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Trauma-Sensitive Yoga Therapy in Practice


By Rob Schware

This is an interview with David Emerson, who was a social worker for 10 years before going to graduate school to become a therapist -- a talk-based psychotherapist. Well, he just didn't click with that modality. He became a certified yoga teacher in 1999. After connecting with Bessel van der Kolk in 2001-02, they started the Trauma Center Yoga Program together soon thereafter. With Elizabeth Hopper, David is co-author of Overcoming Trauma Through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body.

Rob: What originally motivated you to do this work, and what continues to motivate you? How, if at all, has that motivation changed over time?

The primary motivation was the fact that our country was ramping up for two wars, and there is a wet shelter (a homeless shelter where people are not turned away if they are actively using drugs and alcohol) around the corner from my house filled mostly with Vietnam vets. I knew we'd be seeing the younger vets in there soon enough. As we started the Trauma Center Yoga Program and as things evolved, we started working mostly with survivors of chronic, complex, intra-familial abuse and neglect, and this is where the potential benefits of Trauma-Sensitive Yoga really started to reveal themselves. Now I work mostly with teens who have had a great deal of trauma exposure. I also have a veterans group and we continue to meet sporadically after nine years.

Is there a standout moment from your work at the Trauma Center?

When Senator Kennedy mentioned our yoga program during his comments for the Trauma Center's 25th anniversary I felt like yoga had arrived as a serious, viable treatment. One of two other incredibly meaningful moments was our team receiving the first grant ever given by the National Institutes of Health to study yoga and trauma; the other was completing the first -- and to date only -- randomized controlled PTSD trial using yoga as the therapeutic intervention. Finally, any day on which someone I am working with notices a body feeling and makes a choice about what to do with it, is a standout day.

What did you know about the population you are working with before you began teaching? What were some of the assumptions you had about this population, and how have those assumptions changed?

I knew trauma was complex, but I didn't really understand how complex. I have been very lucky to have had several adult students over the years who have been willing to articulate for me what it's like to have a body after suffering through tremendous trauma. I have learned everything I know from them.

What are two distinct ways that your teaching style differs from the way you might teach in a studio, and what are the reasons for these differences?

We do no physical assists and the teacher does not move around the room. To fully explain these teaching points would take up too much space here but they are the result of our understanding of the impacts of trauma that include: 1. disscociation (when people "check out" or have fragmented experiences that from time to time do not include you); 2. the internal interpretation of external stimuli (like touch); and 3. the feeling of safety in relationships.

What has been the greatest challenge in your teaching experience, and what tools have you developed for addressing that challenge?

The biggest challenge for me has been something that is very specific to the kind of chronic, interpersonal trauma that we are working with. Because the trauma took place within the context of a relationship, and the student and I are now entering into a relationship (even more pointed, a relationship with power dynamics, teacher-student), there are times when I have been the source of a trigger for someone. It could be the way I dress, the way I move, a facial expression or a tone of voice -- anything. Sometimes when this happens people become very angry with you, or scared of you, and this has been the most difficult thing for me to experience. The best way we have found as a team to deal with these experiences is to talk with each other. We are a team of yoga teachers and clinicians and we all support each other.

What advice would you give to anyone who is going to teach in the populations you work with?

Please don't go it alone. Get involved with some kind of treatment center where you can interact with therapists, and they with you. If you do yoga with traumatized people it is automatically a clinical issue. Please respect that, and do your due diligence in terms of learning about trauma and its impact on the entire organism.

What are some of your ideas about or hopes for the future of "service yoga" in America in the next decade?

I would like to see more science, more data, and more randomized controlled studies. In my opinion we owe it to our clients/students and to our future funders (tax payers and private citizens) to prove what works, and to recognize what doesn't. We need to enter into the empirical domain, as difficult and as challenging as that is for yoga teachers like me!

How has this work changed your definition of service? Your definition of yoga? Your practice?

First, in terms of my definition of yoga, there have been very real changes as a result of my work with traumatized people. For one thing, the whole process has become much simpler. I feel like I used to put a lot more effort into practicing yoga than I do now. In my personal practice I find that I am less inclined to interpret my body experience and more comfortable just trusting the experience itself. I find that I make less effort to do yoga for someone else, some external approval, and am more interested in practicing yoga for the pure joy of reminding myself that I am here, that I have a body, that I exist.

