Trauma-sensitive Yoga

The practice of yoga has a history spanning thousands of years. Promising new research has shown yoga’s 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 Trauma?

A traumatic event is an uncontrollable, life-threatening, or overwhelming experience that can happen to anyone and at any age.

Traumatic events can include:

  • Witnessing someone being killed or injured
  • Surviving a car/train accident or plane crash
  • Surviving a heart attack or receiving a serious medical diagnosis
  • Domestic violence/partner violence
  • 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
  • Natural disasters like bushfires, earthquakes, floods
  • Experience in war or civil conflict

How Might Trauma Negatively Impact You?

Trauma can impact multiple areas of physical and mental health. People may experience problems with emotional disorders, loss of a sense of self, relationship difficulties, memory problems, dissociation, hopelessness, sleep problems, eating disorders and substance abuse.

What is PTSD?

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 may experience what is known as ‘sympathetic activation‘, this is where the stress response is heightened and essentially becomes stuck, unable to return to normal after the threat is over. 

Emotional Effects of Trauma:

  • Depression, anxiety, panic disorder, eating disorders, personality disorders, substance use disorders
  • Sense of Self: rage, shame, blame, guilt, feeling ‘not normal’
  • Emotional Well-being: difficulty tolerating and expressing emotions
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Hypervigilance (exaggerated startle response)
  • Living in fear
  • Nightmares
  • Social Isolation: avoiding people, places or experiences [1-5]

“The symptomatology of PTSD.

In PTSD, a traumatic event is not remembered and relegated to one’s past in the same way as other life events. Trauma continues to intrude with visual, auditory, and/or other somatic reality on the lives of its victims. Again and again they relive the life-threatening experiences they suffered, reacting in mind and body as though such events were still occurring. PTSD is a complex psychobiological condition.”

Babette Rothschild, The Body Remembers: The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment

Bodily symptoms of PTSD:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Tremors
  • Increased heart rate
  • Memory loss
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Slow digestive functioning, Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Decreased blood circulation

How can Yoga & Meditation Help?

Studies of trauma survivors participating in Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TSY) show a reduction in markers of depression, anxiety and stress, whilst improving sleep quality and quality of life scores.

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

Classes focus on breathing techniques and body scan meditation to help calm the mind and release physical tension.

You can see how yoga changes the brain here.

Breathing as Therapy

The benefits of breathing techniques:

  • Switches on the parasympathetic nervous system (our 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)(6)

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.

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

Like to know more? If you would like to learn more about yoga classes for trauma recovery, send an email to Jodi or click on the button below to fill out a contact form:


In this short video Jodi explains the practice of 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

Recommended 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.