Healing Trauma with Yoga and Meditation
An interview with Simranjeet Kaur
This is an interview with the author of our new book Finding Peace Within Shattered Pieces: Healing Trauma with Yoga and Meditation, currently on Special Launch Offer.
sexual violence, violence
Yoga and Meditation can help support healing and improve your health in many ways – especially with stress, anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorder. Former London Detective Police Officer, Simranjeet Kaur went through her own healing journey with secondary traumatic stress with the support of Kundalini Yoga and meditation. Through the years of her recovery, she came up with a gentle and compassionate tool – a 40-day yoga and meditation program that works to remove body blocks, release fear and accumulated stress, tune the liver, kidneys and adrenal glands, open the heart and develop trust. That program became KRI’s new book Finding Peace Within Shattered Pieces: Healing Trauma with Yoga and Meditation, where she shares ideas, insights and inspiration to help you make your own choices and do the work of healing effectively and compassionately.
Check out this interview where she shares more about her healing journey, about writing the book and coming up with a 40-day yoga program.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write this book and develop this yoga and meditation program to heal trauma?
I retired from policing in 2017 after a 30-year career. I was one of the few women to take to the streets of London in the late 80’s. The simple truth is that I still love the job and still love the incredible women and men who do the work. It’s almost impossible to be a police officer for any length of time and remain unaffected by the things you see and do. We go into hurting places. Every police officer has their own story to tell. When I joined policing in the late 80’s, we didn’t talk about trauma, we didn’t talk about the pressures and strains. We just carried on. Then, after 28 years of listening to too many dark tales, I broke. I had a massive nervous breakdown and ended up very unwell. The accumulated emotional and psychological burdens of sexual violence investigations and policing were a significant part of what happened to me.
There wasn’t that much out there about mindfulness. At a certain point I wondered: “If the world learned mindfulness, would the world become peaceful? If I learnt mindfulness, would I heal?”
I then went on to study Kundalini Yoga and, now after 7 years since the breakdown, I am far better than I was. In fact, I’m probably the best I have been in years, and I live far more peacefully than I ever did. The lessons I learned are shared in this book not to elongate sympathy. It’s not about me, but to spread awareness, break some of the myths, and perhaps open the conversation about yoga and meditation to support the healing of trauma, especially in the area of sexual violence. My intent was to offer something that is practical. I’m a positive person and am trying to use my resilience and experience to share the positive impact yoga and meditation had on me.
How did you come up with the title for the book?
That was the easy part. I was totally broken on the inside. I felt shattered and scattered into tiny pieces. Yet, I still had to operate, so I had to find the peace within myself to be able to do my work, working with so many who themselves were hurt. So, Finding Peace within Shattered Pieces was actually part of the story of my recovery and my life. Some say, “One of us walked your path”. I know there will be so many others out there like me who have suffered. Yet it is possible to find peace, even invoke peace from within. Yes, sometimes there are reoccurrences, but on the whole, I was able to find peace in the world I lived in that had become shattered.
How was the process of picking up the yoga set and meditations?
To be honest, I didn’t even know I was in the process of picking up the yoga set and meditations. I just started one day and never stopped. Looking back now, I can see how difficult it was for me to do the yoga sets and meditations. My mind was so busy and my body hurt from all the trauma. My very first kundalini yoga class had such a huge impact on me in a positive way. Once I completed teacher training, I embarked on practicing a meditation or a yoga set for 40 days, 90 days, and 120 days. I loved it. To be honest, anything was going to be an improvement on how I felt. I kept notes of the sets I loved the most and even those I taught to others, who said they had had a positive impact on them. So the yoga sets and meditations really became part of my life. They were putting my life back together.
What new things did you learn while writing the book and selecting the yoga sets and meditations for the healing trauma 40-day program?
Trust takes a tremendous amount of time. Forgiveness and acceptance come with time. Healing takes time, and it’s a continuous unfolding journey. Healing cannot be forced. Writing the book was sometimes painful. I was revisiting an area of my life that I really just wished to leave behind—a really painful period of my life.
A breakdown is a very serious experience. And trauma can be frightening to experience. My world seemed to be in podding from the inside. It was like living in quicksand, almost waiting for the next traumatic event. It was all so similar to the responses I’d seen from so many of those I had served in the police, especially those who had suffered sexual violence. Yet, the impact that the yoga sets had on the body and mind seemed to fit together really well. One good example is one of the first kriyas I did, which was the pituitary set kriya. The nerve endings had become slightly damaged with the effect that the trauma had had on my brain. Yet, the pituitary gland was gently secreting through the practice, which supported my personal journey of healing. So, I can see now that by following my own intuition, picking and using the kriyas, I supported my own system in what it needed to become well again. I guess you just have to try it and see if it works for you. All I can say is “Thank goodness I never lost my faith in the spirit, for I do believe that without that I would not be here.”
Did any book on trauma inspire you in the process of writing your book?