On the question of service my response is that service, to me, is not a side project. It is a fully-integrated, professional endeavor. Yoga teachers should be paid a reasonable wage if they are offering trauma survivors, for example, a high quality treatment with proven outcomes. People are suffering tremendously, and they need others to devote themselves to their care and unless one is independently wealthy (and more power to you if you are!), one needs to make a living. Service and making a living do not have to be mutually exclusive.

What other organizations do you admire?

There are many, but 3 that I am particularly fond of are:

Originally published on Huffington Post and Give Back Yoga Foundation

Rob Schware is the Executive Director of the Give Back Yoga Foundation, President of the Yoga Service Council, and Seva Advisor to Hanuman Festival. He has been married to Alice Trembour for 28 years, which, like yoga, is in and of itself a regular commitment to a practice. They have three children.

You can follow The Give Back Yoga Foundation for news, updates, and fun on Twitter at @givebackyoga.


India’s Bihar School of Yoga Celebrates 50th Anniversary at the 2013 World Yoga Convention

Sri Swami Satyananda

By B Grace Bullock, PhD, E-RYT - 

Like the rays of the moon, the light of yoga is expanding. All religions, beliefs and sects are receiving shelter under the kalpataru (wish-fulfilling tree) of yoga. Towards the evolution of consciousness yoga has done unforgettable work. Yoga will become tomorrow’s culture and will show a new way of life for mankind.”     - Sri Swami Satyananda

If you are a dedicated yogi and an adventurous traveler, mark your calendar for the 2013 World Yoga Convention in Munger, India from October 23-27, when s
piritual leaders, educators, scientists, doctors and others will convene to share the ancient and modern traditions of yoga. A highlight of the convention will be the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the internationally famous Bihar School of Yoga, one of the world’s preeminent yoga research and educational institutions. 

The Bihar School of Yoga was founded in 1964 by Sri Swami Satyananda, a sannyasin, yoga teacher and guru in both India and the West. Swami Satyananda wrote over 80 books, including the well-known Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha, one of the most systematic yoga manuals today, which has been reprinted seventeen times since it was first published in 1969.

While not that well known in the U.S., the Bihar School of Yoga remains one of the leading schools of the teaching and study of yoga in India. The school is “dedicated to the propagation of classical, integral yoga” and inspired by the mission of integrating yoga into society. The school is viewed as the “beacon of the modern yoga renaissance.” The ancient Vedantic, Tantric, and yogic text are synthesized with modern approaches to science, and health care. In addition to the original campus in Munger, India, the school influences yoga education across the globe.

The Bihar School of Yoga was founded on the principle that yoga is central to improving quality of life on a multitude of dimensions: physical, mental, emotional, psychic, and spiritual. The school’s mission includes the integration of yoga and medical research, and the cultivation of collaborations with prestigious hospitals and public and private institutions and corporations with the goal of translating the ancient science of yoga to everyday life.

Given the Bihar School of Yoga’s important contribution to the international yoga community, it seems fitting that the school be honored at the 2013 World Yoga Convention. Beginning with its inaugural meeting in 1953, the convention has been held every twenty years. This year’s gathering is dedicated to “bring forth a new level of understanding and application of yoga in people’s lives. [It] will ignite, power and guide the future effort towards a global understanding and realization of spiritual life in its true sense."

The first World Yoga Convention was held in 1953 and conducted by Sri Swami Sivananda, the teacher of Sri Swami Satyananda. Held every 20 years, the conference attracts an internationally renowned lineup of esteemed speakers. Proceedings will include a number of lectures, presentations, a book exposition, and kirtan. Attendees with explore sacred traditions and modern science, seeking to create a forum in which individuals from all walks of life might be inspired to adopt the ancient teachings and practices of yoga. Conference organizers propose, “Yoga must become part of life. Only then can the process of transformation take place in deeper and more profound ways… Through the living of yoga, moment to moment, breath to breath, a new cycle of positive transformation begins, the birth of yogic culture.”

