Revolutionary Treatment for Trauma
Ongoing studies are being carried out in the field of women’s health, which is exciting. I am hopeful that the psychological community will continue to become more open and curious about this “new 2000 year old revolution,” as a positive addition to the traditional treatment for the broad spectrum of traumatic stress injuries. Many practitioners in the field of psychology are embracing Trauma Sensitive Yoga because they are witnessing its positive effect in the treatment of trauma. They see their clients re-connect their physical body to their mind and witness their patients’ previously blocked channels opening up due to Trauma Sensitive Yoga. Clients who were previously unable to articulate their traumatic experience can now do so, allowing the whole treatment process to move forward.
I am inspired and optimistic about the federal government’s involvement through its funding on research regarding the efficacy of Trauma Sensitive Yoga. One of the big obstacles in this process is the stigma around the word ‘Yoga’. In truth, Trauma Sensitive Yoga is the opposite of traditional yoga. The facilitator’s role is to guide the client. The client is in control, free to make his/her own choices every step of the way. It is not about when, but how. Over time through a process that combines yoga interaction, communication, and collaboration, the yoga facilitator and therapist lead the client to a place of inner strength. This all results from the individual’s work that she/he does on him/herself. This is not from what we do for them, but what they do for themselves. Our clients who have survived trauma learn that their body is not the enemy nor is their body at fault. First, they rediscover the body they may have become numb to. Then they befriend their body by learning how to self-regulate. At the end of it, clients rediscover their true self and their inner wisdom.
The priorities for Trauma Sensitive Yoga facilitators include putting the client first, providing a safe environment, facilitating appropriate types of exercises (not poses), NOT assisting, teaching qualities, supportive language, and the client’s ability and freedom to make choices.
Yoga facilitator training focuses on working on oneself first – practicing the techniques on yourself, before trying to guide someone else. Empathy is when we come from a place of our own inner power and we can use that to focus on serving others. Yoga facilitators are known for doing this. By bringing into focus our own biases and stigmas, we arrive at a place where we have true empathy for the other person. Being around others that have been through a similar situation can be a life changing experience for trauma survivors. Human beings are complex creatures who find incredible comfort in not being alone. By connecting all the pieces, working as a team, and embracing the inner strength within each of us, we can pull through it. We invite our clients to play a key role in their own healing as this is the whole concept behind holistic healing.
Everywhere I look, Trauma Sensitive Yoga is the hot topic currently in the spotlight. Why the sudden interest in this topic you may ask? The federal government is contributing 1.2 million dollars to a research pilot-project in British Columbia for women in transition, and people are wondering if the costs are going towards a viable solution. The feds are headed in the right direction. After decades of relatively stagnant structure and programs, the federal government is finally realizing there has been a vital missing link in past approaches to ‘holistic’ healing in western society. We have been ignoring an essential part of the healing process, the physical body.
Treating trauma involves treating the whole person. Specifically in the treatment of trauma, Registered Yoga Therapist (RYT) David Emerson and Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, renowned researcher in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), have collaborated since 2003. They have been developing the Trauma Sensitive Yoga program in the Trauma Centre at Justice Resource Centre, Brooklyn, MA.
A Solution for Many Traumatic Conditions
Trauma Sensitive Yoga is designed to help heal women who’ve been through domestic violence as explained in the recent article from CBC, Wednesday June 22, 2016. However, Trauma Sensitive Yoga has been known to help a broader audience. Those who benefit from Trauma Sensitive Yoga include: survivors of rape, childhood abuse, neglect, mental abuse, war vets, and at risk youth just to name a few. This process is even able to help people in other areas we might not usually think of as trauma, such as women with fertility problems.No trauma is more important than another. All traumas are alike where we feel disconnected from our true self. People with trauma feel a sense of powerlessness and lack of control over their outcomes
Although we may not like to admit it, we are all victims of circumstances in life. Our misfortune could be caused by certain events such as trauma, the ‘Frustration Cycle’, or our inner wisdom being clouded by buried false beliefs about ourselves that are negative and self-destructive. According to the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, No. 19 (2009):
Traditional trauma therapy is talk-based and focuses on the mind, the story, tending to neglect the physical visceral and body-based dimension of trauma. An essential aspect of recovering from trauma is learning ways to calm down, or self-regulate. For thousands of years, Yoga has been offered as a practise that helps one calm the mind and body. More recently, research has shown that yoga practices, including meditation, relaxation and physical postures, can reduce autonomic sympathetic activation, muscle tension, and blood pressure, improve neuroendocrine and hormonal activity, decrease physical symptoms and emotional distress, and increase quality of life. For these reasons, yoga is a promising treatment or adjunctive therapy for addressing the cognitive, emotional and physiological symptoms associated with PTSD specifically.
In a pilot study done at the Justice Resource Centre on the effectiveness of yoga on PTSD symptoms, there were findings that state some of the findings state that,“After eight weeks, the yoga participants showed improvements in all dimensions of PTSD, an increase in positive affect and decrease in negative affect, and an increase in their physical vitality and body attunement.”
According to Dr. Jeff Morley, a registered psychologist for the Canadian centre for Police and Emergency Resilience, PTSD is no longer being classified as a mental ‘disorder’ but will be recognized as an involuntary injury. This gives rise to a more expansive umbrella for the injury. New more inclusive terms such as Post Traumatic Stress Resilience (PTSR) and Post Traumatic Stress Injuries (PTSI) are more accurate at describing what people are going through.