“Breath is a reminder of trauma. Sensory messages from muscle and connective tissue that remember a specific position, action, or intention can be sources of triggers. Accelerated heart rate and increased respiration can be implicit reminders of that same reaction that accompanied the trauma.” Babette Rothschild, Somatic Trauma Therapist.
Trauma survivors and people with PTSD report symptoms such as feeling “disconnected” from their bodies (dissociation), increased heart rates, shallow breathing, and an inability to reappraise a trigger from a traumatic event. There are numerous studies in the works and recently published regarding the efficacy of yoga as a prescription for preventative healthcare, depression, anxiety, lymphedema, PTSD, ADD, insomnia, pain relief, and stress. The Trauma Center in Boston, headed by Bessel van der Kolk, has begun to empirically establish that yoga is helpful for people with PTSD.
Recognizing the intelligence of the body and stored implicit memory Trauma Sensitive Yoga endeavors to help create a situation in which a Trauma Survivor can reconnect with the body as a resource for self-regulation and tolerance for normal sensations. This is done primarily by using Yogic practice to notice the body, befriend the body with curiosity, and finally to resource the body.
Trauma Sensitive Yoga classes recognize that instructions to relax or breath, the physical sensation postures, or an instructor moving around a room can all be triggers for a Trauma Survivor. Best held in 10 – 12 week sessions the classes provide community, and a re-introduction to locating oneself in time and space. This is accomplished without touch, gentle and invitatory language and a consistency of practice. As the certification training at The Trauma Center suggests, people who wish to participate in a Trauma Sensitive Yoga Class must:
1. Be working with a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other mental health professional.
2. Continue with any prescribed medication through the duration of the class.
3. Not have been hospitalized for psychological issues within the last 6 months.
4. Not have any active psychosis.