An important discovery
I'd been teaching for years before I stumbled across trauma-sensitive yoga. I'm not sure what inspired me to attend that first training, but it opened my eyes to exactly the kind of practice I need for myself and am drawn to offer others. I'll say more about that in a future post. In the meantime, I want to share just four things that make the movement practices on the Moved to Heal podcast trauma-sensitive.
Whether in the description or the cueing of a movement, or both, I offer more than one choice for all forms and actions. For example, when I offer a movement in a cross-legged seat, you could also lie down or stand up or sit another way. Or if I’m inviting you to lift and lower your arms, you could choose to lift + hold, or not lift, or do another movement with your arms. I offer a form with an action (a movement) and one or two or three options for you to consider. You can choose to do one of the choices offered or something else that you want to do. The choice for how to move your body is always yours.
In many fitness and yoga classes alike, movements are instructed in such a way that most of us will feel compelled to follow --even if it's not what feels good or safe or right to us. Sometimes, "following" can be what you want --say to help you get through a difficult workout that you want to do, and know you're comfortable with. But at other times, that kind of instruction is less a help and more of a hindrance, getting in the way of listening to ourselves -- of noticing what we need in the moment. Noticing and being able to choose what we need, knowing that's ok, is essential to healing traumas and hurts of all kinds. Trauma-sensitive classes offer movements for you to try (or not try) and invite you to engage with them in the way that you want in the moment (including not at all).
I regularly invite you to notice whether you feel anything during a practice or movement. I invite you to bring attention to sensation, breathing, and choices. The intention is to allow you to develop a greater awareness of yourself, your body, and what you need moment to moment. Some days, sensation might be just sensation. Some days, sensation might be a revelation. There are no expectations, simply attempting to be in the present moment. You can always choose how to make use of invitations to observe and notice. Where you direct your attention is up to you.
Through invitations to move, choosing when and how to move, and noticing yourself in the present moment, you might also choose to experiment with multiple options of movements or observations. When you feel curious about a movement in your body, you can try it out, knowing you then can choose whether or not to continue with it. Experiments might be trying a new movement or observation, or they could be trying out slight changes in familiar movements or observations, comparing and discovering different ways of doing things.
If one or more of these aspects of trauma-sensitive teaching sound useful to you, I hope you'll keep an eye out for movement classes and teachers that include them in some way (namely, in a way that resonates with you!). And if you go into a class or space where what you need is missing, maybe move on to a different class.
If all of these qualities sound valuable to you --choice, invitation, noticing, and gentle experiments-- I invite you to tune in to Moved to Heal!
Be moving, be true, be you
photo credit paul blenkhorn / sensory art house, found on unsplash
We talk a lot about "good" habits and "bad" habits, but not so often just about "habit". What makes a behavior a habit? Can any behavior be made into a habit? Should all desirable behaviors be cultivated into habits?
"Good" and "bad" behavior is often blamed on "good" and "bad" habits. When you make "healthy" behavior habits, it's "easier" to stay healthy, and vice versa. If you want good behaviors, then maybe it follows that all you need to do is set up good habits... right?
Perhaps. But let's consider the *years* we give to forcing habits that just don't stick.
Reason #1, in many cases, is that we don't try very hard. Like me deciding to work on my new house every weekend, and then getting to the weekend and thinking, gee, "this is not going to be as much fun as I imagined." At least I got the dining room cabinets painted before giving up.
Creating intentional change in our behavior, like adopting a new habit, takes effort, at least a little bit. No effort, no change, no new habit. (I'll talk about that side of things next time.)
Reason #2, in just as many cases, is that we try too hard and burn out. Like with my plan to do a full-body strength workout every morning and literally burning out my stamina. And I know better! But even still, it sounded so doable in my head.
What if these are cases of trying to habituate the wrong things?
Maybe the habits we choose aren't well suited to us?
Or maybe the behaviors we choose aren't well suited to being habits?
In my house projects example, the idea came to me during a season of anticipation and excitement and change. Once I added back in the normal rhythms of my life, I quickly realized that the fun I had with the first project was a special occasion joy. Not an everyday joy. Not the right kind of pleasure to make into habits that lift you up.
When it comes to habits you're electing to adopt, maybe watch out for "should." I thought I "should" work on my house because, it needs it. But it doesn't need it that badly, working on it pulls me away from other things I love, and my husband *likes* doing house projects. So why did I think I needed to?
Are there any behaviors you think you "should" adopt that, that aren't absolutely necessary, and that when put through the joy-o-meter you can see: you just don't want to? Behaviors that would take you away from doing things you do love? Can you afford to drop the "should"? If so, hot potato that unnecessary behavior, my friends!
What about things you love doing all the time? They're good habit candidates, right? You'd think, right?
In reality, what I've observed is that these super-joy behaviors lose some of their presence when they are forced into habits. You'll get them done, and with gusto, but as in my case with the daily workouts, they become obsessions of habitual perfection, rather than the originally joyful practices that they once were.
It's a slight distinction, but a behavior you're invested in lends itself best to being a practice, something you do consciously, with choice and room to adapt. Not automated as is the case with something you do by habit.
Making a conscious choice takes more effort than following a habit. That's why we like habits!
Making an effort with the important things will make your connection to them stronger and adaptable to you as you change with life. And practicing conscious choice makes it more likely that you'll learn new things along the way, keeping your brain active and vibrant.
Do you have any behaviors like that? Stuff you do by rote that you think is doing you good, but is long overdue for a re-think and some conscientious engagement?
Perhaps give it a think, and next time we talk habits on the mov/ed podcast, I'll invite you to put some new choices into action.
Be moving, be mov/ed!