In the earlier posts, I discussed the Link differences between complex trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and shared some of my personal experience with mindfulness. Last week, I was focused on providing survivors and carers some tools to understand the impacts on the individuals and to start healing.
Today, I will focus on yoga and how a body based practice can assist with trauma recovery.
As I previously mentioned, after experiencing traumatic events, the body gets stuck in state of terror. As if frozen in a timeless loop of unbearable physical sensations, the individual is the slave of their own senses. The core issue is to learn how to reclaim your body.
This is how Yoga can help.
During a Yoga session, you do a series of movements that are aligned with your breath. It requires some focus of the mind (and not physical flexibility, as it is often believed) to coordinate safely the motion and the breath during one or so hour.
Yoga creates a sense of time, first by recognizing the session lasts a definite amount of time, and second by knowing you will come out of a position after a certain number of breaths. When you are invited to hold a pose for five breaths for example, you understand there will be an end to it. It empowers you to try, because you know that any new sensations that appear, will end as soon as you get out of the pose.
During a Yoga Therapy class, there are times when you are holding the position for a few breaths. During that time, I may guide you to direct your awareness through different parts of your body and to observe the sensations that may be there or arise.
Practicing breathing exercises, Pranayama, is another effective technique to reclaim your body. It requires a certain focus and attention to count the inhales, holds and exhales. By doing so, you are training your mind to stay in the present moment, where you are safely in control.
Yoga helps individuals to safely experience their body and feel things they may be afraid to feel. It empowers you to find the courage to face the sensations you are experiencing.
If you are interested in trying Yoga, I encourage you to look for a Yoga Therapist or Trauma Aware Yoga Instructor who will use verbal cues instead of hands on assists. That way, you remain in control of your body. My earlier post What you Really Need to Know About Yoga Assists may help you addressing your concerns to your chosen instructor.
Should you wish to learn more, I suggest the following books to start with:
Judith Herman: Trauma and Recovery
David Emerson: Trauma-sensitive Yoga in Therapy
David Emerson and Elizabeth Hopper: Overcoming Trauma through Yoga: reclaiming your body
Bessel van der Kolk: The Body Keeps the Score