How Yoga Helps with My Triggers

August 28, 2018
How Yoga Helps with My Triggers by Jenny Ravikumar

Trigger (v): (especially of something read, seen, or heard) distress (someone), typically as a result of arousing feelings or memories associated with a particular traumatic experience.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting with my mom at a cafe and we ran into an old friend of mine. We chatted for a few moments, lamenting on a shared memory and she continued to walk out of the cafe with coffee in hand while we looked on. My mom casually said “didn’t something also happen with her on social media?”

My mind was on warped speed; memories flooding back to me faster than I could find an inhale and it felt as though my body wouldn’t survive the trauma I could feel creeping into my shoulders, my lungs and my heart.

“Yes, mom.” I replied as I calmly re-explained the painful memory to her.

Triggers happen quickly. I never know specifically what will bring me back to a moment but at this point, I’ve become much better at identifying them and working with the moment in order to stay grounded.

This afternoon, a girlfriend dropped a truth bomb that brought me right back to a moment five years ago: sitting behind the bench, watching the judge nod his head as he casually dismissed yet another violation. It was a moment I would have given anything to shrink away from.

Since creating Yoga for Families of Addiction, I have been brought to my knees more times that I can count. I’ve left Christmas parties in tears, hyperventilated in bathrooms alone as I recollected my breath and held space for more beautiful souls than I could have imagined when we first began. I will take the tears and the triggers. I will live with them forever if it means you have a safe space to land.

The Christmas party tears? Those were because a good friend of mine told me her father was an alcoholic and I was the first person (aside from her husband) that she had told in ten years. I wasn’t crying because of my own sadness, or a trigger. I was crying because she had to hold on to that secret. I was crying because I was the first beacon of light and I wish she had space to let go far earlier than that evening.

The hyperventilation? That was because I was triggered. A friend wasn’t able to attend one of our casual parties and her husband (a good friend of mine as well), walked into a party with both kids … alone. He was managing an infant and a toddler with different food preferences and smiling and laughing, enjoying every moment of fatherhood. Seeing their joy brought me to my knees with a mixture of green eyed envy, sadness for Zyan + I, pride for his new role in life, joy watching him be exactly where and who he was supposed to be and hope for my own future.

Triggers happen quickly.

And in each, I find space for grace.

Pratyahara is one of my favorite limbs in yoga at the moment. It translates in Sanskrit to mean withdrawal of the senses. Prati means “against or away” and Ahara means “anything we take into ourselves from the outside.” Ahara could translate to mean food, energy, people, situations and more. Pratyahara has been a secret weapon of mine in the last year and in many ways, I only just realized how much I was relying on this particular yoga ideal.

When everything around me becomes too overwhelming, I begin to walk. I move my body in nature, often taking Apollo & Zyan with me as I put feet to pavement.

When I forget to breathe, I go to yoga.

When I need to escape, I read a book.

When I need to reconnect to my heart, I write.

Pratyahara is my chance to withdraw from the elements that overwhelm me and is one of my biggest tools that I now use consciously. When I am triggered, I know I need to find SPACE in order for me to reconnect to my breath and reground my body.

Pratyahara itself is termed as yoga, as it is the most important limb in yoga sadhana. – Swami Sivananda

When you’re triggered this week, I want to offer a few tips for consciously slipping into pratyahara in order to reconnect you to your breath.

  1. Turn off the radio. Listen to your breath. MAYBE put on a guided meditation. But turn off the tunes and the news.
  2. Go outside. Be in nature. If you can, go alone. Listen to the sounds, breathe in the fresh air.
  3. Meditate.
  4. Go to yoga. Or tennis or golf. Garden. Do an activity that requires all of YOU to be present.
  5. Put your cell phone on do not disturb.
  6. Put your cell phone in your purse when you go to dinner with a friend. Fully BE there.
  7. Practice mindful eating. Enjoy each bite, feel the texture, breathe in the food.
  8. Breathe. Breathe in lavender oil, diffuse scents you love. Breathe in nature. Breathe for 10-30 seconds before you respond to a trigger. Just be.

Pratyahara is a great way to calm the triggers. Find silence. Find breath. Withdraw for a few moments. Anything will work again if you unplug it for a little while, including yourself.

Sending you abundant love as always.

xx – namaste, Jenny

P.s. Do you love an addict? Check out our website in the embedded link above. We have classes and trainings coming soon and would love to see you if you need support.

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