Trauma Sensitive Yoga for PTSD

Research is discovering the powerful effects of yoga and meditation in treating anxiety, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Healing Trauma With Yoga

The practice of yoga has a history spanning thousands of years, and now, researchers have 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.

Multiple studies have investigated the promising therapeutic potential of yoga with military members and veterans, first responders and survivors of traumatic brain injury [1-6]. 

What is a Traumatic Event?

Traumatic events can be experiencing or witnessing any life-threatening event that causes intense fear or threat to safety, 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, such as divorce, unemployment or the death of a loved one
  • Experiencing a natural disaster like bushfires, earthquakes, floods
  • Experience in war or civil conflict

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

– Bessel Van Der Kolk

What is PTSD?

Experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event can have devastating consequences – significantly affecting 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. 

This results in a change in bodily symptoms such as:

  • 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:

  • 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

Yoga for PTSD invites you to reconnect to your body and calm the nervous system. Through regular practice, we can rewire our central nervous system and initiate the relaxation response.

See how yoga and meditation changes the brain here

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

Evidence has found the following benefits of yoga:

  • Calms the nervous system
  • Improves heart rate variability
  • Reduces muscle tension
  • 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

A TSY practice utilises restorative yoga — a practice that is all about slowing down, both mentally and physically. A restorative yoga sequence typically involves only five or six poses, supported by props, that allow you to completely rest in a safe and supportive environment. 

This style is not a conventional active form of yoga and is completely invitational. Importantly, TSY teachers do not manually adjust participants, students are not required or pushed to achieve a particular form.

While restorative yoga is beneficial for the entire body, it can offer relief for many conditions, such as headaches, digestive issues, and anxiety.

Breathing as Therapy

Jodi is a qualified meditation teacher and combines breathing and meditation techniques as an invaluable therapy for her patients and students.

The benefits of breathing techniques:

  • Switches on the parasympathetic nervous system
  • Improves circulation
  • Improves athletic performance
  • Relaxes the smooth muscles of the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, and blood vessels
  • Increases nitric oxide

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 Ph.D.
psychcentral.com

Classes are becoming increasingly popular among the veteran and first responder community. Yoga with Jodi focuses on the use of breathing techniques, gentle yoga forms, and guided meditation.

Many participants report TSY classes are the first time in a long time, they have found a sense of calm, with improved sleep, reduced anxiety and an overall sense of well being and positive mood.

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

Further 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.