From a psychological perspective, trauma is defined as an experience that the mental psyche cannot integrate as it exceeds the capacity of the one who experiences it to absorb it. It is as if the traumatic event short circuits the psyche. The psyche freezes on the trauma, mercerized by the violence, unable to process it and caught in an abysmal suffering. A trauma can relate to an event as well as an ongoing stress that is negated. It is characterized by a very deep sense of loss, disempowered and unable to react.
Peter Levine, a leading expert on trauma, defines it as: “When we are frightened or overwhelmed beyond our capacity to rebound, it can be healed with resilience, which is precisely the capacity to rebound. When we lose that reserve capacity, then we are susceptible to disease, and eventually to all kind of diseases.”
On the physical side, trauma uses our capacity to resist: our core nervous system goes into fight or flight on a perceived threat. Over time or after a sheer violence experience, we lose the capacity for resilience (shut down on a life-threatening situation).
While western medicine excels on fixing physical injuries and traumas as well as finding chemical cures, it has cut our body from our mental state, mind separating them and forgetting the subtle link that unites our whole being. We can further argue that they look at organs and structure elements separately, which can affect the balance that our body needs as a holistic system.
What is Qigong for Trauma?
Qigong, on the contrary, trains the Shen (mind), focus and intention, and cultivates a strong body to restore and maintain a balance in the whole system, as well as its various bodies: physical, emotional and spiritual.
Finding resilience can help heal trauma as well. Resilience is found when we connect to the spiritual world, going to nature, grieving, meditation, breathing exercises, moving the body (which produces endorphins). Qigong as a holistic method of adjusting the breath, body, and mind, contributes to building resilience and finding inner strength. These adjustments enable us to change the sensation, expand and ease up from the stress.
Chinese Medicine practitioners say that trauma affects one’s Qi or life force. In Taoist Qigong, it is believed that the emotions can be regulated through regulating the body, breath, and mind. Each of the Five Elements is related to the five Yin organs, which are the heart, the liver, lungs, spleen, and kidneys. Each organ has a relationship with different emotions. When emotions are trapped inside the body they can negatively affect the related organ and exacerbate the emotion. By working on the emotion through Qigong exercise, one can squeeze the tension out of the organs.
For example, fear can cause tension and blockages in the kidney meridian which also can create blockages in the kidney system. Modern fascia research has proven that emotional traumas are stored in the fascial system. Unless we work out these kinks, the emotions lay trapped there, wreaking further havoc on the body and emotions.
In White Tiger Qigong, we wring out the meridians like a towel and the organs like a sponge so emotions can be released thus the body and mind can heal. Once we do that, we can add a special Qigong meditation to bring further healing and release, thus relaxing into a deep state where we can more easily reprogram ourselves.
Let’s try one good exercise for trauma. Dragon Qigong is related with the water element in Chinese Medicine. Water is related to fear and the kidney system.
Dragon Qigong Form Instructions:
From the standing meditation posture, open by raising both arms forward to the chest level and then dropping them back down to the waist. From here, turn both hands as if you are “holding a ball”, with the right hand above the left at the level of the navel. Step out with the left foot into a horse stance and then sink the turn into the “bow stance” while the right palm pushes up towards the sky and the left-hand moves out laterally to the left as if throwing a frisbee.
Try to turn completely around while keeping both feet planted firmly in a “bow stance.” This is the full extent of the motion.
Hold this posture for three to nine seconds while comfortably holding a full breath and directing the eyes to the left palm.
From this position, slowly turn back to the front into the horse stance, bringing the left foot back so that the feet are again at shoulder width and the arms are parallel to the ground with fingertips facing upwards.
In addition to the step, simultaneously circle the arms back to “hold the ball” except this time, the right hand is on the bottom. Remember, what is on the outside is also on the inside, so feel the points from your lower Dan Tian to your middle Dan Tian becoming full. Repeat this motion on the right side to complete one whole round; three repetitions on each side make a full set. Once a full set is complete, end the sequence by opening the hands down, out, and up and then closing. Finish with Zhan Zhuang.
In addition, it has become more and more obvious in recent research that cells carry a memory of our emotions and traumas. As Dr. Norman Shealy explains, an emotion is felt physically -it is not in the mind, but rather a sensation. This highlights the physical aspect at our cells level, as well as the perceived feeling in our mind. Therefore traumas, as well as stress, have to be healed in both the mind, the emotional and the physical level.
Similar to working with addiction, White Tiger Qigong helps the practitioner to let go of memories and change repetitive habits of reliving traumatic experiences.
When it is overcome, Qigong for trauma can transform, opening to new horizons and a way to align our body, mind, and spirit.
By Claire Peltier White Tiger Qigong Practitioner
And Tevia Feng, Master Instructor, White Tiger Qigong
About Claire Peltier
Claire spent the past 10 years in an international humanitarian organization, working in the field, in conflict areas. As she witnessed violence and the dramatic consequences on human beings, she faced a crisis herself and had to find ways to overcome trauma. She practiced yoga and meditation and found a great healing potential in Medical Qigong.
About Tevia Feng
Tevia began martial arts, Qigong, and meditation training at the age of 7. He has personally taught thousands of students from around the world and has taught in various countries around the world including China, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Europe and the US. He has worked with all types of people, ranging from professional athletes to ballet dancers, yogis, martial artists, CEOs and the common folk.
In addition, Tevia’s vision is to spread these sacred arts across the world so others can learn to heal, transform their lives, and discover their human potential. He currently offers Qigong, Medical Qigong, Internal Martial Arts, teacher certifications, and classes worldwide – traveling to various cities around the world.