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Autumn 2021

Yoga can Help. . .

Yoga is known for its calming effects. Why is that?

Even before our current age of electrical lights and social media lengthening the day and providing never-ending contact, the ancient sages recognized the need to go within.

We tend to think of meditation for this purpose without realizing that there are many steps built into the Yogic system for smooth transition of your ability to merge with the energy of the universe.

Yoga has eight limbs which are both sequential and simultaneous as they interconnect with each other. We tend to associate yoga with postures (asana-3rd limb) and breathing (pranayama-4th limb). However, limbs 1 & 2 involve management in the outer world through self-management and moral conduct. Limbs 6-8 involve focus and refinement of awareness and flow as we slowly merge with spirit and all that is.

What about the 5th limb, Yoga’s most ignored ability. Pratyahara, or withdrawal of the senses (literally withdrawal of “food”), aims to cultivate inner awareness of mind, body, and spirit through “fasting” from outside input.

The 5th limb of yoga is a bridge step from outside focus (outer behavior and body movement) to inside focus (movement of subtle forces in the body and the connection to all).

What makes this step so invisible to most of us?

When outside influences no longer keep our mind busy, we start to unearth repressed emotions and traumas stored in the body which we could not process when they occurred due to their overwhelming nature or previous circumstances. Many are discovering this during pandemic lock-down time. This is not calming!

The truth is, in order to make it to the other side, i.e. benefits of meditation, you have to digest those old bits of “stuck food” (gross!) presenting as repressed emotions and traumas. This means facing avoidance and addiction patterns in yourself. Yes, we all have them to some degree.

Most are not willing to take this bold step until life insists. That is, issues like chronic pain, chronic fatigue, anxiety, depression, or an auto-immune disease take hold. If you try to skip this purging and cleansing step, the problems only exacerbate as the dissociation and/or freezing of body parts gets reinforced. It is called Spiritual Bypassing when someone only works on connecting with source without clearing a path in the body as well.

This can be a painful process. Emotions are messy and unpredictable, which is why supportive navigational help is required! This help can take the form of a Guru, Saint, Avatar, Animal/Animal spirit, Nature/Nature spirit, Family/Ancestors, Therapist, Friend, Support Group/Sponsor, etc., depending on your outlook, belief system and resources. We all need an Empathic Witness to help find ways to digest trauma/Karma Beej/seeds to allow the light/higher power/universal force to begin to shine through us unrestricted.

The more ongoing/complex the trauma, the greater the need is for assistance, including professional help from someone with advanced skill in managing trauma patterns.

Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a neurobiological method of tracking sensations with built in safeguards to prevent over-exposure/re-traumatization and methods to move the stuck energy slowly and safely. Emphasis is on the present moment with minimal focus on the “story.” SE is an excellent way to receive guidance through the 5th limb of Yoga/Pratyahara for transformation of “Pain into Light!”

Bright Blessings,

Rachel Bixby PT, DPT, E-RYT 500, PSEP

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