How yoga and meditation can help

During and after a traumatic event, it makes sense for our bodies to focus on external stimuli. It’s how we keep ourselves safe. Problems can develop when, for whatever reason, we are unable to come back to our normal state and we find it hard to manage our reactions sensory information. 


It also makes sense that those of us who listen to and process the stories of these events, who are responsible for persuading others of the truth of these events, may find ourselves also struggling with the balance of our internal and external lives - our bodies are doing their job when they sense danger (even if we intellectually know the danger isn’t happening to us, here and now) and heighten our reactions, so we can act fast to get out of danger. 


Exteroception = perception of external sensations (sound, smell, sight)

Interception = perception of internal sensations (hunger, tiredness, fear) 


A lot of yoga classes focus on proprioception - it’s a bit of a buzzword in Yoga teacher training courses - and relates to our perception of our own body in space, in relation to itself. The kind of yoga we do at Claiming Space sessions is focussed a little more on interoception. The mindfulness practices help us explore the mid-points between all three. A recent German study [1] found that the “body scan” practice, which is an important part of most mindfulness based practices and involves moving the attention around the body, usually led by a facilitator giving instructions, can improve interoceptive processes. 


There are simple ways to incorporate similar practices at your desk, without anyone even noticing. If you have three minutes, you can try this short “breathing space”: (Keep an eye on a timer, but don’t worry about sticking exactly to a minute for each section.) 


With your eyes open or closed, spend a minute trying to keep your attention in your body. Your whole body. The breath, the sensations of your clothes on your skin, the pressure of the chair and the floor supporting you, aches and pains, areas of ease and lightness. 

For the second minute, draw your attention inward, focussing on the breath. When your mind wanders (and it will) bring yourself back to the breath. 

During the third minute, bring your attention outwards. See if you can keep your breath, your whole body, and the world around you all equally within your attention. (It’s tricky!) Include sounds, the cool or warm air, even smells. If your eyes are open, keep your gaze soft - don’t concentrate on any particular spot. 

At the end of the three minutes, take few longer inhales and exhales. You’re ready to get back to your day. 


Practicing yoga and mindfulness can help us literally practice bringing ourselves back into a more comfortable balance between the internal and external.


[1] Fischer D, Messner M and Pollagos O (2017) Improvement of Interoceptive Processes after an 8-Week Body Scan Intervention. Front. Hum. Neuroci. 11:452. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2017.00452