By Bhavan Kumar
One of the key elements to using Yoga as a therapeutic tool to heal traumatic memories is to remember to breath throughout your Yoga practice. If you forget to breath, you are still somatizing and freezing the feelings, memories and emotions in your muscle tissues. Somatization is often an unconscious protective mechanism for many trauma survivors. Unfortunately, it keeps the traumatic memories just below a conscious level and perpetually recycling in the mind and heart of a trauma survivor. Yogic pranayama exercises that teach you how to breath fully and deeply are very important for trauma survivors. Intermediate pranayama exercises that purify and energize the entire body/mind system are also very effective tools for releasing traumatic memories.
Dirgha (Dirga) Pranayama
The three-part Dirga Pranayama is a wonderful beginning pranayama technique for remembering what it feels like to fill your lungs completely and to exhale fully. When we are stressed, afraid or overwhelmed, our breathing usually becomes quite shallow and rapid. This is even more true with trauma survivors. Practicing pranayama techniques that help to deepen and slow down the breath is one of the cornerstone Yogic practices for healing from traumatic experiences. To practice Dirga Pranayama, simply fill your chest cavity to one third on a slow count of two, pause for a moment and then proceed to fill the next third of your lung cavity to another count of two. Finally, fill your chest cavity to capacity for another count of two, pause and exhale smoothly for a slow count of six. Do five rounds of Dirga Pranayama before practicing an intermediate pranayama exercise.
Kapalabhati Pranayama or Skull Shining Breath
Kapalabhati Pranayama or Skull Shining Breath is a very invigorating and cleansing intermediate pranayama exercise. To practice Skull Shining Breath, sit on your Yoga mat in a comfortable position. Place you hands gently on your thighs with your palms facing down. Inhale deeply and forcefully exhale the air as you pull your diaphragm in. The inhale should be passive and the exhale forceful and rapid. Breath through your nose.
One round of Kapalbhati Pranayama consists of thirty quick inhales and exhales. Do three rounds of Skull Shining Breath and then pause to feel the effects of this powerful pranayama technique. Breath at a pace that is comfortable for you and be aware of feelings and memories that may arise during your practice. Witness the thoughts, memories and emotions with mindful compassion, do not “hang on” to the feelings. If you become light-headed, slow down and take a few deep breaths before continuing.
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