Healing Trauma with Nature

Healing Trauma with Nature

Many of us have struggled with traumatic stress since the pandemic arrived in 2020 and even before that with our increasingly screen based, sedentary lives, so unnatural to our systems. I, myself, even though I had an over two decade long yoga practice found that I was often at capacity for what my nervous system could handle. 

It was the incorporation of mindful nature immersion that allowed and continues to allow my body to regulate and thrive.

As a start, you can spend more time in nature, by moving your coffee break, a phone call, or any regular activity to the outside. 

Learning how to be with and communicate with nature goes further and is a practice. It’s not just getting outside, but being there, in nature with purpose and practices which open you up to all the benefits it can offer. 

On nature immersion yoga retreats, students are guided through awakening their senses and reconnecting with the earth. Talks and meditations which call us into the elements and heighten the experience of nature so it’s as technicolor as any screen out there and more so. We hold space and allow for the release of stress and calibration we all desire. You will find your sleep is deeper allowing for the healing your body desires. 

The next retreat of this nature is this summer. You can check out the details here

Healing Trauma with Nature - Thimo resting under a tree
How to apologize

How to apologize

One of the things we have to start learning as yoga teachers, trauma informed yoga teachers, and humans is that we don’t know everything. Specifically, we can’t know another’s experience, which means we have to trust them when they tell us how they feel. 

If you are a yoga teacher and especially a trauma informed yoga teacher and a student tells you that something you did offended them it’s important to hear that and repair that even if it was not your intention to do harm.

There are many factors which cause us to explain away, dismiss, and take way too personally feedback from others. For me, it has always been my perfectionism that got in the way. Releasing that need and knowing that it is impossible to get things right all the time has allowed me to become more vulnerable and available to hear when I’ve harmed someone and get invested in how I can make it right. I don’t take it to mean I’m a bad person. I don’t take it to mean anything about me. I immediately look to how I can make things better for them.

Recently I had the opportunity to be on the other side. I was hurt by a friend who made reference to a murderer of my ancestors in a positive way. The incident made me red hot inside and a great wave came up through my body urging me to walk away. Because I’m familiar with my body’s stress response reactions, I was able to feel those sensations and hold enough space for them that I could stay. My ability to remain in the room allowed me to receive the support from other friends who surrounded me and to be present for my embarrassed friend’s apology.

It is not always the case that we should stay when our body is screaming “leave”. Sometimes getting out of a potentially dangerous situation is the absolute right move. I happened to be safe enough and have enough capacity to stay.

How to apologize… If you cause harm, here’s what you can do:

1. Listen carefully and hear what the harmed person is sharing with you. They are giving you an opportunity to understand something you may not have known about.
2. Make sure you get what they are saying. If you don’t, you may want to reflect on and educate yourself on what mistake you have made. Do not ask them to do that for you.
3. Apologize specifically for what you have done and without any excuses.
4. Commit to what you can do to repair the relationship and avoid the same mistake going forward.

Number 5 can be tricky…

5. Be open to the possibility that your apology may not be accepted. 

Part of getting over our perfectionism is getting that that not everything gets resolved or gets forgiven and forgotten in our timeline. A true apology expects nothing in return. As hard as it is, we may need to be okay with open endings.

 

Practice working with feelings of being harmed with this meditation.

Quieting Your Inner Critic

Quieting Your Inner Critic

Your inner critic does not have to win.

I can say that with confidence because mine was the worst. My insecurities got in my way big time. They stopped me from trying things. They caused me to second guess myself. And they but strain on my relationships. 

But they don’t anymore! 

If you have experienced trauma or high levels of stress, it is likely your inner critic is very loud. It can arise in thoughts that say, “You’ll never be good enough,” “You’re so lazy,” “You always self sabotage.” Your inner critic can even look like self improvement or self help. It may say things like “ You shouldn’t let your perfectionism get in the way,” which on first glance may seem helpful but is actually criticizing the part of you that wants to do well.

Sometimes the inner critic does not make itself known in thoughts but shows up in defeatist body language and bodily pain. Other times we may try to get ahead of it by defending ourselves before anyone has attacked us. We accuse folks of thinking a way of us that we are really projecting from the inside.

The most common misconceptions are that talking your inner critic out of its opinion will stop it or that we need a loud inner critic or we wouldn’t get things done.

Our inner critic has a role and that is to protect us. 

The harm comes when we don’t give it its voice fully and in proportion with the other parts of us which want to take risks with our feelings and expressions. All these messages our body gives us are important and desire to be heard. It’s not about having a discussion between them and making some executive decision. It’s about giving each their time to express their needs.

The first step to quieting the critic to a volume which feels healthy and in your capacity to hold, is to acknowledge it.

The best way to do this is by sensing where it is showing up in your body or body’s periphery. When you call her into your awareness what do you feel, see, sense, hear? Stay with those sensations and see if you can gently say hello to them, sit next to them, or acknowledge them in a way which is non threatening. Don’t try to change anything. Instead let the feelings know you see them and you can be with them.

Once you’ve established that connection you may want to ask them to show you more about what they need, what they want or don’t want to happen and the ways and why they are protecting you. You will learn a lot.

This is deep work and a lot can arise. I suggest working, especially, if you have had trauma with a somatic coach or professional who can hold space for you in your process. Check out my guided meditation through this process here

Other parts are likely to come to the surface to argue with your critic and you’ll need your time with them too. 

In time, you will be able to hold more and more of what were seemingly warring parts inside of you in balance and in presence. This alone will lessen the impacts of stress and trauma present in the body and create a life of increased ease.