Most Westerners won’t have the opportunity to attend the World Yoga Conference in Munger, India, yet there are many ways in which we might benefit from this convocation. The Conference website
offers a number of resources and interesting information regarding the global yoga community and the Bihar School. Perhaps you may be inspired to revisit your favorite ancient yoga texts, explore the vast array of modern writings, or enjoy a workshop or webinar. There are limitless ways to explore the ways in which you can deepen your practice, learn more about the ancient science of yoga, or discover the ways in which yoga can improve your quality of life. Whichever path you choose, it is likely that there will be countless others just like you, exploring the ways in which the “modern yoga renaissance” can enrich your life.

“Yoga can show people of this century the way to self-purification. For all those who wish to devote their life to God, attain samadhi through yoga and meditation, expand their consciousness, I have only one message - get the boulders out of the road first, and then you can proceed safely on your journey. How can the incapable, finite mind, bound by shackles, experience super-consciousness?”  - Sri Swami Satyananda


B Grace Bullock, PhD, E-RYT, is the former Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy. She is an author, intervention scientist and practitioner who has worked extensively in inpatient and outpatient behavioral health settings. Her research and clinical work explore the effects of integrating empirically supported psychotherapy with yoga therapy to relieve stress, anxiety, depression and other psychological illnesses, and to promote health and wellbeing for children and their families. She was the recipient of a Francisco J. Varela Research Award from the Mind & Life Institute. For more information contact Grace at bgracebullock@me.comor see




Yoga Benefits: Benefit # 1: Yoga Detoxifies the Body


By Tari Prinster - 

Detoxification is the metabolic process by which toxins, or harmful things, are changed into less toxic substances and flushed from the body.  Similar to how an environmentalist would remove pollution from a lake by flushing it with fresh water and directing drainage. Yoga is a powerful tool in the cleansing or detoxifying of our bodies.

Yoga borrows from the science of physics using the principles of movement, gravity and resistance to achieve this goal. All of our body’s systems participate in this cleansing process, but primarily the lymph system. Think about the lymph system as the body’s plumbing service and trash can for removing potential cancer cells, toxins and other waste (garbage!).  However, the lymph system has no organ that circulates its fluids, so it depends on the movement of muscles—especially the heartbeat, the breath and gravity—to flush waste from the body.  We use yoga to encourage lymphatic flow by placing the skeleton in certain postures, then moving them in specific patterns with our muscles.  Because muscles need more blood flow when moving than when resting, movement increases the heartbeat.  The demand for more blood results in a more rapid movement of blood being pumped through the cardiovascular channels located throughout the body.  Since the lymph system parallels the cardiovascular system, lymph fluid also flows better when blood is moving more forcefully and quickly.

The largest lymph node “waste” collector is the thoracic duct located in the body’s center. The thoracic duct best kept secret of yoga and cancer experts. This central powerful vessel starts at the top of the sternum, reaching all the way to the small intestines.  Proper diaphragmatic breathing will move lymph fluid from the arms, legs, and head toward the thoracic duct.  From there, lymph fluid is cycled through the body’s laundry system and toxins are excreted, sweated out or otherwise expelled in the proper, well-designed process. Simple movements coordinated with diaphragmatic breathing does this. No magic. Just yoga.

The y4c methodology uses these three familiar physics principles in specific poses and with simple vinyasa sequences that involve actively moving muscles and bones. However, even seemingly passive restorative poses create subtle movement that directs the circulation of lymph and blood. By placing the head below the heart in restorative poses, gravity reverses the flow of body’s vital fluids. In addition, such poses encourage specific muscles to lengthen and relax. In itself, this may not appear to be a cleansing or detoxifying process, but considering that post-cancer treatment long-term side effects can leave a survivor’s body riddled with scar tissue and missing organs, creating obstacles to feeling and functioning normally, these poses are very liberating as they encourage passive movement of muscles and fluids.

