3 Holistic Ways to Heal Generational Trauma

3 Holistic Ways to Heal Generational Trauma

It’s pretty well-understood in the psychological community that addiction can “run in families.” However, it’s been difficult to pinpoint a specific “addiction gene” that is responsible. Instead, what has been discovered to be passed down from generation to generation is trauma. Traumatic stress has transgenerational effects on the offspring. Trauma affects the brain by changing the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis, which results in increased cortisol, then stress hormone.

Changes in the amygdala and hippocampus also occur in response to trauma. People who have addiction have disruptions in the extended amygdala too. Changes in the brain due to trauma can be passed down from generation to generation. So, if a parent experiences a traumatic event and it causes a disruption in the amygdala, that exact change could become present in the child’s amygdala, which later manifests itself as an addiction or other trauma-related response.

So, you can see how the cycle can go on and on. Addiction is not the only way that trauma can show itself in your life. You can see unresolved generational trauma manifest as codependency, toxic relationships, anxiety, anger issues, poverty, hoarding, or many other areas in your life. The good news is that this cycle can be broken and healed. This article will discuss three holistic ways that we can work to heal unresolved generational trauma and break the chains so that we can help the next generation.

1. Yoga

Many people think of yoga as simply a form of physical exercise. The poses, or asanas, are one aspect of yoga. But yoga itself is much more than that. Yoga is translated to mean “union.” This can be union with God, union with self, and union between mind, body, and spirit.

A systematic review of yoga and mental health issues discovered that participants reported:
  • Having an improved mind-body relationship
  • Having better relationships with others
  • Feeling more centered
  • Feeling increased self-compassion

A recent 10-week study showed that 52% of the participants in the yoga group no longer met the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after the yoga sessions. So, practicing yoga can help with traumatic stress.
Beautiful Yoga Splits Pose

Trauma-informed yoga

There is even a newer branch of yoga being taught that is called trauma-informed yoga. Trauma-informed yoga means that the teacher understands trauma and tries to offer students poses and breathwork designed to help heal and let go. Some yoga professionals offer trauma therapy, which includes a talk session after yoga practice where students can get some of their feelings out to someone who understands. There are both group and one-on-one trauma yoga sessions available.

So, while you can join trauma-informed yoga classes in person and online, you can always practice yoga on your own if you want and still reap the benefits.

You can find many online yoga videos, both paid and free. If you begin a regular practice, then you may be able to help heal unresolved trauma issues.

2. Qigong

Qigong is a part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that dates back centuries. The term “Qigong” is newer, but the practice is ancient. You can also find a component of Qigong in Chinese martial art. Tai Chi is a practice that rose out of Qigong.

Qigong is similar to yoga, focusing on a mind-body relationship and including breathwork, poses, and intention. So, like yoga, which works to help move the prana that flows through our bodies, “Qi” or “Chi” is this energy that flows throughout our bodies.

Qigong helps to remove any blocks that we have in our physical body. Very often, one of these blocks in the body can be from trauma or generational trauma. Sometimes, trauma is trapped in an area of the body, preventing energy from flowing as it should and causing our energetic field to be off balance.

The breathwork and the movements help to calm down the nervous system. So, if you’d like to try Qigong to help release trapped emotions or trauma from the body, there are some beginner exercises that you can try.

Gong Bu

Gong Bu, or the “bow stance,” is similar to a traditional lunge. You put one foot in front of you, facing forward with a bent knee. Place your other foot behind you at a 45-degree angle and straighten your leg. You then straighten one arm out and keep one arm bent at your side. Your legs will resemble the Warrior One pose in yoga but with different arm placements. Holding in this pose for as long as you can helps build endurance.
Beautiful Yoga Nadi Shodhana Pranayama

Qigong Tapping Techniques

Another good way to move the energy in your body with Qigong is through Qigong tapping exercises. Tapping on the body will get the energy moving around and help you release what is no longer serving you.

It can also help your blood flow around in your body better and power up your magnetic field. With the tapping techniques, you can work on your whole body or just a section.

So, for example, a good place to start is with your arms. You gently smack or tap all the way up one side of your arm and smack down the other side. You can do these three or four times on each arm.

Afterward, it’s best to stand very still and center yourself. You should feel a tingling sensation as the energy moves around in your body and arms. You can add Qigong to a daily practice for about ten minutes a day and hopefully see some results after a few weeks.

3. Pranayama or breath work

Diaphragmatic breathing or deep belly breathing can help to reverse the fight, flight or freeze response that many people living with trauma are constantly in a state of. When this survival mechanism is continuously turned on in the body, it can lead to damage, lower immune system response, and increased mental health issues.

When you live in a state of chronic stress, you can not only cause lasting physiological changes in the body, but you may also become more prone to addiction. Substance use disorder can develop as a self-medication coping skill to combat the constant fight or flight feeling in the body.

Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback

There have been many studies that focus on deep breathing and its benefits. Heart rate variability biofeedback (HRVB) is the term used in the science community for deep breathing. This technique has people breathe slowly and, in turn, slow their heart rate. A review of the evidence for HRVB found that it increases Heart Rate Variability. Heart Rate Variability is the time in between a person’s heartbeats. Heart Rate Variability shows the body’s resilience to stress. It is a good indication of heart health and overall well-being.

A study of veterans with PTSD who were given an HRVB practice found that this practice did improve the veteran’s overall autonomic functions and lowered their symptoms of depression.
Front View Woman Meditating Mat

Pranayama Methods to Try

There are many different breathing techniques that you can practice to help lower stress and even heal the underlying generational trauma. A simple way to practice this on your own is to choose a deep breathing exercise that feels comfortable to you and practice it once a day for a few weeks to see if you have any improvements.
Some easy Pranayama techniques that you can try include the following:
  • Alternate nostril breathing
  • Belly breathing
  • Ujjayi breath
  • Lion’s Breath
  • Sitali breath or cooling breath

When you begin working with Pranayama, it’s essential to keep your spine straight and start small. You don’t want to try something too challenging that stresses you out more. Remember, the goal is to calm down, and when you find a breath style that makes you feel calm, that is the one for you.

You Can Try These Techniques To See if They Help

Generational trauma can sometimes manifest in the body or in behaviors, leaving us struggling to cope. But if you practice any or all three techniques, you should be able to see some improvement in the way that you carry or deal with trauma.

Most of these techniques you can practice on your own or find how-to’s online or videos to guide you through. If you want additional help, you can always find a teacher, therapist, or coach to help you implement these practices into your daily routine.
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