How does trauma affect our body?
A characteristic of many who have experienced traumatic events is a feeling that the body is stuck in the past. As if the body's alarm system is turned on and then never completely turned off again. The famous psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk talks about that "the body keeps the accounts". Even if one survived, the body may still carry the burden of the event through chronic tension, sleep problems or somatic complaints. There is often an experience of a disconnection between body and mind, that the body feels foreign and that one is helpless. The way out of the suffering is therefore largely about coming home to your body again and experiencing that you live in the present.
Talk therapy not always sufficient
It is an acknowledgment that for some clients, talk therapy alone is not sufficient, and techniques are needed to work directly with the somatic elements of the trauma disorder. Trauma-sensitive yoga therapy is a neurobiological approach to healing, and addresses the somatic imprint the traumatic experiences have had on the body and mind. Trauma-sensitive yoga has therefore been recognized as an effective complementary treatment approach to psychotherapy (Macy et al., 2018).
How can trauma sensitive yoga help?
Yoga itself is an ancient system of addressing human suffering, integrating all parts of one's experience, and being present in the present. Trauma-sensitive yoga is a gentle and compassionate approach that encourages you to gradually turn your attention to the inner physical and sensory experiences. In this way, one increases the ability to stand in unpleasant emotions and to transform tensions that are stuck in the body.
Towards flexibility and capacity
Through various yoga positions, movements and focus on breathing, you train your nervous system to become more flexible, increase your inner strength and self-care, learn to be a witness to your own experiences and cultivate a more positive relationship with your own body. Many also find that through yoga you can gain a more generalized acceptance and confidence in your own self. In addition, a lot of work is done with freedom of choice, agency and boundary setting. In contrast to regular yoga classes, the therapist will not provide physical adjustments, and rather the focus is on the client being able to explore their own body. The treatment can also offer a spiritual perspective that can help you see that even if you wish the bad thing had never happened, it can at the same time be a catalyst for positive growth.
Macy, RJ, Jones, E., Graham, LM, & Roach, L. (2018). Yoga for trauma and related mental health problems: A meta-review with clinical and service recommendations. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 19(1), 35-57.