Finally, yoga can clear, cleanse and “detoxify” the mind, too.  A cancer survivor lives with the fear of cancer returning, and this daily anxiety is a mental toxin.  By applying the same physical techniques, we detoxify the mind by using the movement of the breath, by relaxing into gravity in a restorative pose, and by managing negative thoughts while meditating. The biology of relaxation is based on the principle of reestablishing emotional balance. Left to itself, “the body will naturally relax when tired and arouse itself after rest.”1  Not so the mind. Yoga’s meditation tool can help to ‘refine’ the process of ushering out harmful, unnecessary and emotionally demanding thoughts. Even for a second, this can be a powerful benefit.

Let Pema Chodron’s words constantly irrigate, dilute and detoxify your thoughts. ‘No feeling last forever.’2

Tari Prinster is a breast cancer survivor, yoga teacher and founder of y4c Teacher Training. She is the author of Yoga Prescription: Using Yoga to Reclaim Your Life During and After Cancer. Tari has been featured in Yoga Journal among many other publications, as well as in the feature documentary Yogawoman. For more information, visit



1. How Meditation Heals: Scientific Evidence and Practical Application, by Eric Harison, Ulysses Press, 2000
2. The Pocket Pema Chodron, Pema Chodron, Shambalah Press, 2008

Can Yoga Improve Your Sex Life? A New Study Suggests So


By Christie Hall - 

Yoga improves so many aspects of your health and wellbeing, so why not your sex life? Indeed, a new study on the effects of yoga on women with metabolic syndrome suggests that yoga might improve overall sexual function in women.

The study focused specifically on women with metabolic syndrome, who are known to have higher rates of sexual dysfunction, and it’s unknown whether results can be generalized to the general population. Still, the study results are noteworthy. Findings suggest that regular yoga practice could be beneficial to women’s sexual health by improving blood flow and pelvic floor strength, and increasing a sense of wellbeing and mindfulness.

The study is the first comprehensive study of yoga and sexual functioning for woman with metabolic syndrome, Metabolic syndrome is linked to higher risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and is characterized by a cluster of symptoms, including obesity, hypertension, as well as elevated glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Globally, the prevalence of women with sexual dysfunction is estimated at 40%, but women with metabolic syndrome have considerably higher rates of sexual difficulties.

In the study, a group of South Korean scientists randomly assigned 41 women with metabolic syndrome (30-60 years of age) to either a 12-week biweekly, 1-hour yoga program or a wait-list. Seventeen women in the yoga group and 20 on the wait list completed an assessment before and after the yoga program.  Participants were matched by age, marital status, education, income, menopausal status, smoking, alcohol use, and chronic disease status.

Comparing pre and post-test scores after the study period, the researchers found that women in the yoga group reported statistically significant improvements overall female sexual function following the 12-weeks of yoga classes. They also reported greater levels of change in arousal and lubrication compared to wait list controls.

Interestingly, the women in the yoga group also saw improved scores on several indicators linked to metabolic syndrome. Study results showed improvements in levels of fasting glucose, triglycerides, and HDL-cholesterol, as well as systolic blood pressure. These results are in line with other studies suggesting that yoga may help reduce risk factors for diabetes, and heart disease.

Yoga Postures Used in the Study

To enhance sexual function, the researchers designed the yoga intervention “to develop the strength, flexibility and balance of psychophysical energies in the body based on the teachings of Hatha yoga”. The practices included pranayama (kapalabhati), a yoga asana (posture) sequence, and finished with savasana, or corpse pose, which the authors considered to represent meditation.

The study used a broad variety of yoga poses to improve sexual function, including

  • Forward bends (e.g. bound angle pose, cow-face pose, a wide-angle seated forward fold, and standing forward bend;
  • Backbends (e.g. cobra, locust, and bridge pose);
  • Standing poses (e.g. forward fold and triangle pose);
  • One inversion, as well as plow pose.

A number of poses were selected specifically with the intention of strengthening pelvic floor muscles including cow-face pose, hero pose, locust pose, and bridge pose.

Fourteen poses were held for less than 5 minutes each, followed by 10 minutes of corpse pose. The teacher varied the sequence as needed, and poses were modified for limitations or discomfort.

This practice places a great deal of physical demand and stress relative to most yoga therapy studies, and the use of kapalabhati is generally contraindicated for individuals with hypertension. However, the authors don’t make reference to adverse effects from the practice.

