I have been hearing and reading for a long time that yoga helps with PTSD symptoms, but I had no idea how – until today. I’m really hopeful about what I figured out today. If you haven’t been following my latest resurgence of PTSD symptoms while driving, I nearly passed out from a trigger while driving a few weeks ago, and since then every time I’ve gotten in the car I’ve battled re-experiencing that and other intrusive trauma memories and imagined threats to my life or the lives of people close to me. Monday was really bad, and I’ve been worried about how to handle this and what it means if I lost my ability to drive.
I had two meetings late in the day yesterday, and had to divert off the interstate after 12 miles or so and take a much slower route on city streets. I just couldn’t do it, but driving 40 mph or less seemed to be ok. It took me twice as long to get home since I avoided the interstate and stuck to a series of roads I knew I could take as an alternative, but even that was a challenge and taking that long to get around is going to severely impact how I spend my time. I know that’s a reality for a lot of people, it just hasn’t been mine thus far and I’m certainly not organized around not being able to drive.
I had another meeting more than an hour out of town today, and I didn’t want to cancel or reschedule. It was an opportunity I have been working toward for years, but I didn’t have anyone to drive me and I decided I may as well try. Panic set in within the first two miles and I was about to pull off the road and quit when I wondered if I could ground myself while driving?
Mountain Pose in yoga is about grounding through all four corners of your feet, and I wondered if I could do that while I drove. I wasn’t directly standing on the ground, but I had bare feet within my fur-lined booties, which were on the car floorboard, and the car had a larger all four corners, which were on four tires which were on the ground. So, I was grounded, just through my car.
I set my left foot flat on the floor and meditated out loud through how my left foot was grounded. I then moved to my right foot and how it was grounded while still active and responsive, and I thought about the energy of having that foot be both grounded and lifting up at the same time. I then thought (still out loud) about how grounding in Mountain Pose can have the sensation of lifting up in the front body and grounding down through the back body, creating a cycle of energy through the body. I talked through this in each foot, then in my feet together, and by that time I was perfectly calm and present. I moved on to talking through how I was grounded by sitting in the driver’s seat and noticed the warmth of being connected to the seat from my shoulder blades to my knees. I very intentionally (and out loud) meditated through all of these aspects, being slow and deliberate and tying the principles I had learned about Mountain Pose to how I was sitting while driving.
I repeated this process continually on the drive to the meeting, staying present, connected, grounded and alert. I was amazed at how well it worked and how calm I was able to stay, especially considering how much panic I’ve had while driving for the last few weeks. I repeated the process on the way back, but after half of the drive I was able to switch from talking through the grounding meditation out loud to thinking through it off and on. It got easier and I didn’t have to be as vigilant.
It was such a relief to be able to calm myself successfully and to feel like I have a tool available to manage severe PTSD symptoms while I drive (a car crash is why I have PTSD). I’ll keep practicing this to see how it works and how intently I will need to stay with the meditation to stay calm. Here’s hoping the yoga is really going to pay off!