Nearly all victims of acute trauma experience extreme disconnection from their bodies. There is a growing body of evidence showing that modified yoga, facilitated in a therapeutic context, is an effective tool for healing and empowering people who have experienced trauma. The objective of our Yoga for Trauma program is not to dredge up emotions or memories, but instead to help clients have a heightened sense of body awareness, embodiment, choice and empowerment.
Yoga for Trauma helps clients who have experienced trauma to learn how to calm the mind and regain safety in their body by noticing and learning to tolerate physical sensations. It differs from the ordinary group practice of yoga in a studio setting. It is a clinical intervention and an adjunctive aspect of a broader therapeutic approach.
Our methodology is based on central components of the hatha style of yoga, where participants engage in a series of physical forms and movements. Elements of traditional hatha yoga are modified to build a trauma survivors’ experiences of empowerment and cultivate a more positive relationship to the body. We avoid physical hands-on adjustments to influence a participant’s physical form, allowing participants to be in charge of themselves, based on a felt sense of their own body. We avoid the use of props or objects that may cause distress or hyper-arousal, such as religious objects, candles, straps and incense. Often practised in a circle, the language is simple, inviting and gentle. There are no physical assists, and in each pose, you are given a choice as to certain alterations you can make, if you so choose. All these aspects work together to create a basis for healing and resolution.
Studies of people who have a high degree of trauma and attended trauma yoga classes, show extremely positive outcomes. Trauma researchers and neuroscientists have demonstrated that many areas of the brain affected by trauma remain significantly underactive. From a neurophysiological perspective, parts of the brain of clients with complex chronic trauma tend to be disregulated and disrupted. Sometimes clients report feeling nothing, sometimes they are flooded with feelings and we use yoga as an opportunity to have clear physical sensory experiences.
Yoga to help clients resolve trauma is being practised around the world, in a variety of forms, with hugely positive results. By accessing those places in the body and the subconscious that are largely unaccessible to mind-based, talk therapies, yoga is freeing many people from the ghosts of past traumatic experiences and supporting them to move into a future where they are able to connect with themselves and others.Back to Treatments