Why yoga works
For people who have endured trauma, one of the primary effects is dissociation and disembodiment. For them it is more comfortable to tune out of the present moment body and into the past, in judgment, or the future, in worry. Yoga is a somatic therapy. Practiced in a supportive way, it has a unique ability to help people tune in to their breath, which is what connects our mind to our bodies. Mindfulness has been defined as single tasking. It might seem overly simple, but in a world where multitasking and productivity is prized, remembering to take a deep breath is revolutionary! As sensitivity returns, healing begins.
When held in a supportive space to breathe and feel safe, emotions may be experienced with compassion, and anything seen to not serve our highest truth falls away. When grounded in gentleness, yoga can be learned and practiced anywhere to bring awareness, balance, and peace.
However, like any practice, it works only as long as you practice it. We have all heard the benefits of living in the present moment, which even if we believe, is easy to forget. So we need reminders, which the practice itself can be, or we need external reminders- a recorded voice of wisdom to listen or meditate to, books, classes, etc.
Unresolved trauma underlies most chronic imbalances, from mental illness to addiction and autoimmune diseases. Taking measures to account for trauma, allowing its resolution through mindfulness, acknowledgement and acceptance of feelings in the body can literally uproot most disease symptoms.
With more people imprisoned in this country than any other in the world, veterans returning from wars and entering the police force, and the general climate of violence and chaos that many of us live in, we cannot afford NOT to share these healing resources with those who are open to making a change.
I once met a woman who had been in jail 66 times in 6 years. She hopped between the homeless shelter when she could stay clean, the homeless camp when she couldn’t, and jail when she acted out on or to get her drug. She is not alone, and this is not the only community in which this happens. People fall through the cracks in our system in epidemic proportions. Frederick Douglas said “It is easier to grow healthy men than it is to fix broken ones.” Perhaps that is true, but who will teach the next generation? Let us offer all our children the possibility of a healthier tomorrow through daily practices of care for self and others.
How yoga & ayurveda work together to address trauma
Mindfulness studies show actual increased gray matter in the brain after 8 weeks of consistent practice, and a host of other benefits, mainly in increasing our capacity to withstand our daily stresses and give us control of the rudder when we find ourselves in stormy waters.
Yoga boasts decreased pain, increased strength and flexibility. It fosters faster healing of strained muscles and sprained ligaments, reducing pain and swelling, improves muscle tone and posture. Among yoga's anti-stress benefits are a host of biochemical responses. For example, lowering levels of hormone neurotransmitters like adrenaline, norepinephrine, and epinephrine, creates a feeling of calm. Yoga improves mood, concentration, and memory: Nearly every person will tell you they feel happier, and better able to focus mentally after a session. Yoga can help improve energy levels, and increase a person's sense of self-acceptance. It helps relieve tension related headaches and the effects of eyestrain, improves the quality of restful sleep, which strengthens the immune system. Regular yoga practice lowers blood pressure and slows the heart rate, benefiting people with hypertension, heart disease, and stroke.
Massage provides immediate relief with soothing sensations that refocus attention away from worries and frustrations. In addition to most of the benefits of yoga, massage improves circulation of blood and movement of lymph fluids and clears out accumulated stress-related hormones and waste products that can make one feel tired and sore, bathing a client’s cells with nutrients vital for tissue repair
Ayurvedic self care methods work to correct energetic imbalances so the body has an ideal environment to heal. By working with one’s mind, body and spirit through five sense therapies, imbalance is restored. This process tends to alleviate symptoms.
The methods of treatment include:
* Taste therapy in Diet and herbs. Food has long been the first medicine.
* Touch therapy through oil massage and other oil and steam treatments.
* Color/ sight therapy- adjusting the colors we surround ourselves with or wear.
* Sound therapy- music and sounds.
* Breathing techniques and meditation.
Holistic Trauma Recovery offers a 16-week curriculum that integrates formal mindfulness training, yoga, massage, diet and lifestyle self-care. It is the only known course like it in America to date. This program was developed for Sierra County Drug Court, but is formatted in such a way that it can be taught anywhere with properly trained instructors. It has so far had 100% success with supporting its graduates to remain sober and not recidivate.
Holistic Trauma Recovery utilizes Restorative and Chair Yoga and classical Hatha postures, depending on a person’s needs and limitations. This practice helps yoga to be accessible to everyone, especially people who think they can't do it. There are variations of every pose for every body type and level of flexibility using props.
Chair Yoga is the perfect introduction to mindfulness in the body by meeting people where we are typically most comfortable: in chairs- at least at the very beginning of introducing body awareness. For people who are dissociated, overweight and elderly people or those with injuries, stretching in a chair is the best way to allay fears about the difficulty of trying something new and potentially scary.
Restorative yoga postures are meditative, restorative and gentle, excellent for people with high levels of stress, especially for people running in fight/ flight mode, and people with injuries and simply aging. Relaxed supported postures are often maintained for 1 to 2 minutes, using support of props like blankets and blocks, as opposed to forcing the body.
Active postures increase strength and flexibility with short and long holds. For people who have been shut down in their lives, as if stuck in the nervous system’s freeze mode, it is essential to literally shake them up to find lasting recovery.
Whatever the imbalance may be, there is a root cause that is often obscured, but located in the body as well as the mind.