Yoga and Borderline Personality Disorder
I live with borderline personality disorder (BPD), and for several years, every time I attended a yoga class I would cry. There was something about lying down on the floor beside other people and listening to the teacher's calm instructions that brought me to tears. At the end of each class during the relaxation poses, I would ache with enormous sadness. As the teacher told me to "let go" and "allow yourself to rest," huge grief would rise inside me like a tide. Lying still on the mat, I couldn't hold back my tears.
How Yoga Might Affect My Borderline Personality Disorder
Sadness During Yoga
Because of this, I only went to classes very occasionally as I knew that they would activate this intense sadness in me. I’ve heard it said many times that you have to “feel it is to heal it.” However, for me feeling sad during a yoga class could easily spiral into wanting to self-harm or feeling suicidal. You can see how going to yoga could turn from a supposedly healthy exercise into a potentially dangerous event.
Yoga After Therapy
Now that I have completed a year of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), I’m able to manage my intense emotions enough to go to yoga classes. When the emotions rise in me, I can attend to them (most of the time) as my therapist has shown me. Now that I'm in a place where my body and mind feel safe enough to practice yoga, I can reap its rewards: less tension in my body, enjoyment and a feeling of improved health.
Trauma and Yoga
Although yoga can feel instinctively safe and calming for many people, for others it could activate traumatic experiences. Many people with a diagnosis of BPD have been through trauma of all kinds, including sexual trauma, and difficult mental experiences could be activated through the postures, use of touch or the class environment. These difficult experiences could range from dissociation to flashbacks, urges to self-harm, overwhelming emotions or depersonalization.
There are yoga teachers who specialize in teaching children and adults with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, autism or cancer, to name just a few specialisms. Because yoga as a practice is so flexible (forgive the pun) I believe it can be adapted to those with emotional dysregulation, borderline personality disorder or posttraumatic stress disorder. I feel that trauma-informed teacher training can only be a positive thing for these individuals who want to give yoga a go.
What are your experiences with yoga while living with BPD? Have you ever found it distressing or did you need to get support beforehand to access it safely?
Cappuccino, R. (2019, December 1). Yoga and Borderline Personality Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, February 2 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/borderline/2019/12/yoga-and-borderline-personality-disorder
Author: Rosie Cappuccino
Yoga was torcher.
I hope to see the day when we stop using the label "borderline personality disorder" and replace it with something more descriptive, like "traumatized personality" or "dysregulation". Rarely does one "become" a "borderline" without incredible childhood aversive events. With or without inherited sensitivities or incomplete development, this stuff is real. Whether its yoga, meditation, or biofeedback, we need to remember that anything that relaxes the conscious mind could allow/promote/stimulate less that conscious content surfacing.