Recovering from Trauma through Yoga
The yoga mat is a good place to turn when talk therapy and antidepressants aren’t enough. ~Amy Weintraub
Yoga is quickly becoming a well-recognized treatment for those suffering from different types of traumas-most commonly known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Trauma is considered “an experience that is emotionally painful, distressful, or shocking, which often results in lasting mental and physical effects.” While many individuals do not require therapy or other methods of assistance approximately 7.7 million Americans will suffer from PTSD (in any given year) and will require some form of therapy. With that said, one method of therapy being explored and becoming gaining popularity is yoga. Yoga is not a traditional form of therapy but according to Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, an authority on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is it quickly becoming an accepted practice.
In a recent article for Integral Yoga Magazine (2009) Dr. van der Kolk outlines the hows and whys that yoga benefits those individuals suffering from trauma. Yoga can be very calming for those who practice and while this is a great benefit many of us enjoy from our practice those who have suffered from trauma can actually experience negative effects from the calming sensations many of us enjoy. So much so that they are terrified by the sensations certain poses induce. Individuals who have suffered trauma do not feel safe, in their own bodies and do not recognize lapses in time the way an individual not suffering from trauma would-they are stuck in the past…replaying the traumatic events over and over again. For this debilitating aspect of trauma, yoga can provide some relief and put trauma patients back on the road to recovery.
In addition to feeling safe, those suffering from trauma need to find serenity in their own space through meditation. Meditation “produces a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind. During meditation, you focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress. This process results in enhanced physical and emotional well-being.” Feeling safe is not just about being able to react and protect yourself, in a dangerous situation. For Trauma victims have difficulty spending the necessary alone time, with themselves, needed to properly heal and recover. According to Dr. van der Kolk, “If we meditate regularly, this can modulate the fear center and help us be more focused. However if you are traumatized, being in silence is terrifying. Memory of trauma is stored, so when you are stilled, demons come out. Those with PTSD should first learn to regulate their physiology with breath, postures and relaxation and work toward meditation.” With this said, meditation is another therapeutic technique that is used in conjunction with yoga. Together these two disciplines can greatly benefit individuals suffering from any kind of trauma-“[yoga] allows the body to regain its natural movement and teaches the use of breath for self-regulation.”
Regardless of your reasons, yoga and meditation have sound benefits for the mind, body and soul. Whether it’s a need to stretch or soothe your aching body; to find stillness within yourself and/or recover from either a physical or mental trauma… yoga will help. Always go back to your yoga. Namaste.