10/02/2012 06:02 pm ET Updated Dec 02, 2012

Never Waste a Good Trigger: Part One

I have a saying that I've taught to the Forrest Yoga community: Never waste a good trigger.

Triggers can be an incredible ally. Triggers lead to what needs healing. Instead of being ashamed of being triggered, get excited because you have a clue for where to do your work! Triggers lead you on the path you need to go. Be brave enough to walk a healing road, go to the heart of the problem and deal with it.

Being triggered can show up as a really big emotional reaction to something that is perhaps not that big a deal. Or it could be a small emotional tweak, an internal flinch. At a basic level, feeling triggers people. Teaching people how to feel, triggers them, because there are reasons they went numb.

"I can't" is a big trigger point. A student gains joy in learning with Forrest Yoga, because my teachers are trustworthy and skilled enough to guide them through the "I can't" point. Instead you find out each day, each pose, "What part of this can I do?" This is a great question, it opens many doors of possibility -- apply it whenever overwhelmed or triggered.

So, what are the best things to do when you get triggered?
  • First step, catch that you are triggered.
  • Step two, start breathing very deeply.
  • Step three, activate your feet (spread and lift toes, press balls of feet and heels into the earth).
  • Fourth step, start the inquiry -- what happened? What just triggered me?

It can be seemingly inconsequential things, like someone's blonde hair or red shirt. Move your judgments aside and get fascinated with the process of hunting the trigger trail. That shirt or hair opened up a gateway to something that is unresolved and needs healing in you. The red shirt or blonde hair is just a marker to catch your attention. Now go hunting!

Here's a possible scenario:
Let's say your trigger is someone going by with bleached blonde hair. Maybe you didn't even notice the trigger because it was subtle, but you're in a bad mood the rest of the day. It's hard to track what caused the bad mood as it was simply that you went by someone with bleached blonde hair.

That's what triggered you. The bleach blonde hair connected you to a memory flash of the nurse with bleach blonde hair that came to check on you when you were in the hospital. It is the pain of the injury, that traumatic experience, which is sitting in your cell tissue. The nurse herself may not have even been a problem; she is just the signpost of the experience of being hurt. Continue to follow the trauma trail back to whatever put you in the hospital, hunt whatever you internally blame for putting you there: yourself, your spouse, your drinking...?

My triggers
One of my own triggers was a red jacket. I would get uneasy and irritable whenever I saw someone wearing red.

The trigger was stronger if it was red on top, like a jacket, versus on the bottom, like a skirt.

Before I could do anything, I first had to get through the degrading internal dialogue with myself -- about how foolish I was to be triggered by a red jacket, like a bull! I call that phase "bog slogging" -- like mucking through a swamp. That may be a necessary step for you, the reader -- I'm here to tell you, stop wasting your time with mean internal dialogue and get to the trigger. That's where the excitement is!

As I practiced inviting in the information from the trigger to tell the story, bits and pieces began to coalesce into a picture and I got an answer that eased my anxiety... for a while...

I remembered that I was in a car accident and the last thing I saw before being knocked unconscious was a woman in red jacket. When I finally got to that part of the trail, there was easing but not completion. Then, for a while, I fell back into a bog called "I thought this was done!"

Eventually I recognized that my thinking was keeping me in the bog and confused. It was time to stalk this trigger a little farther.

The trauma trail was that before the accident I was being driven from a rape experience, which was way more traumatic than the car accident. And both of these experiences were loaded into the red jacket trigger.

I began to unwind all of that through my cell tissue. By investigating what got hurt in these experiences, I could target my healing practice into those areas -- healing chronic injuries and fears that had never quite cleared previously.

By walking this trauma trail, I earned back my memories, as well as freedom and ease in my body.

Explore your triggers
Sometimes, you might be triggered and not be able to deal with it immediately. If so, write down as much detail as you can of what happened. Make a date with yourself in the next 12 hours to sit with it, breathe, do a few gentle Forrest Yoga poses to bring a nourishing energy to yourself, get curious and invite information about the trigger to come up, this honors your healing process.

In Part Two, I'll give you an example of how I worked with another of my own triggers -- back pain -- and brought a new level of healing to a very old injury.

For more by Ana Forrest, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.