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 ResiliencePTSD 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.