Yoga helps you to re-own your body. Yoga makes it safe to feel things you may be afraid to feel. -Bessel Van Der Kolk
Yoga for wellness and trauma recovery
In the book The Body Keeps the Score, Dr.Bessel van der Kolk says that “trauma is not just an event that took place sometime in the past; it is also the imprint left behind by that experience on your mind, brain, and body.”
When someone experiences trauma, it can affect their brain, their nervous system. Ultimately, if the trauma reaction remains in some capacity, it also stays in the body. This affects how they feel about themselves, how they interact with others and it can impact their health.
This is why somatic practices like yoga are so important to heal from trauma. Talk therapy alone is usually not enough, though very helpful. It’s usually some combination of these talk and body therapies that helps the most. Please check these studies on yoga as a complementary treatment for PTSD and how yoga can help to manage mental wellness and resilience in general.
To know more about the science behind Yoga, please watch this video (Science of Yoga) and for yoga’s role in trauma healing in particular.
Sangeeta Vallabhan, a Trauma-informed Yoga trainer from New York, says “Everyone experiences trauma, however everyone deals with it and processes differently”. Hence, we all have much to gain by learning this ancient practice.
Video in a box: How to feel safe in your body - Dr Bessel Van Der Kolk
What is Trauma Informed Yoga and why do we need it?
The main idea behind trauma-informed yoga is to help you find a sense of grounding and support in your body, to connect to uncomfortable sensations in a safe way. This allows one to use the practice to help them trust their body’s signals again. This is key to our well-being.
A trauma survivor may be triggered by physical touch; or an authoritative instruction; or bold colours in the room; or competitiveness in the class. The goal of a trauma-informed yoga practice is to reduce or eliminate these triggers and offer a safe environment for the practice.
As a Yoga Instructor, what do I need to do differently?
Vallabhan says “Trauma informed yoga adds a layer of compassion and deep care to your teaching. It can allow you to hold a safe space for anyone who has undergone some form of trauma”.
You can use your skill to provide a trauma-informed class that focuses on safety and stability as opposed to skill and perfect poses. Your students can choose what instruction to follow and how deep they go into a pose. You will be more a facilitator, offering choice and support, as opposed to a teacher.
It is our experience that many trauma survivors do not take up yoga or quit prematurely because they do not find a trauma-informed class that is gentle and supportive.
There are structured training programs available for Trauma-informed yoga training. Thunai hopes to bring these to you soon.