How Might Yoga Improve Sexual Function?

So which are the possible pathways through which yoga improved overall sexual function in the study participants? The authors suggest that the increased mental focus and sense of wellbeing yoga creates might be one pathway. The results support a link between overall wellbeing and sexual health, the researchers note. In addition, the mindfulness skills acquired during yoga practice may offset mental distractions during sexual activity that can otherwise undermine pleasure and satisfaction.  

Further, the researchers suggest, the increased circulation from improved atherosclerosis (the hardening of the arteries that otherwise reduces blood flow) “may ameliorate the pelvic blood flow leading to engorgement and lubrication of the vagina and vulva. This, in turn, could improve sexual function in women by facilitation of the sexual response cycle”.

Given the short period in which women participated in the study and the lack of long-term follow-up, it is unknown whether or not trends toward improvement in other areas of sexual satisfaction will continue to increase, and whether these results will persist over time.

This is one of the first studies to link regular yoga practice with improved sexual function in women. While the study was conducted with women with a high risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, findings suggest that regular yoga may be beneficial to women’s overall sexual health by improving blood flow and pelvic floor strength, and by increasing wellbeing and the ability to be mindful and present.

Given that over one third of women report some level of sexual difficulty, these findings could pave the way for greater sexual fulfillment for healthy women as well.

Source: Ha-Na Kim, MD; Jungsu Ryu, MA;  Kyung-Soo Kim, MD; and Sang-Wook Song, MD.  Effects of Yoga on Sexual Function in Women with Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 2013 July 30 (Epub ahead of print) 

Christie Hall began studying yoga in 1995 to cope with crippling back pain. Her home practice started with the book, Yoga: The Iyengar Way. She started teaching in 1997 after studying with Iyengar teacher Karin O'Bannon and she has studied as student and as teacher exclusively with Iyengar teachers, including BKS Iyengar in Colorado in 2005 and Geeta Iyengar in 2007. More of her writings can be found on her blog: Her Web site is

New Trend for Fitness Buffs? Walk and Talk to Walk Your Talk


Between work, watching TV, internet surfing or playing computer games, Americans on average are sitting 9.3 hours/day, exceeding the 7.7 hours that we are sleeping. We take this way of life for granted, in the same way smoking used to be the social norm rather than the exception.

“Sitting has become the smoking of our generation,” argues author, blogger, and visionary Nilofer Merchant of Silicon Valley in this noteworthy TED Talk. The implication? Sitting on your butt is just as bad for you as those cigarette butts of yore (okay, bad pun).

While that might seem a ludicrous statement at first, consider these facts: Sitting long hours is estimated to contribute 10 percent of the risk of breast and colon cancer, 6 percent of the risk of heart disease, and 7 percent of the risk of Type 2 diabetes. And because everyone is sitting, we don’t even think to question our habits.

Since working for most people necessitates spending long hours at our desk, what’s the solution? Some companies are introducing ‘standing desks’ in an effort to give employees a break from long hours of sitting. But there are other options, Merchant notes.

Recently, she was invited to a meeting with someone who asked if she minded if they met while she walked her dog. This set off a light bulb for Merchant. We tend to separate work and exercise, but why not combine the two? Now, instead of scheduling meetings around conference tables or over coffee, she schedules walking meetings. Her work week now includes walking 20 to 30 miles between Monday and Friday.

“If you walk and talk, walk the talk, you’ll be surprised that fresh air drives fresh thinking, and you can bring into your life an extremely new set of ideas,” says Merchant.

Merchant is the author of 11 Rules for Creating Value in the #SocialEra, a book about reconciling forces that are typically seen as opposing. She is known for her ability to reframe opposite ideas, so that both can co-exist. Uniting work and exercise is just one example of how things we normally consider opposing really can exist together—all it takes is a little shift in perspective.

Merchant’s example is a good reminder to vary up your workday. Get a wireless headset, so you can move around while on the phone, or even just stand and stretch at your desk.  Find ways to move for at least 5 minutes an hour, whether it be to stretch, walk around the office, doing a simple desk yoga practice or even ‘just’ taking a few deep breaths. You will find that you stay more productive and focused throughout the day with energy to spare at the end of the day.

