Sexual trauma is surprisingly prevalent in adult women. According to a study of the Center for Disease Control in 2012, nearly 1 in 5 (or 18%) of women reported that they had experienced rape. On top of that, 13 % of women reported sexual coercion at some time in their lives.
According to another study, 43% of women experience sexual dysfunction. Sexual difficulties are not always the result of physical abuse. Experiences like rape, assault, coercion, and childhood abuse can all lead to sexual trauma. Sexual problems can also be the result of sexual rejection by a partner, fear, verbal abuse, lack of self-esteem, emotional pressure, and pain during sex.
It doesn’t matter whether the cause of your sexual difficulties comes from trauma or psychological difficulties. The results of your pain is likely to manifest on many levels. According to the yogic holistic perspective, all layers of the human being are intrinsically connected. This means that the effects of physical abuse will also manifest in a disruption at the level of your energy system, govern many of your emotions, and leave its traces in your mind. Vice versa, emotional or mental negative experiences will manifest energetically and result in physical problems.
Because of this web of connections, all layers of your being have to be addressed in order to achieve true healing.
THE 5 SHEATHS
In yoga, we consider the human being to made-up of 5 layers. These 5 layers govern different aspects of what makes you 'you'. The 5 layers are represented as 5 sheaths, one more subtle than the other: the physical sheath, the energetic sheath, the emotional sheath, and the mental sheath.
The physical sheath consists of your physical matter. It is the flesh and bones of your body. The energetic sheath is more subtle than the physical body. It penetrates the whole physical structure, and because it is so subtle, at also extends out from the physical body. The energetic sheath is the blueprint for your entire being. What is programmed in your energy body is what will manifest in physical form. When your energy structure is influenced by either physical or mental problems, it will disturb your energetic frequency and show up as problems on your other layers.
When it comes to healing, it is very important that we don’t underestimate the importance of our energy structure. Whatever is present at the level of our energetic sheath, is bound to manifest in the physical body. This explains for example psychosomatic symptoms: a strong emotion such as grief can result in physical health problems.
The third layer are the emotions. Your emotional sheath is an even more subtle layer than the energetic one. Energy can be perceived to a certain extend in the form of warmth, tingling sensations, or subtle field distortions. Emotions are even more difficult to perceive. Have you ever watched an upset woman do the dishes? Even though she’s standing with her back to you, you can ‘feel’ her anger, right? This means that you are perceiving her emotional sheath. This emotional layer contains your emotions, feelings, moods, and impressions.
The last sheath, and most subtle layer, is the ‘mental body’. This layer refers to the abstract aspects of your mind. The mental sheath contains the mental concepts that determine your view on life. For example, some people’s main driving force in life is to create a stable life, to build a home, and achieve stability and security. Whereas someone else’s spirit is driven by experiencing and giving love. This is an example of 2 people with a different driving force, or mental sheath.
The theory of the 5 sheaths demonstrates the different layers that we are made up of. Keep in mind that they are all interconnected and related. A trauma can be created at any of the 5 levels – physical, energetic, emotional, or mental. The effects of the negative experience will manifest throughout all the layers. That is why sexual trauma is more than a negative sexual experience. It is not even the experience itself. It is the result of that experience on the many different layers of the being.
Once we know that, it becomes suddenly obvious why conventional approaches to dealing with sexual trauma are not always successful as they tend to only address the problem only on one layer.
HEALING THROUGH YOGA
As I mentioned before, sexual trauma is not always the result of rape or abuse. We can also develop sexual problems through emotional pain resulting from a break-up, rejection from a partner, relationship problems, stress, and lack of confidence, just to name a few.
Sexual problems can manifest as pain during sex, frigidity, lack of sensitivity, not being able to relax, or not enjoying sex. Some women tell me they feel blocked in their sexuality, while others are simply unaware of the fact that they have much more sexual potential.
Yoga Therapy addresses all 5 layers og your being, and their interconnections, to achieve sexual healing. Yoga, and the Tantric systems of Yoga in particular, consider the sexual energy to be the most powerful energy in our system. Harmonizing and balancing your sexual energy is therefore of vital importance to your overall health and well-being.
Yoga Therapy uses a variety of techniques to facilitate sexual healing.There are visualization techniques to send healing energy into areas of pain, meditation techniques to cultivate self-love and forgiveness, breathing techniques to enhance sexual sensation, massage techniques to develop awareness, stretches to relax the pelvic floor, and strengthening exercises to train the vaginal muscles. All these can be applied therapeutically to achieve optimal sexual health and sexual pleasure.
SEXUAL TRAUMA & DEPRESSION
Many women who suffer from sexual difficulties also have emotional problems such as mood swings, heaviness, sadness, and depression. It is also known that women who have a healthy and fulfilling sex life, report to be happier than those who are unfulfilled. There seems to be a very important connection between our sexuality and emotional or mental well-being.
The role your sexual health plays in your emotional health and happiness can not be overestimated. If you suffer from chronic sadness or depression, it might be important for you to take action and address both your sexual difficulties and depression. For those of you who are interested to learn more about Yoga Therapy’s approach to depression, check out my book Depression Decoded here.
The book offers revolutionary insights into depression from a yogic perspective, and offers you practical tools to work with.