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The Benefits of Trauma Sensitive Yoga

by | Dec 21, 2020 | RECOVERY, TRAUMA, WOMENS HEALTH

A picture of a woman practicing trauma sensitive yoga.

There isn’t a person in the world who hasn’t experienced some version of trauma. Some individuals have had to undergo incredibly difficult and painful experiences. And others have been impacted by more nuanced traumatic events. Overcoming trauma through yoga can be a beneficial add on to clinical practice for treatment for complex trauma.

Trauma lives in us and pulls at our strings while we go about our daily life. The repercussions of that could be destabilizing or relatively mild. In any case, it’s important to try and work through our trauma in ways that leave us stronger on the other end.

One method of doing this is the practice of trauma sensitive yoga. We’re going to discuss this practice today, giving you some insight into what it is and how it may be able to help you.

What Is Trauma Sensitive Yoga?

Yoga operates in such a way that the body and mind are in communication at a deeper level than is common in normal life. The relationship between mental and physical states is very complex. It holds a lot of connections to our mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Counseling and talk therapy are longstanding evidence based methods of working through trauma, and they work for a lot of people. That said, those methods often fail to address the position of trauma in the body as well as the mind.

Trauma tends to occur when a situation produces too much stress for a person to handle emotions and immediate pain. It can occur from forms of physical abuse, psychological trauma, sexual abuse, losses, and many spaces in between.

One common quality of trauma and complex trauma, is that symptoms often manifest through a bodily response. You might be going about your day and experience a trigger, only to find that your heart rate accelerates and you feel unsafe in your own body.

Bodily trauma responses come in all forms, but the road to recovery should almost always include some sort of mind-body treatment. If you’d like to get a well-rounded look at yoga as a treatment for trauma, explore some of the ideas of David Emerson. More insight into trauma can also be found in the work of Peter Levine.

How Yoga Addresses Trauma

Yoga is commonly used to curate a peaceful state of mind through bodily movement and meditation. Yoga works to create the experience of mindfulness. It also provides nuanced approaches to addressing different mental and physical blockages, especially as an adjunctive treatment to traditional therapy.

The process of trauma sensitive yoga allows people to access difficult emotions in an empowered way. It invites people to be in direct contact with their bodies in the yoga forms. Trauma sensitive yoga also creates the opportunity to acknowledge the sensations occurring within.

Through this process, we cultivate a few essential skills that relate directly to trauma. If the ideas below speak to you, consider working through the Revive & Thrive yoga program and dig into the practice.

1. Mindfulness

Mindfulness can be likened to present awareness or presence. It’s the knowledge of what is happening in and around you at the moment. Someone who is mindful isn’t necessarily always tuned to themselves and their environment. They tend to be aware of mental formations as they come up.

Thoughts, feelings, moods, and some responses can be mental formations. These are things that impact and direct us in different directions, often without us even knowing.

It’s important to be mindful when dealing with trauma so that you can understand your triggers and your mental response to those triggers. It’s easy to experience a fight or flight response to a trigger and just do whatever you can to make it stop.

Instead, trauma sensitive yoga teachers help you shine a light down on those experiences and care for them with a mindful eye. Once you look, you can begin to understand.

2. Self-Soothing and Calming

The practice of generating mindfulness is also a practice of self-soothing. It’s a matter of allowing different mental formations such as trauma responses to pass through our minds without taking hold of them.

So, you might have a temporary bees’ nest of thoughts swarm through your mind, only to find that they’re gone in a matter of minutes. The presence of mind you can earn through the practice of yoga allows a gentle detachment.  It can help you view your thoughts without letting them direct you.

In this way, you render trauma responses harmless. That said, these responses are a lot more complex than a simple cluster of thoughts. They’re intertwined with the body in ways that are unique to each individual.

The bodily response, though, tends to be one of danger and alarming physiological stress. Those things can make a person instantly feel unsafe in their body, making it a lot harder to handle the corresponding thoughts.

3. Making the Body Feel Safe Again

Trauma sensitive yoga takes an approach to body care that is different than traditional yoga.

Yoga has a way of putting us in touch with our bodies. The process of looking at the body, attuning to physical sensations, stretching it, working it into different forms, and caring for it, is a pretty radical thing.

Most of our time in modern culture is spent critiquing, overworking, and hating our bodies. We put ourselves in situations where our bodies are objects instead of complex networks of nerves and emotions.

Yoga helps us to step back from the roar of modern ideas and look at what’s really happening at the moment, bridging the gap between trauma and embodiment.

At the moment, it turns out, your body is just fine. It happens to be experiencing an intense amount of trauma, but it’s there for you to understand and appreciate and feel safe again.

Trauma strips us of our autonomy and ability to feel safe in our own skin. That autonomy can be returned if we take the correct approach to establish the feeling of safety in our own bodies so that we can understand that it’s possible.

Taking your body back from the experience of trauma is an extremely powerful thing to do. It’s also a thing that’s very possible to do if you work with the right program or or mental health care professional.

Want More Ideas to Move Forward?

Trauma sensitive yoga is just one of the many beneficial body based practices available to you. Whether trauma has you entering into codependent relationships or pushing potential partners away, trauma sensitive yoga can help you sift through whatever might be going on.

The relationship between experience, mind, and body is complex. However, there are ways to make sense of it and move forward. Explore our site for more insight into methods for moving past the difficult experiences you might be having now.

Modern Intimacy is a group therapy practice, founded by renowned Psychologist and Sex Therapist, Dr. Kate Balestrieri. This inclusive blog is designed to provide a wealth of information and resources for mental health, relationships, and sexuality. Subscribe today to get the latest information from our expert contributors from all around the world.

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Author Bio

Dr. Kate Balestrieri is a Licensed Psychologist, Certified Sex Therapist, Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, and PACT II trained Couples Therapist. She is the Founder of Modern Intimacy. Follow her on IG @drkatebalestrieri and @themodernintimacy.

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