MEDITATIVE TODDLER TANTRUMS
When I first began recovery, my local yoga studio became a sanctuary for me. The underpinning offers of yoga (breath and movement), bring a sound acknowledgment to the parasympathetic nervous system and can stimulate trauma healing.
Nearly seven years since I started my healing journey, I’ve taught and offered yoga techniques to many diverse groups of people. I’ve been in settings where yoga is a fitness modality and others as a mere social hub. Now, I have found my happy place offering trauma-informed yoga, in one-on-one settings.
Yoga can be a helpful model and there are many suspicions that come with the word. Today, I am going to chat a little about some of the useful aspects of yoga and the reasons as to why it is beneficial for trauma recovery. My hope is to bring clarity to some of the benefits and clear up misconceptions.
Let’s dive in!
So, having a toddler is fantastic and challenging. Asha is a tiny wonder with significant emotions. She has her fair share of tantrums, I mean so loud I considered apologizing to our neighbors.
Last night she became angry when playtime was over and it was time for bedtime. She and I were in her bedroom, as I told her it was time to brush teeth, read a book, get milkies, and go to bed. Asha immediately started to scream and cry. Her face was hot and her eyes watered. All I knew to do was to sit down, hold her and affirm its hard to tell a good day goodbye. I sat on the floor holding her for what seemed like hours, but it was more like three minutes before she calmed down. Once the tantrum had passed, we read a few books, and she peacefully went to bed.
Okay, so what does my daughter’s tantrum have to do with yoga? Everything.
Presence and Regulation
As I held Asha, I viscerally communicated that I am bigger, stronger, wiser, and kinder. My body expressed that I can hold space for your big emotions; I am not leaving when you wig out. As I remained calm and embodied, I was able to help regulate her tiny nervous system. Asha like a healthy toddler is learning how to self-regulate; this is no small task for her. Just like Asha, we sometimes require the kind and calm presence of another to help us start to adjust our nervous system back to homeostasis. This need for learning self-regulation as an adult escalates when we’ve experienced trauma. I’ve found yoga can foster tools that offer emotional self-regulation when provided in a trauma-informed setting. It’s vitally important to only take yoga with someone who can authentically hold space for you and your body.
It’s a misconception that trauma-informed yoga is a series of steps or a list of practices. I run away from using breath and body forms as a prescription. Instead, I utilize the power of interoception and shared an authentic experience. The critical part of trauma-informed yoga is for one to begin to explore and learn their body, free from restriction or inhibition. Self-regulation is often acquired from practicing yoga, but is not a goal and never should be. Instead, a primary component, is being in a space where someone is authentically holding space for your wellbeing. Remember bigger, kinder, stronger, and wiser – this is who you want to practice yoga with.
Interoception and Meditation
During Asha’a meltdown, I continued to check in with my body. I was listening to my mind and intuition. Toddler’s emotions can be intense. I’ve found if I take a few seconds to breathe, notice what I am feeling and embody the moment, my response is much kinder and wiser. However, I did not learn this method of embodiment and interoceptive listening overnight. It’s taken years of meditation and interoceptive movement practice to strengthen my container for these tough moments.
I love this definition of mindfulness, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” (Trauma-Sensitive Yoga in Therapy, p.7). And here is another good one, “Being present is the real work. Meditation and yoga are referred to as practices for a reason.” (Trauma Stewardship, p. 135). Meditation is practicing the acknowledgment of the present moment and inviting yourself to be wholly embodied.
Another word that I’ve talked about in this post is interoception. Let’s dive into this concept! As David Emerson explains, “Interoception is our awareness of what is going on within the boundary of our own skin;” (Trauma-Sensitive Yoga in Therapy, p.45.) Simply put, interoception is acknowledging what our body feels or does not feel. It’s taking inventory for what you are experiencing within the body in this present moment and a nuance skill that helps reconnect to a sense of self instead of fragment or dissociate. Interoception links our cognitive operations to the body felt way of being. Now there are many more avenues we can take with interoception but for now, let us rest with this knowledge.
Okay, so I just gave you a lot of information. Hang in there, because I want to give you a few applications to take home with you.
If you can, consider how you can begin to put two 5 minute check-in points within your day. During these check-in times lets cultivate the tools of interoception and mindfulness.
During those check-in points I invite you to offer yourself the following:
1) 1-2 minutes of journal time. During this journal time, answer the question, what is your body feeling during the present moment?
2)1-3 minutes of quiet meditation time. During that time, create for yourself a kind saying to repeat in your thoughts while you meditate. This statement could be something as simple as, “thank you body” or anything that feels authentic to you.
I hope you find these simple practices helpful!
If you feel stuck on journaling or meditation, I’m always here to talk- feel free to inbox me here.
Lots of Love,