Child Abuse and Yoga

Child abuse is the physical, sexual or emotional mistreatment of children. It is also defined  as any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child. There are four major categories of child abuse: neglect, physical abuse, psychological/emotional abuse and child sexual abuse. 
A survivor of the above categories usually suffers from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Jane, an eighteen year old girl suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) caused by the first 3 categories. Abuser = her biological mother. Jane, is fostered by a close friend, EJ and his wife. I did not know that till the first time i met her.

Traumatic Truth
Jane was cold. I could feel her barrier, a wall which seemed to hold its fort very strongly. She would have passed as a normal teenager who is begining to rebel. Oddly i felt a strong sense of sadness within her, the expression on her pretty face seemed weirdly tired. She carried an air of cautiousness with her. Over coffee, i chided my friend for being bias. I have seen him bonding with his younger son and i thought he was being unfair. That was when he told me Jane is not his daughter. Jane is his sister in law’s daughter.

Since birth, she was being abused. She had gone through days without milk. As a toddler, she was pinched, slapped and punched in front of her cousins. Her mother would call her dad (who had divorced her), physically abused Jane and let him hear her cry over the line. She had also threatened to kill her, throw her out of the window.  Jane’s mother was subsequently sent to IMH after several court cases. EJ and his wife adopted the responsibility to foster Jane. Despite the Protection Order awarded by Court, Jane’s mother continue to abuse her mentally by disrupting her life. Jane was fearful of her because of the pain inflicted and she was traumatized by her past.

When i heard that, all i could think of was to give the little girl a big hug. I empathized with what she must have feel and light shed on why i felt the strange vibes when i saw her. A thought flashed through my mind. We were in a dark room. We were seated facing each other with our eyes closed, in meditation. Yoga. It dawned on me. I did a search on the internet about Yoga and child abuse and found a few articles which relates them.

Yoga emphasizes on Asana. Asana means steady pose. To have a steady pose requires one to be grounded and present. Being grounded for a PTSD sufferer might mean that he/she has to be aware not to be disconnected from the body. Being present, requires one to be able to focus in that moment. A PSTD sufferer will find this very tough because they usually spend very little time living in their bodies. They will often processed their past within themselves and worry about their next move. They are disconnected from their bodies because they are fearful of the abuse inflicted on them and they tend to “flee” from their bodies. For Jane’s case, EJ related that, “her mother would pinch her in front of her cousins till her skin turns blue and yet she was indifferent. It was as if she was not there to feel the pain.”

Yoga can be practiced with the purpose of healing the body and the soul One can practice Pranayama, perform Asanas, learn relaxation and meditation techniques. A research was done and it has shown that PTSD sufferers received flashbacks of the past and worry for the future. When these intriguing thoughts visit them, their heart rate varies and they panic. Deep breathing allows one to be able to remain calm. Ujjayi breathing helps to improves heart rate variability which in turn promotes the ability for one to remain calm. Long term practice of Asanas helps to elicit and release repressed emotions. When combined, with the use of relaxation and meditation techniques, one would be able to reconnect with their bodies and released the suppression of their fears and thoughts and realised self acceptance.  

A few poses that are recommended :-
(A) Balasana (Child’s pose).  Promotes a sense of security as one feels sheltered and protected.  This pose calms the brain and relieves stress and fatigue.

(B) Adhomukha Shvanasana (Downward-facing dog) – promotes thoracic breathing,  increase blood flow to the head, improving circulation and lowering heart and respiratory rates.

(C) Sankasana ( Rabbit Pose) – Improves blood supply to the brain. This pose helps to connect with the breath. At the same time, the practicioner feels secure.

“Hi Jane, your dad said you are keen in learning Yoga?”, i asked. “Yes, auntie Jade. My friend and i are interested.”
That was before i knew about her.  Now, i can’t wait to begin this Yoga journey with her. The question is, how?