*Patti is a certified Trauma Recovery Yoga instructor
Yoga touches every level of our being – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Yet many people are out of touch with at least one of these areas. But for trauma survivors the disconnect may be intensified and in more than one area.
After a trauma, many survivors cannot connect with their body and lose the ability to calm themselves. This lack of connection, or disassociation, causes an internal struggle creating stress, anxiety and trauma triggers.
However, yoga activates the area of the brain involving self-awareness thus opening a path for healing which the trauma blocked out.
Trauma can be different for everyone. Some more common types are:
- A car accident
- Being in a war zone
- Witnessing a violent crime
- Death of a loved one
- Even thinking about the possibility of something bad happening can cause trauma to someone
Years ago, PTSD wasn’t identified let alone have help for it. And now there is treatment for those dealing with it. And Trauma Recovery Yoga is playing a big role in this healing.
When trauma is not resolved, some of the symptoms may manifest physically in the form of:
- Clenching of muscles in the neck, jaws and shoulders
- Nervous tics
- Flash backs
- Substance use and abuse
- Relationship issues
- Heart disease
- Panic attacks
- Autoimmune disorders
So how exactly can yoga help with recovery from a trauma?
When someone is involved in a trauma, their sympathetic nervous systems goes into high gear – that’s the “fight or flight” response. However, yoga increases the parasympathetic response – the “rest and digest” response– through deep breathing and relaxation.
Focusing on BREATHING is the core of yoga (although many people think it’s more about contorting or standing on your head!).
Learning to slow down and focus on your breathing brings a person into the present moment.
This allows you to OBSERVE AND UNDERSTAND WHAT’S GOING ON IN YOUR BODY so you gain control of your thoughts and actions, thus helping to reduce stress.
Moving from breathing into active ASANAS (poses) helps to stretch and strengthen the physical body.
Many survivors retreat within themselves and are afraid to move or stretch.
But there are asanas to help:
- open the heart, which is so important for healing
- stretches which slowly help to bring the body back to life in a non-threating way
- others help promote physical and emotional strength
Keeping the asanas simple with no competition helps a victim to regain a sense of self-worth.
The MEDITATION aspect of yoga takes it one step further.
Throughout the entire class POSITIVE WORDS AND AFFIRMATIONS are spoken by the instructor to help students begin to feel good about themselves again.
In addition, using the breathing with movement is an emotional and physical form of meditation. By combining the two elements to work together, it helps to bring the body into balance.
There is also meditation without physical movement. It’s the RELAXATION (savasana) at the end of a yoga class where you just sit or lay in stillness. However, for some trauma survivors stillness can be a trigger, so the instructor may need to make it more of a guided or talking meditation.
In addition, there are some things in a regular yoga class that could trigger a reaction for trauma survivors:
- The instructor touching a student to help with an asana
- Verbiage when cueing
- Certain asanas
This is why in Trauma Recovery Yoga so much attention is devoted to avoiding these triggers.
The Trauma Recovery Yoga classes are offered in Las Vegas at the VA, addiction recovery centers, UNLV school of medicine, Title 1 schools, at the coroner’s office and for First Responders. In addition to other local, national and international locations as well as private classes.
I offer private classes in person in Las Vegas and online anywhere in the world.
If you would like more information about the classes I teach, CLICK HERE.
As a yoga instructor myself for many years, I have studied the YogaFit for Warriors program, Prison Yoga Project and am certified in Trauma Recovery Yoga.
So while yoga might not be for everyone, it definitely can help trauma survivors help heal the pain and create a loving and nurturing relationship with their bodies and their life.