Trauma-informed yoga helps heal hearts and minds

The recent development of trauma-informed yoga (or trauma-sensitive yoga) has highlighted the significant benefits of yoga when specifically tailored to assist trauma survivors. Long after a traumatic experience has ended, the trauma reverberates in the mind and body in ways that can lead to mental and physical exhaustion, as well as a desire to separate from life. With the aim of helping traumatized people regain a sense of security and self-regulation through increased body awareness and reintegration, trauma-informed yoga explores the specific sensitivities of people suffering from the effects of trauma. Recent studies have shed light on the effectiveness of treating people with trauma-informed yoga classes in populations such as girls in juvenile justice, sexual abuse survivors, and veterans.

What is trauma-informed yoga?

Trauma-informed yoga is a modern style of hatha yoga that has been adapted for people who have previously experienced traumatic events. The specific teaching techniques of this type of yoga allow a person to practice yoga in a class with minimized trauma triggers, and use mindful and grounding tools to manage the aftermath of trauma. The practice creates a sense of security, comfort, and peace to process and share traumatic memories. A trauma-sensitive yoga class is carefully structured to create a sense of security, comfort and peace and to process and trigger traumatic events.

Trauma-informed yoga suggests that traumatic memories lurk in the body’s physical sensations. The dissociation that is often associated with trauma can feel strategic and vital to the traumatized individual, and can create a protective layer that serves to mask the fear and vulnerability of an experience. For example, someone who is sexually assaulted by an acquaintance may cut themselves off from any sense of connection or intimacy with another person for fear of bringing back the confusion of their betrayal. Dissociation becomes a secret weapon against manipulation and abuse; A trick to stay in control so that something like this never happens again. Trauma-informed yoga seeks to address the dissociation embodied in these individuals and provide a means to overcome it.

A trauma-informed yoga class is more than just asanas. It is a complete holistic program designed to help you approach and overcome your trauma and move to a place of healing and growth.

A trauma sensitive yoga teacher has a deep understanding of trauma and is aware of the possibility that students may experience traumatic reactions during the class. The teacher focuses on the breath and encourages students to connect with their physical body in order to center themselves. Teachers pay attention to their words and language and give students a sense of control over their experiences.

Principles of trauma-sensitive yoga courses

  • Creates a safe, trusting, and non-judgmental environment
  • Honor and listen to your body and your breath
  • Grants permission for self-exploration
  • Strengthens the mind-body connection
  • Connects to the breath to slow down and relax
  • Deepens the awareness of the physical body
  • Promotes self-regulation, self-calming and self-calming
  • Teaches how to let go and let go
  • Builds motivation, curiosity and self-esteem

The healing power of trauma-informed yoga practices

In a recent report by the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, trauma-informed yoga revealed the potential for profound neurological and physical changes in traumatized girls incarcerated in juvenile justice. The trauma-informed yoga teachers guided the girls through targeted breathing, yoga poses and mindfulness practices, all in connection with an increased sensitivity to their trauma. Rebecca Epstein, lead author of the report and executive director of the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, stated that these tools have the potential to slow girls’ responses to stressful situations and rewire their brains so that they pause before a destructive response.

Missy Hart, a gang sexual abuse and street trauma-related survivor incarcerated in the Palo Alto, California juvenile justice system, told NPR how trauma-informed yoga helped her healing process from sexual abuse. Hart appreciated the modifications in the trauma-informed yoga sessions that were aimed at addressing specific sensitivities.

“They always ask you if you want to be touched,” Hart said of adjusting the teacher in a pose. “I can see now that this has really helped me.”

“When we were asked to be touched, it gave us some power back in a place where all of our power is consumed,” she explained.

Trauma-informed yoga creates a safe space

A person who has been sexually abused may not be comfortable touching another person or closing their eyes within a group of people. Trauma-informed yoga teachers try harder to ensure that students feel empowered and safe enough to break down their barriers and reconnect their minds with their bodies.

Likewise, veterans returning from war with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are learning to suppress the sensation to avoid the horror of their memories, and have also found relief through trauma-informed yoga. Recent studies at the Trauma Center and the Department of Defense have shown that trauma-informed yoga has the potential to aid the recovery of veterans with PTSD.

Reports from individual veterans also suggest promising results. Marine Sgt. Senio Martz told the Huffington Post how traumatized yoga helped him with his PTSD after he returned from Afghanistan after a roadside bomb explosion that knocked him unconscious and killed Marines under his command.

In the Huffington Post article, he talks about the constant feeling of fear and hyper-vigilance that has kept him from resting since the explosion. the sense of guilt and responsibility that keeps him ready for danger at all times while remaining trapped in an emotional numbness. A wave of relief came over him during his yoga practice. While dealing with his own sensations in a safe context of guided movement and breathing, he can finally let go of his guard and relax.

“I have to make an effort to try some of these techniques,” Martz said in the article. “But last night after yoga, I had a good night’s sleep. This is a place I haven’t been in a long time. “

Benefits of trauma-informed yoga

  • Promotes a sense of belonging and trust
  • Promotes a sense of empowerment and control
  • Decreases the overall effects of PTSD
  • Increases energy and concentration
  • Builds mental and emotional resilience and stability
  • Reduces stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia

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