I didn’t wish to read any trauma books. In fact, in the early stages of trauma, my mind couldn’t even read a book, to be honest. It couldn’t focus. But, with time, I managed to read the Level 2 Manual Stress and Vitality. Each trauma mentioned in the manual, I went, “yep, yep, yep, experienced all these. That’s just part of my daily life.” I also read The Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware. It’s a great read and I could really relate to it. Also, Women Who Run with Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Éstes, is an amazing read, really empowering. And I read a little about Maya Angelou. Gosh, she was raped as a child. I found her really inspiring. She talked about having a place inside of you that’s pristine and clean. And I knew then that that was the place I could go. That little place inside of me that I call the spirit. More recently, I read the book, Depressive Illness: The Curse of the Strong, by Psychiatrist Dr. Tim Cantopher. It’s a fabulous read and really lovely to be able to look back and recognise now what I went through. There are plenty of books and people out there that will give you a perspective and give you information. Ultimately, transformation is all about you, which no book could actually give me. Time, experience, love, and care were the things that inspired me.
Which of the yoga practices is (are) your favorite?
Without a doubt, Gyaan Chakra Kriya. It would be my first choice. It’s said to clear out anger and increase the power of the arcline, as well as allow the environment to work for you. For me, it just gives a beautiful sense of joy. Haste Kriya would be my second choice. I love the mantra and arm movements. A very subtle exercise would be the third. That one I practiced for 11 days in a row. Gosh, it was hard, really hard, but the effects far outweighed that.
Tell us about an inspiring and or transformative experience you have had with one of the meditations.
There are so many inspiring moments and transformative experiences with each of the meditations. Each time it’s different. Sometimes the practice would be great, other times it would be slightly off. Even now, I can do one of the meditations and it will be different. It’s all so personal, really, because they just change things from the inside. The Smiling Buddha meditation is particularly nice. Sat Kriya is a really good go-to practice. It made my navel strong. Somehow it just seemed to get a grip on me. In that, it helped to control the mind by breathing down to the navel and keeping it strong. I guess that really feeling my own body and beginning to enjoy my body is in itself a transformative experience. Having a feeling of love and joy from the inside is a gift that no one can give me or even take away. So cultivating the experience of my own internal energy and spirit from within is just a joy.
Has the writing of Finding Peace Within Shattered Pieces changed the way you relate to your yoga practice or even with your own self-healing journey?
Sure, though at times, writing the book was challenging. It made me realize how much yoga I had actually done. Sadness and depression are two completely different things. Sadness is like a drop in the ocean. Depression is like the universe just caving in on top of you. The acute trauma had created a deep depression in my life, which is scary. How much life can be taken, not in a sense of suicide, but in a sense of losing the magic and laughter, fun and joy of life? There were times whilst writing the book when I nearly backed out, if I’m honest. Fear of being judged, fear of what others think. Fear of disseminating information that may not be well received. My yoga practice serves me completely. I don’t need to seek support from outside of myself, just enjoy the strength the practice gives me. Being in good company is all part of the healing process and building loving relationships with others. It all takes time.
How do you expect this book and 40-day program to be used or inspire people with their practice?
It is my sincere wish and desire that this book just be handed from one to another, from person to person – anyone who is struggling with the effects of trauma, especially sexual violence. It’s not easy to come forward and it’s a difficult and challenging experience to go through for sure. I hope this little book just inspires you to sit quietly within the power of your own spirit and find comfort from that. I hope this book will be something that provides you and others with such inner peace and stillness. I hope you go on to further your practice of yoga and meditation, and to do so within the safety and comfort of your own home. Work with the meditations as you feel you need to. For Kundalini Yoga is a householder’s yoga; it is for the everyday person going about their daily lives. Allow it to give you the support you need and allow Grace to unfold beautifully for you. That is my true desire and wish, because that is what I am doing and will continue to do. Choose your practice wisely for yourself and your needs. Share with others, and may you be an inspiration to others.
Simranjeet Kaur, also known as Jackie Wakeford-Smith, joined the Metropolitan Police Service in London in the late 80s. As part of her policing career she was trained as a specialised Sexual Offences Interview Technique Officer (SOIT). Later in her career, she led a team of detectives, dedicated solely to the investigation of rape and serious sexual assaults. During her years of service she dealt with over one thousand cases, each of them left its own imprint and impact on Simranjeet’s physical and subtle bodies, which resulted in her suffering from secondary traumatic stress. As she got close to retirement, the compounded stress led to a collapse of her body and mind. She then started to practice Kundalini Yoga for her own healing process. Her immersion into the practice later led her to becoming a Kundalini Yoga teacher and trainer. Having used Kundalini Yoga for her own recovery process from prolonged secondary traumatic stress, Simranjeet was inspired to share these amazing yogic tools in the form of this beautiful book: a 40-day program using yoga and meditation to find peace within shattered pieces. Simranjeet Kaur has been practicing, studying and teaching Kundalini Yoga since 2009.