Yoga Students Unite Against Sexually Abusive “Gurus”

I Am My Own Gury

In response to recent sex scandal allegations about yoga gurus John Friend, Kausthub Desikachar (son of yoga master TKV Desikachar), and Bikram Choudhury (one of the most publicized teachers of modern time), a purple-bracelet wearing clan of yoga students have stepped up to make yoga safe for everyone again. Their moniker? “I Am My Own Guru.”

Sex scandals are nothing new in the yoga world. Historically, many devotees have made excuses for womanizers and even abusive leaders within their communities to the extent that many go on teaching despite legal action and clear misconduct.

Absolute Yoga Academy founder, Lucas Rockwood, hopes to change all that by uniting his student and colleagues in an effort to not only stop the abuse, but to stop the blind-faith guru system all together. Rockwood says:

“There are no ethics committees or watchdog groups for yoga students, and yet teachers with huge power and influence are clearly taking advantage, and in some cases, even assaulting their students who came to class to get fit or relieve stress.

Yoga is not a religion, it’s a practice. We don’t need gurus, we need good teachers who we can trust to be safe and responsible. ‘I Am My Own Guru’ is about giving the power back to the students, and taking action against abusers when the writing is so clearly on the wall.”

According to Rockwood, I Am My Own Guru is a statement, a movement, and a complete paradigm shift away from the broken (and dangerous) model of guru/disciple group think, toward a much healthier and empowered system where individuals are respected, honored, and above all, always feel safe in what should be the safest of safe places—their yoga studio.

For such a lofty ambition, you’d think Rockwood would have a team of lawyers and a media team. Instead, he’s got a boatload of purple bracelets. Rockwood is currently manufacturing bracelets embossed with his now-viral catch phrase: “I Am My Own Guru”

In a not-for-profit venture, Rockwood’s company, Absolute Yoga Academy, is paying for the bracelets and shipping, while students donate $5 per bracelet that goes directly to a grassroots yoga charity (not affiliated to Rockwood or his company).

When you wear your I Am My Own Guru bracelet, it’s meant to symbolize that you’re strong, and self-empowered. It says that you’ve come to yoga class to take care of your body and mind—not to get ogled, groped or assaulted.

Can a purple bracelet really change yoga? Only time will tell. 

Just for Fun - Stephen Colbert Gets His Dance on and a Few Yoga Moves Too!

Okay people, this doesn't really have much to do with yoga, but for sheer joy of movement it's just too good to pass on. Stephen Colbert and a grand assortment of celebrities get their dance on, and wow, it will make you jump out of your seat too. And watch out for those quasi attempts at Natarajasana during the America's Got Talent segment too. Lord of the Dance -- indeed.

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

Encinitas Schools Receive a $1.4 Million Grant to Expand P.E. Yoga Program


Less than a month after a San Diego Superior Court ruled that the Encinitas Union School District (EUSD) can legally continue teaching yoga to its students, the EUSD has received a $1.4 million grant in support of the yoga program’s expansion.

This is good news for the parents in Encinitas, California, who wanted their children to continue participating in yoga classes as part of the schools’ physical education program.  According to UT San Diego, the new grant will enable the EUSD to increase the number of yoga teachers from 10 to 18, while also contributing to the development of the program.

The grant was offered by the Sonima Foundation, formerly known as the Jois Foundation (named after Pattabhi Jois, who first brought Ashtanga yoga to the United States).  The $1.4 million grant takes the yoga program a larger step further, not only adding additional teachers, but funding a 3-year study on the effects of the yoga program on the students enrolled in the P.E. program. The hope is that the research might lead to the creation of a free, evidence-based curriculum, which at some point can be made available to other schools interested in introducing yoga into the P.E. curriculum.

Opponents of yoga for school children had sued the district on the grounds that yoga is a religion, and therefore inappropriate for public schools. While the Judge recognized that yoga indeed can be religious, examination of “EUSD Yoga” showed it to be a secular physical activity, and hence not a violation of church and state separation. The parents who filed the original lawsuit to stop the Encinitas yoga program are planning an appeal. However, according to David Steinberg, a Law and Religion instructor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, Attorney, barring a procedural error, the appeal is unlikely to lead to a reversal.

