We can probably all recall a time where we experienced some kind of stress, tension, anxiety, or grief and noticed that our bodies felt tight, our breath felt constricted, we developed a headache, or physically felt a variety of aches and pains. Our bodies hold the effects of trauma in many of the same ways. How do we alleviate the physical symptoms and help to decrease disregulation and dissociation? Yoga.
This past week I was fortunate enough to attend a week long training on yoga as a tool of trauma therapy. The training was lead by David Emerson and Jenn Turner of the Trauma Center of the Justice Resource Institute in Brookline, Massachusetts, in conjunction with Bessel van der Kolk, MD, one of the preeminent researchers on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the somatic effects of experiencing trauma.growing body of research including a recent randomized control trial funded by the National Institute of Health supports the work of yoga teachers helping students to rediscover their connection with their bodies after experiencing a wide variety of traumatic events. Over 100 yoga teachers from 6 continents met to learn about how to make a yoga class sensitive to the needs of trauma survivors, from changing the language we use (emphasizing choice and options) to adjusting the pace and intensity of classes, to the choice of yoga poses selected for each class. To learn more about what a typical class has to offer, check out David Emerson’s “What to expect from your first trauma sensitive yoga class” guide.
Yoga as a tool of trauma therapy is an innovative approach to providing support for sexual violence survivors, helping them to reclaim ownership and control over their bodies both in and out of the yoga studio. There are a number of ways in which rape crisis centers, victim advocates, shelter based program clients and staff, and survivors can integrate yoga as a healing modality. We even have one campus program currently happening in California at UC Irvine! I was lucky enough to travel to my training alongside the director of the UC Irvine yoga program Zabie Khorakiwala (you can contact her to learn more about the program by clicking here). I also know that there are a number of rape crisis centers in California who are beginning to offer holistic healing and wellness programs for their clients.
For more information on how to use yoga as a trauma sensitive healing modality, please contact me at alexis@calcasa.org or 916-446-2520 x. 305
To learn more about alternative healing modalities for sexual trauma, visit The Breathe Network, a national resource and referral network that educates survivors of sexual violence and the general public about the unique benefits of holistic approaches to healing and connects survivors to practitioners who offer trauma-informed, mind-body-spirit oriented treatments in order to support integrated, sustainable healing.
Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/lyntally/