I just finished the second module of my TIMBo training through yogaHOPE this weekend. Receiving training in and teaching trauma informed yoga has been something I have wanted to do for a long time, and the whole experience has exceeded my expectations. I’m finding it very hard to accurately explain just what we do in these trainings. It’s an incredibly healing process, but I feel very tired and drained in the days following. Many people assume I am tired because I did so much yoga, and I feel like, “Yeah we did some yoga, but it wasn’t all about that.” We do some talking, some breathing, but mostly we listen. We learn to hold space for people, and most importantly, we learn to hold space for ourselves.
On the first day, we traced our bodies on a large sheet of paper and colored in the spaces with green, yellow, or red. Red meaning: don’t touch me here. Yellow: Maybe you can touch me here. Green: It’s okay to touch me here. First of all I discovered that I was pretty clear about where I wanted to be touched, and that was…NOWHERE. I colored my body outline in mostly red except for my hands, feet, and hair. I kind of thought of it as this scuba suit. We hanged these outlines on the wall. At first, I noticed that not everyone had a scuba suit of red. There were varying combinations of these colors. Some had clear boundaries. Some colors seemed to swirl into one another. Some even had a suit of green. I had a hard time looking at mine. It was heartbreaking to look at this woman who had this field of red surrounding her entire body, a person who didn’t want anyone to touch her.
I don’t want to go into details of the entire exercise, but simply stated, over the course of a few days we were able to add to our body outlines. I began to understand that I wasn’t a woman who didn’t want to be touched. I was a woman who desperately wanted it, but I was afraid to receive it. I was consumed with worry over where the touch might lead, if I was able to tell someone to stop, or if telling someone to stop would hurt their feelings. So, somewhere along the line my body decided, “No one’s getting in.” I didn’t like touching other people for this same reason. I thought if I touched them, then they would have a full license to do whatever they wanted with me OR even worse, I was afraid I would be traumatizing them. After sitting with this red lady for a few days, I suddenly developed this great compassion for her. I can look over the course of my life and understand why the thought of going out on a date with a man would send me into full panic. I can see why after really hating touch, I became a massage therapist…because I really wanted to create a safe environment to give and receive safe, nurturing touch for myself and for others.
Over the course of my training, I was able to hear so many other stories like mine. I was able to hear people with mostly green outlines with similar backgrounds and similar needs for safe touch. We were all the same. Our bodies and minds just translated these needs differently.
What boggles my mind the most is that I didn’t go visit a guru to get these answers. No one sat in a lecture hall and told me, “This is why you do that, and here’s how to fix it.” TIMBo has just taught me how to sit with myself, and these things came to me on my own. I wasn’t always the best at sitting with my body. There were plenty of times I considered not coming back, leaving, resorting to physical violence, desiring catastrophic illness to take me away from this training. I wanted more than anything to NOT feel what I was feeling, but I stayed. I breathed. A space appeared between stimulus and response, and the space was just big enough to give me an option other than running, numbing, or denying. No one made me stay. I chose to stay with myself in a safe environment. I listened. I was present, and that space appeared.