Our Physiological Reactions

How YOGA teaches the discipline needed to overcome them…

This is a re-post from an emailer I sent out last week:
A few weeks ago a student of mine told me about something called the Prison Yoga Project, and how she had become obsessed with it. Yesterday I took some time to look at the website, look up the founder, and read a little about what the project is, and why its working for inmates. The physiological effects of stress on the body are intrinsically connected the mind, which is true for us all… and I got a little obsessed with the ideology behind the project, and how it applies to everyone in varying degrees.

“Most prisoners suffer from Complex Trauma, chronic interpersonal trauma experienced early in life such as abandonment, hunger, homelessness, domestic violence, sexual abuse, bullying, discrimination, drug and alcohol abuse, and witnessing crime – including murder. We call this “original pain.” These experiences, imprinted by the terrifying emotions that accompany them, are held deeply in the mind, and perhaps more importantly, in the body, with the dissociative effects of impulsive/reactive behavior, and tendencies toward drug and alcohol addiction as well as violence. Carrying unresolved trauma into their lives impacts everything they do, often landing them in prison, where they experience even more trauma…

…Traditionally, cognitive behavioral therapists have helped people process unresolved trauma, but more recently psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers — many working with US military veterans — acknowledge that embodiment practices such as yoga enriched with mindfulness practices can have more impact in alleviating the symptoms that lead to both reactive behaviors and stress related disease.”

So, I watched the video. And they showed these big, burly, rough looking men, silently struggling to stay in down dog, twists, and seated meditation. You could see their struggle with various poses, but you also heard them commenting in interviews on how they had learned to use their yoga practice to withstand the effects of other struggles in their lives. It was teaching them discipline to manage their own reactions…

We all have our own versions of stressors and problems, and while some of us have ones that are “worse” or “easier” than others, we all feel the effects of stress and past pain. These things take a physiological toll on the body, and affect our psychological expectations and reactions. You can’t avoid all of these factors in life, but I found this to be a beautiful reminder that we can help our bodies and our minds to process and release our experiences in healthy, effective ways.

Hope to see you very soon,
~ Calley ✨

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