Reclaiming Your Innocence: Healing Sexual Abuse through Kundalini Yoga (with Kriyas for Strengthening the Aura and Releasing Rage, and Meditation for Haunting Thoughts
By Shabad Kaur Khalsa, M.A., L.M.F.T.
Kerry is a 26-year-old woman who experiences debilitating panic attacks. She is a marketing assistant in her first job after college. Her primary doctor prescribes an anti-anxiety medication, which results in dramatically reducing the intensity of her emotions. However, after taking it for a few weeks she does not enjoy what she describes as a "flat and numbed feeling" and presents herself for therapy, seeking an alternative treatment.
On Kerry's first therapy visit, she appears as very neatly dressed, her hair cut and lightly streaked in the latest style, but her eyes peek out from behind heavy bangs, revealing a sad gaze that hardens her and ages her by many years. In giving her life history, she reveals that she was sexually abused by a relative when she was a girl. Memories and flashbacks have haunted her since her college years. Before receiving the prescription medication, she tried different methods of self-medicating and numbing her anxiety through binges of eating and drinking alcohol. She has had many romantic relationships with men, usually brief, as she established a pattern of ending these when her feelings for them became strong.
It Happens to Many Children
Current estimates are that one of three girls before the age of sixteen is sexually abused in the U.S., and one of five boys. Sexual abuse is an experience of having been forced, coerced, or seduced into engaging in sexual behavior whether as an adult or a child. Experiences can range from severe, when children are abused on many occasions for long periods of time, to more subtle experiences, when children suffer psychic sexual abuse, by being treated in an inappropriate, overly sexualized manner.
In most cases, perpetrators are either related to the children or acquainted with the family. Any level of abuse can produce devastating consequences for survivors, including feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, nightmares, flashbacks, compulsive-addictive diseases, depression, anxiety disorders and panic attacks, eating disorders, and impairment of sexuality and intimacy. Survivors often blame themselves initially, feeling a devastating sense of guilt.
Entering the adult world in their early 20's often triggers erosion of the sandbags of memory repression, dissociation, and denial that have been holding back the flood of the recollection of unbearable experiences.
A Story of Healing
One of the therapeutic recommendations Kerry received was to attend Kundalini Yoga classes regularly. She felt immediately connected with it. "Yoga and relaxation techniques can be really helpful for survivors of abuse," states Mike Ideran, D.Min., L.C.P.C., L.M.F.T., a psychotherapist and specialist in treating clients in recovery from sexual abuse and trauma. "If taught with the right guidance, it can be extremely grounding in a healthy way. And it helps survivors separate out their emotional pain from the physical pleasure of their bodies."
Through yogic counseling Kerry received several recommendations for lifestyle changes to help rebuild her nervous system. These included a Kundalini Yoga set and meditation to practice daily for 40 days, cold showers (except during menstruation), drinking Yogi Tea daily (a fortifying and tonifying aromatic beverage), establishing a healthy, nutritious diet, and continuing to attend group classes and events in order to stay connected with a spiritual community. She worked through many emotions of shame, hurt, sadness, rage, and grief in her recovery process.
Kerry initially found it frightening to close her eyes during yoga classes. Her yoga teacher suggested that she look at the tip of her nose with eyes nine-tenths closed. She also felt less vulnerable rolled up in child pose instead of lying flat in corpse pose during the deep relaxation. These options gave her a better sense of control as she gained a higher psychological comfort level in her practice.
An essential aspect of Kerry's feeling of safety was established by her Kundalini Yoga teacher's training in sensitivity and clear boundaries. The teacher can never completely anticipate the students' collective life experiences. In Kundalini Yoga one of the reasons students are never touched during class to adjust their postures is to avoid "forcing" them into what could be potentially injurious situations, either emotionally or physically. A goal is to provide a flexible, safe environment where students can blossom, gain fearlessness, and empower themselves.
Kerry also took time for herself, staying uninvolved with men for a period of 90 days. She gained a deep calmness and established an unprecedented level of comfort with herself during this time. Through establishing a deeper relationship with her body and her sexuality, she felt empowered to make healthier choices with men in the future. She reported feeling that her loneliness was no longer her constant companion. She even discovered a feeling of connection with her Divine self, with a feeling of infinity and universality.
Woman Has Two Arclines
Historically represented as the halo, the arcline arches from ear to ear and is the seat of the akash, the ether element, in the body. Its color varies with the person's health and mental or psychic condition. Women have a second arcline reaching across the chest from nipple to nipple, which Yogi Bhajan says gets "imprinted with the sexual experiences she has had in her life." It is important for women to be able to clear these energies as much as possible and also to keep the aura clear and strong.
The eighth chakra, or energy center of the body, the aura, is the electromagnetic field of energy that surrounds every living creature. Kundalini Yoga kriyas (specific sequences of yogic exercises) and pranayama (conscious breathing techniques) increase the auric field, thus increasing awareness. According to yogic teachings, a woman is receptive to the penetrating quality of men. Even flirting can open holes in the aura, making a woman extremely vulnerable. A strong, radiant aura can protect us from many misfortunes and strengthen our mental, physical, and spiritual bodies (see Set for Strengthening the Aura below).
As Kerry began to introduce new, healthier behaviors, she replaced old habits of self-abuse and self-sabotage. She no longer experienced panic attacks. She worked very diligently on her recovery, and after several months of her process, her internal changes became outwardly discernible. She now kept her hair swept back away from her forehead, and her arcline became perceptibly clearer. Her friends and acquaintances frequently commented on her new "healthy glow" and how "radiant" she looked.
Her eyes 'sparkled,' and her youthful smile shone brightly. A trained observer recognizes these as evidence of a strong arcline.
