Joan Harrigan, the spiritual director of Patanjali Kundalini Care in Knoxsville Tennessee, believes that traumatic encounters can create a sudden rise in "intense energy" or Kundalini. This powerful energy is usually unleashed after a prolonged period of spiritual practice that gradually prepares the individual to handle the experience. The practices of Yoga develop a disciplined mind that is able to direct the unleashed Kundalini towards the spiritual goal of enlightenment. Harrigan maintains that when an individual is not prepared through spiritual practices or is not in a devotional frame of mind at the time of a Kundalini rising (such as in a traumatic event) they are unable to handle the intensity of the experience. The result is a sense of extreme agitation and prolonged over-stimulation that can leave the person feeling lost, confused, tired and angry.
Harrigan advises that people who are experiencing the negative after-effects of trauma dedicate (or re-dedicate) themselves to the process of spiritual transformation. A spiritual orientation provides a framework that can calm the mind and restore hope, offering the individual ways to accept the challenges of dealing with a traumatic event. Harrigan maintains that it is faith in God that creates an environment where trauma can be seen as the needed catalyst to propel one towards a more fulfilling life. Because of the intensity of energy unleashed in the nervous system, Harrigan recommends that the physical body be cultivated through calming yoga postures, breathing practices, and the application of a moderate lifestyle. Rest, relaxation and moderation in all activities are strongly emphasized. Any rigorous or strenuous Yoga practices (either mental or physical) are to be avoided.
Dr. Lad, the director of the Ayurvedic Institute describes undigested traumas as non-healing ulcers that we carry in our sub-conscious mind. He compares the sub-conscious to the basement level of a house; It is where we put all the things we do not want to see. If the pain is too great and the subconscious begins to take up too much space, there is no room for consciousness or the outer mind. Our house," states Dr. Lad, "becomes a little nest on a much larger mess.
Dr. Lad maintains that it is in understanding our hurt and traumas that we begin to make room to truly experience our lives and ourselves. When we see "what is" in our past, but are not happy about it, we create a concept of what would be, could be and should be. In traumatic memories what is "is fear, anger, conflict, and betrayal." These emotions can be so strong that we cannot manipulate them into what "should be." What we are asking of individuals who have survived trauma is to relinquish their desire to have a past that is not horrific, a past that is not damaging.
Dr. David Frawley, author of Ayurveda and the Mind: the Healing of Consciousness, explains that our consciousness not only holds our memories of what actually happened, but our memories of what we feel to have happened in our hearts. He believes that it is important to not devalue these "false" memories as they are considered the history of the ego - that part of ourselves that would prefer that only good things happen to us.
What is being healed in trauma - whether on an individual basis or on a community level is that which cannot be seen. It is the delicate fabric of what makes us human: trust, faith, a sense of order, and an awareness of the uniqueness of our human life. Yoga suggests that suffering is not without cause or meaning - rather it is our impetus, or call, for radical change and a renewed attempt to spiritualize our lives.
Spirituality entails more than hearing someone else's ideas of what freedom and love are. It entails walking one's own path to self knowledge. It is this path that will lead each person to feel safe in opening not only to the pain of their past, but to the beauty and joy of the present. Individuals who have experienced severe trauma are often cut off from this experience, as they hold on to the past and resist the present. The Yogic perspective, while not a universal substitute for psychotherapy, can offer those who have experienced trauma or who have a loved one devastated by trauma, the tools to understand the path that person is walking. If the Yogic perspective on trauma does nothing more then inspires the student to the study of their own lives than the practice has contributed greatly to the healing of humankind.