For now, thanks to this generous $1.4 million grant, many more school aged children in Encinitas, California, will have the opportunity to participate in a regular yoga practice, and hopefully enjoy all the physical, mental and emotional benefits, which research has shown yoga has to offer. 

The Three Steps of Forgiveness—Healing the Victim Inside


by Marya Mann, PhD

“For a dancer, God is Space." - Yoshito Ohno

The night we practiced the Forgiveness Dance as part of our Yoga Dance Training in Kona, Hawaii, there was a frog in my throat. We practiced progressive forgiveness as a way to help heal the heart’s wounds and induce radiant health and joy around the places in our hearts where we’ve felt victimized.

Everywhere we look—in the newspapers, on TV, and even in our own personal lives—we see exam­ples of people who have been victimized by crazy people. 

There’s a lot to forgive in the world. If we’re lucky, it’s a full-time passion and we move from compassionate action to forgiveness as quickly as A to B. But for some people, victim consciousness weaves together a self-perpetuating narrative, and they move from hurt to hurt, wound to wound. They can’t seem to enjoy the open space of forgiveness, freedom, peace and unconditional love .

Colin Tipping in Radical Forgiveness says the time has come for us to stop creating our lives as victims and dominators. The fundamental question, he says, is this: “How can we let go of the victim archetype as the model for how to live?” 

“To break free from such a powerful archetype, we must replace it with something radically different—something so compelling and spiritually liberating that it magnetizes us away from victimhood,” Tipping says. “As we continue to move into the new millennium and prepare for the imminent next great leap in our spiritual evolution, it is essential that we adopt a way of living based not on fear, control, and abuse of power but on true forgiveness, unconditional love, and peace.”

The skill of the new human is to trust open space, learn from mistakes, to forgive each other and move on. When we stop forgiving, we stop living. Forgiving is necessary to heal past wounds; in freeing ourselves from the bitterness of the past, we also stop being trapped in a downward spiral of feeling victimized by the people and circumstances of life.

The Three People You Must Forgive

The Forgiveness Dance is a three-step process in which we invite in the three people we all must learn to forgive in life: Those whom we have hurt, those who have hurt us, and last but not least, ourselves. In a guided meditation, we invoked three separate kinds of people with whom we wanted to experience forgiveness.

Asking Forgiveness of Those We Have Hurt

Invite into your heart a person who you want to ask forgiveness of, someone who has felt hurt or betrayed by you, and who is withholding love because of it. In your heart, ask this person to forgive you and to allow a place of peace in your shared heart. Ask that you may find peace and a renewal of love with each other. In your heart, ask of that person, ‘Please forgive me for whatever I have done to cause you pain.’ Ask the person’s higher Self or spirit to open arms to embrace and listen to your higher Self in a communion of souls forgiving and reconnecting to each other.

Forgiving Those Who Have Hurt Us

As a Yoga Dancer, Wellness Consultant and Writer, I have heard enough horror stories from quite ordinary people to convince me that there is not a human being on the planet who has not been seri­ously victimized at least once, and in minor ways more times than they could count. Who among us can say they have never blamed someone else for their lack of happiness? For many, blame is simply a way of life.

Indeed, the victim archetype is deeply ingrained in the human species, and acknowledging that it exerts great power over mass con­sciousness can help us to transform it.  So in the Yoga Dance class, I ask students to invite into their hearts a second person, someone who wanted our forgiveness. This is a friend, family member or co-worker, who requests our forgiveness. It is someone we have pushed out of our hearts because we refuse to forgive what we perceive as a violation against us.

Say to the person who is asking forgiveness:I forgive you. I know that you are in pain and have felt victimized too.’ Then, as your higher Self, open your spiritual arms and receive the one who is asking forgiveness back into your heart. Feel the courage of compassion and see how your higher Self’s radiance adds to their radiance, and their light adds to yours. Experience how the laser-like spiritual power in real forgiveness dissolves old hurts and impediments to love. Open your spiritual arms and receive. Replace hatred with love’s light.  

