I am a Level I trained Trauma Informed Yoga Therapist. In my experience working with trauma clients, I have seen first hand how our bodies hold trauma. We tend to disconnect from our minds and bodies because something has failed us and it’s too difficult to deal with; Ignoring it seems like the better option. I have discovered that processing trauma in therapy and combining the practice of Trauma Informed Yoga, clients are able to reconnect to their bodies and minds again in a healthy safe environment.
WHAT IS TRAUMA INFORMED YOGA?
When taught from a trauma-informed perspective, yoga can be a vitally helpful resource. Trauma-informed yoga (sometimes known as trauma-sensitive yoga) and EMDR are widely considered to be the most effective body-based therapies available. It is important to realize that yoga is most effective in healing trauma when it is integrated into a larger set of therapeutic supports that have been specifically tailored for the client.
Bessel van der Kolk explains, “Trauma is not just an event that took place sometime in the past; it is also the imprint left by that experience on mind, brain and body.”
Yoga can have both stimulating and soothing effects. This is true on both the physical and psycho-emotional levels. This type of informed yoga can encourage a balance in the nervous system through sessions that incorporate both stimulating and sitting postures, breath work, mindfulness and meditations. Therapists encourage clients to notice when they feel safe, soothed and secure, helping them learn present-state awareness and offer opportunities for clients to choose what brings them balance. Over time, clients build coping skills and make choices that move them toward a more integrated mind and body.
One-on-One sessions allow for the client to have a more individualized approach and meet specific goals. Small Group classes are also offered as a “Series Class” throughout the year as a great benefit of experiencing a practice with peers and still receiving individualized attention. Check out the Groups page to see if we have one coming up!
Great care is taken to provide a calm, safe and empowering environment for clients. We avoid too much stimulation and use language that invites exploring of ones own body awareness and emotions. “Hands-on assists” are avoided unless permission is given.
TRAUMA AND THE BODY
Trauma can create both an emotional and physical imprint on the body. The moment that a person experiences trauma, the body automatically makes a decision to protect itself. This decision can result in a fight, flight, or freeze reaction. Many suffer with long lasting effects from events like sexual abuse & assaults, childhood traumas, car
accidents, PTSD, eating disorders, etc. This can manifest in the body as symptoms such as migraines, clenched shoulders/neck/jaw, chronic pain, anxiety, depression; and so on. Core functions of sleep, digestion, breathing and chemical balances can become disrupted. Traumatized individuals may also feel shame or become self-consciousness as they react to physical or emotional cues from the world around them. Individuals may also use dissociating as an unconscious coping mechanism to disconnect from a traumatic experience and/or feelings.
Reconnect to Self
While the experience of trauma and its aftermath can feel isolating, yoga provides an opportunity to be physically in sync with yourself and others. Moving in unison with fellow classmates or with an instructor can help re-establish interpersonal (and intrapersonal) rhythms.
A trauma-informed yoga practice can increase connection with the breath, enabling the brain to become less aroused, and relaxation to begin. Yoga can rebuild connections with and strengthen the mind-body connection; allowing the client to identify and experience emotions they may not have allowed themselves to explore before. The practice can help a client regain their sense of control and ownership over their own body and their own experience. Control is something that many trauma survivors have lost. Regaining this control is a very important and rewarding part of the healing process.
Benefits of yoga
The benefits of this work are unique from other types of trauma treatment. In addition to benefits such as self-care and reduction of anxiety, some have reported benefits such as: improved sleep without aid of medication, to have intimate relationships again, self care improves, self-worth increases, to seek other methods of healing (addictions decrease), and the list goes on.