Trauma-Sensitive Yoga

Healing Trauma With Yoga

The practice of yoga has a history spanning thousands of years. Promising new research has shown its ability in reducing both the physical and emotional symptoms of distress in people who have experienced trauma.

Jodi’s ambition is to bring as many people to the yoga mat whilst providing tools for healing, understanding, connection, and recovery.

Trauma affects the entire human organism – body, mind and brain.

– Bessel Van Der Kolk

What is a Traumatic Event?

Traumatic events can be experiencing or witnessing any life-threatening event such as:

  • Witnessing someone being killed or injured
  • Surviving a car/train accident or plane crash
  • Surviving a heart attack or receiving a serious medical diagnosis
  • Being a victim of rape or sexual assault
  • Victim of a crime, kidnapping, stalking or torture
  • Experiencing a life-changing event like divorce, unemployment or the death of a loved one
  • Experiencing a natural disaster like bushfires, earthquakes, floods
  • Experience in war or civil conflict

What is PTSD?

Experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event can have devastating consequences on an individual’s quality of life.

If someone is feeling distressed, disconnected, or isolated after experiencing an event, they may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

People with PTSD often suffer from what is known as ‘sympathetic activation‘, where the stress response is heightened and essentially becomes stuck, unable to return to normal after the threat is over. 

Bodily symptoms of PTSD:

  • shortness of breath
  • tremors
  • increased heart rate
  • memory loss
  • increased blood pressure
  • slow digestive functioning
  • decreased blood circulation [1,2]

Hypervigilance is a key symptom of PTSD, where people remain in fear of re-living the trauma. This can result in an exaggerated startle response, increased sweating, rapid heartbeat, and quick breathing.

Symptoms of PTSD include [1-5]:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Overly emotional, mood alterations (rage, shame, blame, negativity)
  • Emotionally numb
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Hypervigilance (exaggerated startle response)
  • Living in fear
  • Nightmares
  • Social isolation (avoiding people, places or experiences)
  • Substance abuse

How can Yoga & Meditation Help?

Participating in Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TSY) has been shown to clinically reduce markers of depression, anxiety, stress, and improve sleep quality and quality of life scores [4].

See how yoga and meditation changes the brain here

Yoga and meditation can help to decrease trauma symptoms.

Benefits of yoga:

  • Calms the nervous system
  • Improves heart rate variability
  • Reduces muscle tension
  • Relieves back pain
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Decreases physical and emotional symptoms of distress
  • Improves quality of life

These research-based classes are aimed at providing survivors’ of trauma, and those with physical and/or mental illness, with self-regulating tools, such as breathing-based meditation to calm the mind and reduce trauma memories, heart rate variability and anxiety symptoms [6].

Restorative Yoga to Help Heal From Trauma

Jodi’s TSY practice utilises restorative yoga forms. A restorative yoga sequence typically involves only five or six poses, supported by props, that allow participants to rest in a safe and supportive environment. This allows for anyone with physical injuries to participate.

Through body-based yoga forms and breathing practices, TSY enables participants to safely explore and notice what is occurring in their body. Noticing the breath, physical sensations, movement, stretching and resting. Jodi provides safe and professional guidance, in a accessible, supportive, non-judgemental environment.

Participants are invited and empowered to choose what they are doing with their body in each session. Importantly, TSY teachers do not manually adjust participants.

Breathing as Therapy

Clinical breathing techniques in conjunction with yoga offer invaluable self-regulating tools.

The benefits of breathing techniques [6]:

  • Switches on the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest)
  • Improves circulation
  • Improves athletic performance
  • Relaxes the smooth muscles of the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, and blood vessels
  • Increases nitric oxide (increases blood flow and lowers blood pressure)

Can Anyone Take This Class?

No prior yoga experience is necessary and sessions are accessible to all fitness levels and abilities, including those with a disability, illness, pain, and injury.

“The group environment of a yoga class may provide additional benefits and support, including motivation purposes, peer encouragement, and just plain enjoyment from participation in an instructor-led group atmosphere”

Fabiano Franco PhD.
psychcentral.com

If you’re unable to attend group sessions, Jodi now provides one-on-one yoga & meditation sessions via Zoom.

For Australian military veterans, Mates4Mates provide free weekly Zoom sessions and in-class group sessions for members and their families. You can find out more about this wonderful organisation HERE.

If you would like to learn more about these classes for trauma recovery, please email Jodi or you can use the contact form here.

Jodi explains Trauma Sensitive Yoga at the Mates4Mates Family Recovery Centre in Brisbane, Australia.

References:

  1. Military-Tailored Yoga for Veterans with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29415222
  2. Yoga practice improves executive function by attenuating stress levels. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6086130/#R14
  3. Assessment of yoga as an adjuvant treatment for combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/acm.2017.017
  4. Mind–Body Therapy for Military Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Systematic Review https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/acm.2017.0176
  5. Yoga for Military Veterans with Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Clinical Trial https://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(17)30290-8/fulltext
  6. Breathing‐Based Meditation Decreases Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in U.S. Military Veterans: A Randomized Controlled Longitudinal Study https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jts.21936

Reading:

Van Der Kolk, Bessel (2014). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. 

Emerson, David (2011). Overcoming Trauma Through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body.