Asking Forgiveness of Ourselves

The third person we invite into our hearts to ask forgiveness must be ourselves. How many times have we withheld forgiveness from ourselves? For some people, forgiving ourselves can be the hardest of all. In the forgiveness dance, we ask:

Bring your innocence and basic goodness to the forefront inside your heart. Feel the flame of purity flickering with joy in your heart. Compassion is your purpose. Your forgiveness of self spreads light upon the world. Infinite love and forgiveness inside your heart opens all the spiritual doors and re-invigorates your dance of pure aliveness.

As you go through these steps, you will intimately experience how forgiveness transforms us. Forgiveness can be the key to free us, often from energy patterns so fundamental, imprinted before the age of reason, language or voice, that we don’t even know how to identify them. And the layers can still be enmeshed in out bodies without our conscious control!

As long as we feel victimized by other people, circumstances or ourselves, we unconsciously project a dominator archetype and don’t even know it. Goodness will win when the dominator trait, the behavior pattern that begins with arrogance and ends with torture, repression, genocide and open warfare on a vast scale, runs itself out. Goodness is what will go on as long as we are free to forgive.

To free the earth from the victim-dominator archetype, many, many people—souls who possess the wisdom and love necessary to accomplish this immense task—must awaken and accept their spiritual mission: To feel, heal and release the victim and dominator archetypes.

Perhaps you are one of the souls who volunteered for this mission. If you are alive and breathing, I suspect you are.


Photos by: Koakane Green, D. C.

Marya Mann, Ph. D., started yoga practice after a 1968 car accident initiated her spiritual evolution. Study with Richard Freeman, Shiva Rae and Mukunda Stiles inspired her to open a yoga center in Illinois, travel to India and move to Hawaii. Co-author of Healing Our Planet, Healing Our Selves and wellness consultant in Kona, she offers Dance for the Planet and Healing Retreats. You can find more of her writings on her blog at




A New Super Food: The Healing Powers of Black Rice Bran


Written by Jon Barron or staff member at The Baseline of Health Foundation

If you've ever balked at the price of fresh blueberries (especially when they're out of season), but knew you needed a good source of antioxidants, then head over to the rice aisle, where you might just find a taste of forbidden fruit -- or at least, rice. Black rice, that is. Centuries ago, emperors in ancient China forbade commoners from eating black rice because it was so good -- they wanted to keep it all for themselves. 

Black rice is popular in Asia in noodles, sushi, and pudding, and may be on its way to becoming more popular with Americans. In fact, according to new research by the American Chemical Society, a spoonful of back rice is better for you than the same amount of blueberries, because it has less sugar and more fiber and vitamin E antioxidants. 

Black rice is one of the over 7,000 varieties of rice in the world and has a rich, nutty flavor. It is a deep purple color (think eggplant) and is rich in iron and has a soft texture. Black bran layers are not removed from the rice during processing, so the rice does not stick together when cooked. 

But the best news is that it's full of a particular mix of anthocyanin antioxidants that shows promise for neutralizing free radical damage to the collagen matrix of cells and tissues that can lead to cataracts, glaucoma, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, peptic ulcers, heart disease, and cancer. 

Another potential benefit of black rice bran is that research published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry shows oral feeding of a standard mouse diet supplemented with 10% black rice bran significantly suppressed chemically-induced inflammation of the skin. Why is this important to us? Because prolonged inflammation has been associated with the development of allergies, atherosclerosis, cancer, heart problems, and infectious diseases. 

Another advantage of black rice is that it ranges in colors from pink to purples, all the way to black. This is important because initial research shows that it may be used to provide coloring for some of the thousands of products that now use artificial coloring, typically derived from petroleum and linked to behavior disorders, increased risk for cancer, growth and developmental delays, and even lead poisoning. The mild flavor and distinctive color of black rice might even attract the youngest diners in your household. 

In the future, don't be surprised if you start seeing black rice bran or bran extracts in cereals, oatmeal, and other products. Louisiana, California, and Arkansas rice farmers are adding black varieties to their fields, so start checking for it on your natural food store shelves and plan now to incorporate this "forbidden" powerhouse into your diet!


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