Recovery of Innocence
There is a language of innocence. We talk about how clear and radiant a woman looks. One student described her goal in her yoga practice as becoming as "bright and shiny" as her female teacher. As yogis we understand the foundation for these perceptions as clearly associated with aspects of yogic anatomy. The arcline can be cleared of imprinted sexual experiences. Recovery truly means reclaiming what was stolen by a perpetrator: God-given innocence of mind, body, and soul—human beings born in original grace.
"It's very powerful once a person comes to terms with their own innocence," states Ideran. "Children almost always take on the responsibility for the abuse. Once they realize that they were not responsible for what occurred, then they can begin to finally recognize their own resilience and power."
Yogi Bhajan maintains that our birthright is to be happy. Kerry realized during her healing journey that reclaiming her innocence after experiences of abuse also included reclaiming what was rightfully hers: her rights to her body, her boundaries, her ability to trust herself and others. Recovery is hard work, and every person's journey is unique. The tools of transformation found in Kundalini Yoga and Meditation have accelerated the healing process for many.
Renewed Trust in God
One of the greatest aspects of recovery is re-establishing a connection with the higher self, a connection with God. Abuse distorts the ability to connect with the Infinite, as trust is so severely damaged, not just in people, but actually in God. Children begin life trusting that their parents will be there to protect them. When an innocent child is abused, it can produce the ultimate spiritual abuse—the loss of trust in Divine protection and Divine love. What greater tragedy can there be than to feel alone and uncared for, set adrift from the Infinite? Once the connection is re-established through the help of meditation and yoga, a survivor can feel truly connected to others, to God, to hope and trust. Therein lies the key to reclaiming innocence.
"The entire greatness of the Universe lies in innocence. Innocence is living Truth."
-Yogi Bhajan, Women's Training Camp, August 5, 1980
Kundalini Yoga Kriya: Strengthening the Aura
- Stand up and bend forward so the palms are on the ground and the body forms a triangle. Raise the right leg up with the knee straight. Exhale and bend the arms and bring the head near the ground. Inhale and raise up to the original triangle pose. Continue this triangle push-up for 1 ½ minutes. Switch legs and continue for another 1 ½ minutes.
- Sit in easy pose. Extend the left hand forward as if grasping a pole so the palm faces to the right. Put the right palm facing down crossed under the left wrist. Raise the right hand up over the back of the left hand so both palms face right and the fingers lock. Inhale and raise the arms to 60 °. Exhale and bring the arms down. Keep the elbows straight. Breathe deeply for 2 to 3 minutes. Then inhale and stretch the arms up. Relax.
- Put both arms forward, parallel to the ground with palms facing each other about 6 inches apart. As you inhale, let the arms drop back and stretch toward each other. Exhale and bring them forward to the original position. Continue for 3 minutes with deep rhythmic breaths.
In yogic tradition, it is believed and taught that this is a great kriya for keeping disease away and developing your aura . The time can be built up to 7 ½ minutes for each side in Exercise 1, and 15 minutes each for Exercises 2 and 3. That will create a tremendous sweat. It can get rid of almost any digestive problem, give strength to the arms, and extend the power of protection and projection in the personality.
Meditation for Haunting Thoughts
In yogic tradition, it is said that this meditation successfully removes unsettling thoughts from the past that surface into the present; that it can take difficult situations in the present and release them into the hands of Infinity; that this can be done in just 40 seconds and it really works!
- Lower the eyelids until the eyes are one-tenth open. Concentrate on the tip of the nose. Simply say the mantra Wahe Guru aloud in the following manner:Wha: Mentally focus on the right eye. Hey: Mentally focus on the left eye. Guru:Mentally focus on the tip of the nose.
- Remember the encounter or incident that happened to you.
- Mentally repeat Wahe Guru with the focus as before.
- Visualize and personify the actual feeling of the encounter.
- Repeat step 3.
- Reverse roles in the encounter you are remembering. Become the other person and experience that perspective.
- Repeat step 3.
- Forgive the other person and forgive yourself.
- Repeat step 3.
- Let go of the incident and release it into the Universe.
Exercise to Increase Energy and Release Rage
Begin with hands in loose fists at the shoulders, upper arms resting along the sides of the torso, elbows pointing down. Inhale as you alternately straighten one arm from the shoulder, twist the fist out, and "punch."
Exhale as you draw the fist back to the shoulder. Repeat with the other arm and keep alternating arms. Focus the open eyes on one specific point, like a target, that you are punching. Continue at a rapid pace for 1-5 minutes.
Really move strongly from the shoulders. Rage is a combination of sadness and anger and often resides in the shoulders. Do not do this exercise facing another person—use a picture.
Shabad Kaur Khalsa, LCPC, LMFT, E-RYT 500, KRI Level 1 Lead Teacher Trainer, organizes and leads the Annual Midwest Women’s Yoga Retreat. She is co-founder and director of Spirit Rising Yoga Center and Spirit Rising Foundation. For 28 years she has taught Kundalini Yoga and as a psychotherapist, she integrates the teachings into treatment for adults and couples. She is honored to have served Yogi Bhajan directly and has transcribed, edited, and illustrated several books including his women’s camp lectures, Master’s Touch and Flow of Eternal Power. The health and empowerment of women through the teachings of Kundalini Yoga is a cause that is near and dear to her heart and also specializes in Humanology, marriage, conscious birth, self-care, health and wellness.
[The practice of yoga has benefited millions or people, but this article is not intended as medical advice. Its intent is solely for information and education. The therapeutic benefits attributed come from centuries-old yogic tradition. Please consult a mental health professional should the need for one be indicated.]
Kundalini Yoga kriyas and meditations © The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan
[Published in Aquarian Times, Summer 2002]