You’ve probably heard about the benefits of yoga. It’s a great way to strengthen your mind and body. It’s a spiritual and physical discipline with Indian roots that date back centuries before our time. There’s a lot of mainstream buzz surrounding the healthy benefits of yoga. But, there’s a lesser known purpose you might not know about.
Now, there’s growing evidence that aspects of yoga can be used to promote healing for individuals with trauma. As a trauma professional, this exciting and promising news is life changing.
Trauma is a generic and broad word. So, let’s get more specific about the type of trauma that’s often healed by trauma informed yoga.
Research and professional experience indicates that Individuals with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), developmental trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may all benefit from trauma informed yoga.
The specific benefits include helping clients regain comfort in their bodies, counteract rumination—re-thinking the same thoughts repeatedly which can quickly increase anxiety and deepen depression and help improve self-regulation—one’s ability to manage emotions effectively.
We’ve all heard the stories of people displaying superhuman strength in the face of physical adversity; lifting a car off someone trapped below or treading water for hours or days until help arrives. This ability is because of the brain’s ability to respond immediately to threatening situations with a surge of stress hormones. We call it fight or flight mode, but few folks know about the brain’s third optional response mode of freeze.
In describing the freeze response, Peter Levine uses the example of a cheetah stalking an impala. When the cheetah catches its prey, the impala falls to the ground and plays dead to protect himself. The numbness will lessen the pain or terror that would normally follow even if its killed.
Fight, flight and freeze are all normal responses to extreme threat. It becomes a problem when responses persist in the body after the danger has passed. Bessel van der Kolk, a pioneer in the field of trauma, describes trauma as “hijacking the body.” The body, along with the mind, remains in a state of high alert (fight or flight) or under-arousal (freeze). Trauma takes a heavy toll on the body—the body absorbs and anticipates trauma making the individual more likely to be hyper-alert, hyper-aroused and unable to calm themselves.
How does this relate to trauma informed yoga?
Through trauma informed yoga, the body is given the opportunity to let go of the need to fight, flee or freeze. This is taught by learning to release tension, reduce fear, and tolerate body sensation. Trauma informed yoga helps you learn to calm your mind and calm your physical responses too, and, in turn, your emotions.
Furthermore, it can help you regain a feeling of safety inside your own body. At first glance, trauma informed yoga looks a lot like traditional yoga. But, once you begin the class, the differences become apparent.
Trauma informed yoga does not focus on poses, or breathing. It’s about letting the body feel what it feels, without judgement and with a developing knowledge that it is safe in this place and safe within your own body.
I’m beginning a trauma informed yoga class on Thursday, October 5th from 10 to 11 am.
There are two requirements to attend the class; you have a trauma history, and you are currently active in therapy addressing your trauma. If you fall into both of those categories, I’d love to have you join us on Friday mornings at 10 am.
If you read this post and think, “this describes me but I’m not in therapy,” please give us a call! We have several trauma therapists available to meet with you individually.
I look forward to you joining us as we work toward establishing a safe place in class and, most importantly, within your body.
Foundations Family Therapy is excited to roll out this 8 week program that can help overcome depression, anxiety, and stress and teach you new ways to respond to your thoughts and feelings. This exclusive program is limited to 10 participants and BCBS & Aetna insurance plans are accepted and billed for participants. You can sign up by contacting Sharon at (919) 285-4802 (x703) for $25/session or $175 paid in full.
Learn more about natural and holistic approaches that will help you live in the present. Practicing mindfulness has many positive benefits that can help you enjoy a more rewarding and fulfilling life. Instead of dwelling in the past or future, youll learn how to focus on the present.
Our 8 week program will also help participants develop techniques that build resilience to help better cope with unpleasant experiences in life. Youll learn how to treat yourself with kindness and respond to your own thoughts and feelings in a healthy way. These are just a few benefits of this wonderful program! Make this summer the summer of positive change by putting your mental health first.