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‘My experience of embodiment healing – going into my system to get abuse out of it’ was written by GS, survivor, and writer who reached out to Quetzal wanting to share her experience healing her body from the trauma of sexual abuse and inspire others to explore further embodiment and movement for healing.

Through discussion with GS and understanding the value of her experience for recovery, it led Quetzal to organise a trauma-informed yoga session with Aishwarya Padmanabhan (watch session video).

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My experience of embodiment healing – going into my system to get abuse out of it

When I was a young girl, I was abused by a man my father had employed to work in our family-owned Indian restaurant. Having befriended my older brother, he would sneak into my room after evenings spent hanging out with my brother as my parents slept downstairs.

I have no recollection of what happened other than the knowledge that I was still in primary school and that it wasn’t full penetration. Yet the memories of the violence inflicted on me were implanted deep into my system and my cells, laying dormant for years until they felt ready to come out amidst an abusive relationship I found myself in during my early 30s, with a man who looked too similar to my abuser for it to be a coincidence. Even though I didn’t realise it back then, this was my cue to start healing.

Abuse, as I have learnt, and those who inflict the violence on you, stay in your system long after the abuse stops. So while I thought I was OK, quietly wondering if maybe I had evaded any consequences of what happened because I couldn’t visually remember anything, deep down within my body and unbeknown to me, I was carrying deep pains and shame that have taken me three decades to get to grips with.

During the abusive relationship, I started to experience pains in both my upper back and neck and womb space, dealing daily with cystitis-like symptoms of needing to go to the toilet and pelvic muscle spasms even while there was no evidence of any infection. I calmed things down with some yoga and basic dietary changes to reduce inflammation, which seemed to work for a while. But amidst the growing toll of this toxic relationship, followed by the loss of my father, the physical pains I started to experience became too overwhelming to bear. Finding myself at a significant point in my life following this shattering parental loss, I knew the time had come for me to do everything I could to get out of this relationship and face what was going on inside my system.

It’s been a difficult and beautiful journey ever since. Slowly understanding that the roots of these pains are the suppressed emotions –  among them, anger, hurt, neglect, sadness, and grief – that I was feeling for myself towards the abuser, my family, and even our patriarchal-led community structures which I feel harm, silence and shame those who have been violated in such a way, I began seeking out the help of various holistic practitioners. Starting with an acupuncturist, I have since visited an osteopath who deals specifically in the pelvic floor region; embarked on regular embodiment yoga sessions, tried out tapping, an acupressure therapy treatment that draws on ancient Chinese medicine, and embraced massage therapy. I have also discovered the beauty of the ancient practice of yoni steam cleansing, committed to regular talking therapy sessions, danced into my pain in workshops, and have worked with a sexologist trained in tantric and holistic healing techniques.

Taking the signals from my body at every step, I have learnt some amazing things about myself and my body along the way, and my awe and gratitude for how intelligent and special the body truly continues to grow. Through embodiment yoga, I have gained insight into the emotions that are linked to my organs, and how breathwork and yogic movement can give you access to these trapped and silenced emotions and then provide the framework within which they can be released. Slowly overcoming my fears of having a stranger touch me, I have learnt to respect the power of another’s healing hands – I still find it impressive that the pelvic floor specialist was able to detect that my liver was emotionally congested with too much fear just by internally inserting her fingers into me for less than 10 minutes. During my sessions with my sexologist, I discovered how to connect with my pelvic bowl and how tapping into its various areas can reveal and heal trapped energies. I also learnt about just how many more people nowadays are turning to holistic healing techniques to deal with their past wounds. It felt good to know that I am not the only one on this journey. Dance has become my way of connecting with my darker emotions and my way to release the energies and emotions that no longer serve me, while talking therapy with a therapist who shares a similar cultural and ethnic background is a stabilizing tool I turn to as and when I need to. Writing has also played a big part in helping me get to where I am today, where I feel strong enough to write my story out of me and share it with others so that I can move forward. I feel very grateful to have had the opportunities and the access to such a variety of tools to get me through the dark days, dark days that I have less so, but still have nonetheless. But now with my focus shifting to promoting good health, preventing harm, strengthening, and most excitingly, discovering more of my body’s beauty, beat and breath, I continue to nurture myself with regular embodiment yoga sessions, dance, writing, yoni steams and meditation.

Trauma stays in the body, and more and more this message is becoming mainstream, with the release of books like the seminal ‘The Body Knows The Score’ by Bessel Van Der Kolk becoming a bestseller during the first year of the pandemic. And as mental health awareness and wellness continue to become priorities for our communities in general, more resources and techniques are being made available for those of us who have experienced sexualised violence. Finding the tools that work and then sticking with them with daily, weekly regularity, have proved highly effective, and even joyful, for me.

It has been a long journey, but the efforts and investments I made in myself, the seeds that I sowed, have started to bear fruits. I have felt shifts emotionally and physically and am no longer overwhelmed by pain. And while the physical sensations haven’t eased completely, my negative, worried mindset towards them has. I now view them as messages from my body that I have to learn to get better at tuning in and responding to. I have never felt as connected and close to my body as I do today. This is a gift I feel truly grateful for, and I can see, even by the people, I am attracting into my life now, that I have entered a new phase.  Finding my tools and embracing an approach of gentleness, self-love, and compassion, plus employing an unlimited amount of patience, have shown me that despite how deep our traumas may go, it is possible to release and transform the pain into power and help the mind, body and spirit return to a state of balance. The body knows what it needs to heal from sexual trauma when it needs it. All that is needed is for one to listen.


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