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Dear Yoga Mentor, My Question Is…

Sometimes students have written to or asked Swami Veda Bharati, Swami Ritavan Bharati, and other senior teachers in our tradition questions about practice.  This is one such “Question and Answer,” or Q&A.


Accidental awareness during general anesthesia and the devastating psychological effects the phenomenon can have on patients who experience it, especially those who are awake and paralyzed. Most incidents of anesthetic awareness occurred among patients who had received paralytics as part of their anesthetic cocktail. Patients described a range of sensations, including choking, paralysis, pain, hallucinations, and near-death experiences. Most episodes were short-lived, with 75% of them lasting under five minutes. Despite this, nearly half of all patients who were conscious during surgery had long-term psychological consequences such as PTSD and depression. Is there a yogic perspective on this phenomena? Can this 'fear' for awakening be converted into something without fear?


Two have answered this question: Dr. Stephen Parker (Stoma) and Lalita Arya (Ammaji)

From Dr. Stephen Parker (Stoma):

This is a very technical question from the perspective of neuroscience. There is no way to prevent these experiences from being traumatic besides getting the anesthetic cocktail right or doing the surgery using hypnosis for both anesthesia and hemostasis in the first place. (This can be done even for many major surgical procedures.) For one in hypnosis (or if they were highly skilled in yoga-nidra) the experience can be reframed as it is happening. For most people, this process of resolving the traumatic nature of this awareness must be done therapeutically post-operatively. For such a person, very intensive practice of nadi-shodhana (108 breaths three times daily), a normal regimen of asana for the person and perhaps adjunctive, trauma-specific psychotherapy like eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) would be required.

Shantih, Stoma (Stephen Parker Psy.D. L.P., Clinical Member American Society for Clinical Hypnosis)

From Lalita Arya (Ammaji):

Thanks Stoma. Your clinical experience helps here. I would like to add that all that Stoma has recommended be done with an experienced guide/yoga teacher/initiator.

Editor’s Notes:

If you have a question about spiritual practice, you can use the "Contact the Spiritual Committee" link on the Ahymsin website to ask it.

Previous “Dear Yoga Mentor, My Question Is…” columns.



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