Lifestyle,  Yoga for Trauma

Yoga for Trauma

Healing Trauma With Yoga

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

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 and those close to them.

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

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

How Does Trauma Affect the Body?

After experiencign trauma, people 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
  • increase in heart rate
  • memory loss
  • increased blood pressure
  • slow digestive functioning
  • irritable bowel symptoms
  • 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.

How Can Yoga & Meditation Help?

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

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 simple self-regulating tools. Techniques such as breathing-based meditation aim to hel calm the mind and reduce trauma memories, heart rate variability and anxiety symptoms [6]. 

See how yoga and meditation changes the brain here

Restorative Yoga

This practice utilises restorative yoga — a form of yoga that focuses on physical and mental relaxation through poses aided by props. It’s a gentle yet empowering style that may help you to de-stress and re-energize. 

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

This style is not an active form of yoga and is completely invitational using gentle ‘forms’ on the mat, with the support & comfort of blocks, blankets, and bolsters. Importantly, TSY teachers do not manually adjust participants — unless injury or disability requires assistance.

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. 

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

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *