One way our body protects us is by activating a fight/flight/freeze pattern that propels us to safety in the face of danger. These normal, life-saving instincts can turn into long-term stress responses when we remain trapped in threatening or overwhelming situations. Our bodies store that stress, keeping us suspended in a nervous system that’s on high alert until we can deal with the trauma. It’s not enough to deal merely with thoughts and words; the body needs to heal as well.
Yoga, an exercise which focuses on the mind-body connection, already presents the opportunity to address tension through breathing and awareness. When the practice is enhanced with trauma-informed guidance and instruction, it becomes a powerful tool for transformation.
Trauma-informed yoga was developed by David Emerson and his colleagues at the Justice Resource Institute’s Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts, in 2002. Working from an understanding of the potential challenges and triggers traumatized individuals face, Emerson formulated his practice with feelings of safety at the forefront. Trauma-informed yoga stands apart from modern postural yoga in these five core domains:
Environment: Extra attention is paid to making the space welcoming, safe, and comfortable.
Physical Exercise: Experiencing sensations, safety, and self-acceptance is more important than achieving postures.
Assists: Instructors promote feelings of safety by allowing space between pupils and themselves.
Teacher Qualities: Teachers cultivate a gentle demeanor while helping students feel in control.
Language: Instruction is invitational rather than directive.
While not intended as a standalone treatment for trauma, when combined with talk therapy and other treatment, trauma-informed yoga can help with stress management, building resilience, and nurturing a sense of self.
Appleseed Community Mental Health Center believes that the best time to get started with healing trauma is today. That’s why they are offering a Trauma Sensitive Yoga class through Facebook Live. On Tuesdays, from 2-2:30 PM, and Wednesdays, 5-5:30 PM, you will have the opportunity to participate in trauma-Informed yoga from home. All you need is a sturdy chair and loose, comfortable clothing—no registration, experience, or special equipment required.
For more information, visit their Facebook page.