Sun & Moon Yoga Studio is a place for people to experience and study hatha yoga. We believe in a holistic approach to the study of yoga, giving our students a well-rounded yoga education, bringing in teachers with an eclectic background of yoga.

We believe in combining alignment techniques of the body with breath techniques for calming and balancing the mind and the belief and faith that our work feeds us and is fed by the (spirit) Divine Universal Energy present in us all and in all things.

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Yoga and Healing: The Journey for Sexual Abuse Survivors by Laureen Smith

"Although the world is very full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it."
Helen Keller

I am a sexual abuse survivor. When I was 15 years old I was plied with obscene amounts of alcohol and forcibly raped by my brother's baseball coach. A year later, I was sexually molested by my church's minister. These were my first two sexual experiences ever. These two ordeals shaped much of my life from that time on. Through drug use, suicide attempts, crisis therapy, over-achieving, sexual dysfunction, spiritual isolation, body loathing and more, my life has been fraught with physical and psychic pain as I tried to "get through" day by day. And it was from these two experiences that I spent a good deal of my life's energy healing. In my early 30s I was introduced to yoga. And from that time on, slowly but surely, I have experienced profound healing from the detrimental effects of the abuse. My body, my spirit, my energy, and my life have been returned to me, in great part, because of yoga.

Just as the history and life of yoga is one that stretches immeasurably throughout time, so too the stories and experiences of women and men who have experienced abuse throughout history are legion. Current statistics for abuse are staggering. According to the V-Day Initiative Organization and other sources, last year over 500,000 women were raped in the U.S. The FBI estimates that every 15 seconds a woman is battered. Female genital mutilation affects 130 million women around the world. One in seven young boys is likely to be molested in his lifetime. From these gruesome numbers, we can see that the story of humanity is one of both suffering and pain. But that is not all. It is also the story of the conscious practice to transform that pain. It has been my experience personally and professionally that yoga can provide a profound avenue for healing for sexual abuse survivors. Yoga can help heal the wounds and scar tissue–physically and psychically–that abuse leaves behind and it can provide an avenue for growth and integrity. In addition, I've come to see that survivors themselves can shed light on the path of yoga in profound ways for all practitioners as well! One of the most profound realities and long-term effects of sexual abuse is called, "splitting" or "disassociation." Well documented by researchers and therapists, many survivors experience a separation and a splitting off from one's body and from the present. This disintegration can happen from the beginning of the abuse, and for some people, it can last a lifetime. Flashbacks are also common experiences of disintegration, where a survivor is transported back in her/his memory and body sensation to the time of the abuse. I remember clearly one experience of splitting I had in my mid-20s. I had just been taken out to lunch at a fancy restaurant by my boss, and as I was walking back to the office, I suddenly realized that I had no memory of what I had just eaten. I stopped on the busy, city street and just stood there in awe. I had spent over two hours eating a four-course meal and I couldn't remember the taste, smell, or experience of the food. I had not been present. I had split off from the moment.

The experience of yoga–of finding union between seemingly splintered aspects of the Self–can allow survivors the opportunity to slowly bring the fragments of their lives back into an integrated whole. By yoking the body and the mind through attention in asana practice, the body and mind are joined in the present. By attending to the inner and outer perceptions of a yoga pose, for example, or a breath pattern, or a meditative moment, a yogi has the opportunity to unify the sense of Self. Right and left sides of the body, front/back, ground/sky dichotomies become integrated in a practice, permitting a sense of aliveness. By allowing the past and the future to remain in their respective places within a life's journey, a survivor becomes focused and grounded in the present so that the parts of the Self that were scattered are allowed to bind back together and integrate. The gradual integration of a disintegrated self is one of the most healing and profoundly important gifts that yoga offers an abuse survivor. Like a strong magnet that attracts objects at a distance, so too yoga draws together the body, mind, and spirit of the practitioner together, perhaps for the first time ever. In this drawing together, obstacles to wholeness are removed, and the inflow of one's natural healing state is often experienced.

Because of the overwhelming statistics about abuse, it is more than likely there are people in our lives, at our jobs, and in our yoga classes who are healing from the traumas of abuse. Since many of us come to yoga to stretch, and grow, and be healthy (whether or not we've experienced abuse), yoga can provide the safe place and atmosphere necessary for all of us. Even the simple of experience of greeting one another with Namaste can be profound. Namaste welcomes the strength of each person as well as the pain, acknowledging that both can be profound teachers. Namaste recognizes that survivors can be teachers as well, showing us how powerfully beautiful yoga can be. Namaste acknowledges that each of us can and must take her/his place on the mat and choose to grow and heal, making the practice her/his own. And perhaps for the first time in her/his life, the Divine inside the person who has survived abuse is honored and welcomed on the journey. This is truly transformational. This is truly yoga.

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Last modified: Sunday, 12-Feb-2006 04:02:22 EST