In this episode of Transforming Trauma, our host Emily is joined by Iya Affo, culturalist and historical trauma specialist. Iya is an executive board member on the Arizona ACES Consortium, serves as the Chair of the Historical Trauma committee, and is the founder of Heal Historical Trauma. Heal Historical Trauma is an organization that offers interactive training in Cultural Competency, ACEs, trauma, and historical trauma, as well as Meditation & Healing. Iya’s work focuses on a cultural and neurobiological perspective of historical trauma. She presents the question, “What happened in the past, and how does that manifest in people today?” She has traveled to more than 25 countries and has lived a life dedicated to cultivating love and inclusivity and facilitating decolonization and subsequent healing of indigenous people.
Exploring cultural expressions historically used to manage adversity, Iya highlights a dance of the White Mountain Apache tribe that would be performed by warriors returning home as a debriefing. “That's what they did to restore their neurological regulation before they rejoin the community because we know that if we are dysregulated, we have behaviors that are aggressive and abusive and hostile […] so there was a way of doing that through traditional dance and song before people were stripped of their cultural identity.” she says. Iya describes further exploring reconnection to traditional neurologically regulating activities such as the rhythmic healing sound of washing clothes by hand or walking a significant distance to get water during her time living in an ashram in India.
She and Emily discuss how as society progressed over time, we’ve moved away from these practices and into habits that dysregulate us and start our days with stress. “We can leverage our knowledge of the neurological system to allow us to have more opportunities to have a flood of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins in our system. And when we do that, it gives us a larger window of tolerance with our stress response.” Iya points to the Cherry Blossom study, underscoring the beginning of one’s biological life as an egg in the womb of our grandmothers. Through the knowledge of epigenetics, we understand that the trauma can be imprinted on us before even the birth of our own mothers but we can also pass down positive experiences, benevolence, and love. “What you do today and how you change your life today has the potential to impact the next 14 generations.”
We are deeply grateful to have Iya discuss reconnecting to traditional ways of being as an act of healing and we invite you to listen to the full episode to hear more about Healing Historical Trauma with Iya Affo.
Iya Affo is a Culturalist and Historical Trauma Specialist. She earned Western certification as a Trauma Specialist and is a descendant of a long line of traditional healers from Benin Republic, West Africa. Iya has visited more than 25 countries around the world and has resided in Native American, Yoruba, Buddhist, Hindu and Taoist communities in various countries. While on pilgramage to Benin Republic, she lived among Medicine Men and Women to learn the ways of the Shaman and understand the truth about the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. In China, she lived in the Shaolin Temple, the cradle of Zen Buddhism, and immersed herself in Chinese culture. After a spiritual calling to India, Iya sojourned in a Hindu spiritual community and lived a minimal lifestyle while imbuing Hindu customs and ideology. Serving Navajo Nation and the Gila River Indian Community, Iya found a home among the egalitarian, indigenous people of North America.
After living abroad for several years, Iya returned to the United States and in December 2018. She debuted her presentation of The Symphony of Traditional Medicine and Western Medicine to Heal ACES and Historical Trauma at the 2018 National ACES Conference in San Francisco, California. Iya is the founder of Heal Historical Trauma and the International Historical Trauma Association.