healing trauma through yoga

Healing Trauma Through Yoga

Trauma is an event that causes psychological impairment. It is an emotional response to a distressing event. For example, if someone you love unexpectedly passes away, it can cause shock, sadness, and anxiety. Or if you were robbed at gunpoint, you may experience panic attacks, insomnia, and flashbacks. 

According to the National Council on Behavioral Health, 70% of American adults have experienced a traumatic event. That’s over 223 million people. How these millions of people handle trauma is different for each one. Two people can experience the same traumatic event. One may be able to move forward without psychological distress while the other may develop severe mental health symptoms. Responses are based on the resources and skills a person has to help them cope. 

What Are the Symptoms of Trauma? 

A person can have physical and psychological symptoms following a traumatic event. Emotional symptoms may include  

  • Shock 
  • Confusion 
  • Mood swings 
  • Anxiety or fear 
  • Sadness or feeling hopeless
  • Detaching emotionally or feeling numb
  • Guilt, shame, or blame 
  • Withdrawal from others 

Physical symptoms may include feeling tired often, sleep disturbances, being easily startled, unexplained aches and pains, headaches, digestive issues, and difficulty staying focused. 

Trauma Gets Stored in the Body 

Following a traumatic experience, it’s important to process the trauma so it can be released and you can move forward without long-lasting effects. If it is not processed, the body will store the trauma and anytime you encounter a reminder of the event, your body will react. For example, if you lose a loved one around the holidays and do not process your grief when the holidays arrive next year you may experience the symptoms of trauma all over again. 

Trauma overwhelms the central nervous system when not processed and can make you sick physically and emotionally. At the time of trauma, your body goes into survival mode. It doesn’t stop to think about a solution first. If you haven’t worked through the scarring from the trauma, every time you feel scared or anxious, your brain will trigger the same survival response, even when you are not in a life-threatening situation. 

If this happens repeatedly, you may develop post-traumatic stress disorder. 

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders lists specific criteria regarding post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

  1. Experiencing a traumatic event. 
  2. Reliving the traumatic event through nightmares, flashbacks, memories, or when encountering triggers that remind you of the event. 
  3. Avoiding people, places, and things that are reminders of the trauma. 
  4. Increasing arousal such as being startled easily, anger outbursts, or trouble sleeping. 
  5. Symptoms
    • Last for more than one month. 
    • Cause impairment personally, professionally, or socially. 
    • Not caused by the use of alcohol or drugs. 

The body can heal, however, as soon as you start processing the trauma. 

Healing From Trauma 

Recovery from trauma can happen quickly when you make your health a priority. The more positive actions you take, the more healing will take place. Working with licensed trauma therapists is a great way to benefit from the many tools and techniques available for processing your thoughts and feelings surrounding the trauma. 

Mindfulness-based therapies help you connect your mind, body, and spirit for complete healing. One example of this is through yoga. 

What is Yoga? 

Yoga has been used for centuries to help a person control breathing and calm the mind. Through body poses, breathing techniques, and movements, you can listen to your body and respond by meeting its needs emotionally or physically.  

Yoga is being implemented in a range of treatment programs, including mental health, behavioral health, and substance use. It is being used specifically to treat trauma-related illnesses. 

How Yoga Heals Trauma 

When anyone experiences trauma, the body goes into a reaction state. It may fight, flight, or freeze in response to the event. Yoga teaches you how to return your body back to its natural state quickly through breaths and movements. 

You become more aware of your body so that when it starts to feel threatened, whether perceived or real, you can maintain control of your thoughts and actions to make good decisions at the moment. 

Traumatic events can leave you feeling out of control over your own life. They are events that happen to you, without your permission. Unexpected and unwanted and can completely change your life. Trauma-informed yoga teaches you how to maintain control even when you are feeling triggered or reminded of the trauma. 

Physical and Emotional Benefits of Yoga for Trauma 

There are numerous studies supporting the benefits of yoga, including: 

  • Reduces physiological and psychological stress. 
  • Improves general mental well-being and resilience. 
  • Promotes healthier eating and physical activity. 
  • Improves sleep & concentration. 
  • Teaches emotional and behavioral regulation. 
  • Increases positive feelings like compassion and empowerment. 
  • Helps manage pain. 

Yoga Poses for Healing Trauma 

Yoga poses that aid in healing trauma are those that work on the areas of the body most affected by the trauma. For example, the supported bridge pose helps you relax the body and is known to ease digestive problems. The warrior III pose aids balance and teaches you how to be in the present and focused on breathing.  

When experiencing flashbacks, the tree pose can help reduce anxiety and increase a feeling of safety. The legs up the wall pose is utilized often because it can relieve many different symptoms, including anxiety, depression, headaches, sleep problems, and stress. 

There are many other yoga poses for healing trauma through yoga. The right instructor will know all of them. 

Finding the Right Yoga Program 

In your search for healing trauma through yoga, look for an instructor who understands trauma and how it affects the mind and body. Also, the instructor should have goals and principles on which the yoga program is based. It’s important that the instructor provide a safe space where trust can be built. 

Other principles include using the strengths of participants to help them heal, make rational decisions, feel comfortable with themselves, and regain control. You have these strengths. Now is the time to start using them.