceptance, and finally surrender? Yoga teacher Annette Cohen looks at what yoga has brought to her life and how it has helped her on multiple levels.
I came to yoga in 1999 as part of my recovery from a life-changing trauma. I had been left emotionally, spiritually and physically bankrupt. I no longer knew who I was and where I was going but I knew that I needed to recover myself and for that, I needed to know who I was.
The child who loved to stand on her head
When I was a toddler, I used to stand on my head constantly. I liked the view of the world from this angle. I had got involved in gymnastics as I got a bit older, but I was not built for the pressure of the gruelling training, or well equipped for dealing with its competitive nature.
Yoga gave me the capacity to reconnect with that child who loved to stand on her head and nurture her in ways that would be of benefit to her for the rest of her life.
In 2005 I trained to become a Yoga teacher at the Sivananda Ashram in Grass Valley California. That teaching, passed from teacher to student in traditional Ashram setting, has rounded me into a person who can integrate yoga into every aspect of my day. Classical Yoga covers all aspects of yoga, relaxation, pranayama, kriyas, meditation, asanas and diet.
Yoga – a design for living
Yoga means union and today that word has a place in every aspect of my life. The human need for connection/union is so important to health in all areas. Yoga is a design for living, a way to stay connected with my intuitive self while staying in my body and respecting the connection between body and spirit.
When someone has been through a trauma like I have the default is dissociation – to disconnect. Through Sadhana (progressing through discipline to develop the spirit) I grow. I allow my path to unfold. This requires effort as emotions and life can be challenging and to have the courage to walk the spiritual path is no small feat. It requires the aspirant to develop spiritual principles to counteract the fear-driven ego.
Surrender is one of the key spiritual principles to counteract the ego and live a heart centred life. The ego clings to fear and control. Surrender blindsides the ego and allows us to come back to our higher self, that which is connected infinitely to the cosmic flow of energy that runs through all things.
A Perfect Balance
Now I may sound like a hippy throwback when I talk in such ways however Yoga is a spiritual science. The wisdom in its teachings is like a wise educated parent that uses both intellect and intuition. A perfect balance. Isn’t that what we are all after? That perfect balance?
Yoga teaches me that it is through the spiritual principle of ‘acceptance’ that I understand the beauty and necessity of imperfection. We are all born perfectly imbalanced but through yoga, we work with our weakness to bring ourselves into balance.
Hatha yoga is the practice of asanas (postures) Ha (sun) and Tha (moon). Instantly we see the symbolism of light and dark each having its place for us and to strive for the middle space, the balancing point.
Martial art for the soul
Through self-reflection and awareness of our lower nature (darkness) we can bring light to this aspect and transcend the ego. The ego is the platform for us to strive to be better. Without ‘honesty’, another secret weapon in combating ego centred living, we become limited.
Yoga can be likened to a martial art for the soul in that the battle is internal with the ego as its opponent. Our greatest teachers are our adversaries, so the ego is quite possibly our greatest teacher. We can not grow without awareness, acceptance, honesty and then we can surrender.
The art of surrender sounds beautiful, doesn’t it? This is where we can truly understand Yoga as one of the healing arts. We can apply the spiritual principles to every aspect of our lives and see them work to align ourselves to our authentic self.
Who really knows who they are authentically without connection to the energy that flows through us. It is through the connection we have to who we are that our paths are revealed to us, one day at a time, one hour at a time, maybe even one breath at a time.
The Present Moment
This is to live in the present moment, to be free, to not be limited by the confines of our minds. No longer having to worry where we are going or why.
The opposite of fear is faith. Coming into a place of faith for me has required me to live the yoga path for over 20 years.
I haven’t lived a ‘perfect’ yogic life but it has continued to be my journey. Faith has come slowly for me especially when coming from a place of trauma. Trauma resonates fear and has kept propelling me back to yoga.
The Greatest Teacher
I have seen many students over the years and the theme appears to be that some dis-ease has kept them coming back. Their dis-ease is their greatest teacher.
Yoga is my home. I am at home anywhere I can find union. In times of fear or anxiety, I remind myself that life has a plan and I bring myself back home. Home in my body and connected to my spirit. I remind myself that to stay in the present moment is the most useful tool I have.
Through Yoga, I can create a haven inside me. Boundaries that protect my inner peace. A lifestyle that lives in harmony with my body and mind and respects my individuality. I can become my authentic self, Ha (sun) and Tha (moon).
Our place as part of the whole
When we become our authentic selves, we find our place as part of the whole. We reunite with our spirits. We create unity and that reflects out to our external world.
In classical yoga, we work from the inside out. This was how Swami Sivananda taught the path to world peace. To create a peaceful world we need to become peaceful.
This is why I love Sivananda Yoga and why Swami Sivananda is considered a Saint in India.
Yoga is not a religion. It is a path to peace. It is a philosophy for living and a gift to the world.
Annette Cohen is a Yoga, Reiki, Relaxation and Meditation Teacher. She specialises in teaching yoga incorporating her collected 20 years of both training and working in the complementary health sector, including nutrition, life coaching, massage, and Reiki energy healing.
Visit her website here: https://www.annettecohenyogatherapist.co.uk/
And on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/AnnettesYoga