Yoga teachers who work with trauma understand the reality of vicarious traumatization. In exposing ourselves to the often chaotic energy we experience when interacting with trauma victims, we can often find ourselves experiencing those same symptoms. People working with PTS(D) often experience PTS(D) symptoms themselves, as do the families of PTS(D) experiencers. In more mild cases, we often feel a sort of dissonance, or find ourselves ‘triggered’ for no reason we can put our fingers on.
Interacting with the most healthy and integrated people is an energy exchange; although it may even be positive, it can still be a bit of a drain, especially to the new teacher or yoga therapist. Interacting with those who have experienced trauma can amplify this phenomenon. Unless we are mindful of grounding ourselves and protecting ourselves, we are susceptible to these sort of ‘negative’ energy exchanges, and their energetic consequences. If we have our own issues we fail to ‘leave at the door,’ we are even more susceptible. Instructors with (or recovering from) PTS(D) are even more susceptible to this phenomenon.
This sounds a bit far-fetched to the inexperienced, but is common knowledge among therapists of all types. It is a reality that must be acknowledged and dealt with. By staying rooted in our practice and remembering who we are, we can immunize ourselves against this effect. By mindful observation and grounding, we can turn this energy into a more clear and stable energy. But we must face it, be present to that darkness, and embrace and accept it. Only then can it be transformed into Love.
Of course, the students typically do not mean to do this, and are not aware they are even doing so. That is okay; they have not tuned into the energy field, and not yet developed their discrimination enough to even notice this effect. We can be honored they feel safe enough (even if it is only in their unconscious selves) to share their energy with us, to radiate that freaky and sometimes chaotic energy, to trust us enough to be strong with it and hold our own space. This is one of the toughest challenges of a yoga teacher.
Sometimes a student will fixate on an instructor. This beholding of a person’s beauty and truth can be distorted by the ego, which then ‘personalizes’ the perception. This could result in ‘puppy love,’ or simply in staring in rapt awe at the instructor. This can be quite unsettling, and is a quite real manifestation of boundary issues. In some more severe cases, the student can be (or appear to be) an active ‘energy vampire,’
These people (perhaps sent by the Universe to teach us lessons, to challenge our equanimity, and to help us grow thereby) can radiate a disharmonic vibe, and can even become a ‘black hole’ for our energy and attention – if we let them. Sometimes ‘not letting them’ is harder than it sounds. After all they are just a person; can’t we simply ignore them or filter them out? If only it were so easy…
These odd vibrations can really get to us, like a hyper-critical or argumentative spouse’s actions or words can. After all, we are open to our students at a fairly intimate level, and thus quite vulnerable. They can make us begin to doubt ourselves, and the gift of darkness and discordance they bring is a gift, although disguised in an ostensibly ugly fashion. We can stay rooted in our authentic truth, in our authentic Selves, and thus be open to this seemingly left-handed gift.
Sometimes these people are seen as asura (typically translated as ‘demons’). They can steal our energy – again, only if we let them. They bring their dark gifts and challenge us in our balance, in our determination, in our desire to share the gifts of yoga. As we walk closer to the Light, many will come to test us, to try and drag us back into darkness. By holding firm to our yogic knowledge and roots, we can withstand these challenges, use them as tests and signposts along our Path, indicating progress, not simply manifesting as challenges or obstacles.