How Yoga Can Support Recovery From Trauma

Trauma can be defined as an event or a series of events that is out side the range of “normal” human experience which threatens the physical and emotional safety of oneself and/or others” Sarah Holmes De Castro

When a traumatic event happens it can be completely overwhelming, the nervous system can become overloaded which can leave a person unable to fully process what has happened. The automatic nervous system is comprised of:

The sympathetic nervous system – this triggers energy,  our nerves and muscles become in a heightened state of arousal, ready for “fight or flight” if need be. Adrenaline is triggered. It’s not only activated when experience a potential threat we can also experience this when feeling any kind of stress.

The parasympathetic nervous system is the opposite, it calms us down. It helps us to be in a state to recover. It also triggers the freeze response if sensing danger.

Both systems work together to regulate our emotional and physiological states. They are activated when we feel under threat to be able to deal with it and then work to calm us down when it’s passed.

When trauma or chronic stress occurs these systems can malfunction leading the person to either be in a hyper state of arousal (for example high anxiety/ panic attacks) or to completely shut down (for example amnesia, dissociation and avoidance). The bodies sense of time is distorted and the individual may re-experience the trauma as if it’s still happening now. Certain things can happen that remind the person of the trauma and trigger the nervous system as if it’s happening  again.

Just a few examples of stress responses that can be triggered from a trauma are:

  • Hyper vigilance
  • Poor concentration
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Panic attacks
  • Emotional overwhelm
  • Amnesia
  • Denial
  • Confusion
  • Numbing – being unable to feel your body or emotions
  • Nightmares
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty to trust
  • Problems with boundaries
  • Lack of interest in life
  • A feeling of helplessness
  • Flashbacks

After experiencing a trauma there can be a sense that your body has let you down, that it’s no longer a safe place and it’s no longer your own. A feeling of disconnect with the body can occur. This when yoga can be a big support in recovery from trauma alongside seeing a professional therapist.

Yoga helps you to connect with all aspects of your being; your physical body, your emotions, your breath, your ability to be a witness to your experience and your spiritual body, your connection to bliss. Simply put it helps you feel in your body again, to feel connected to it and the knowledge that it can be used as a resource to support you, to control how you feel and to feel safe in again.

A mindfulness-based practice of yoga can be a powerful tool in supporting recovery from traumatic stress. A traumatic sensitive yoga class can be:

  • A safe place to cultivate a safe and compassionate relationship with your body
  • An opportunity to practice being in the present moment
  • An opportunity to learn and practice self regulation techniques that give you resources to draw upon when triggers occur through out every day life, for example breathing practices that help to calm down the system
  • A chance to be in a safe supportive social places with others

Yoga can empower you, it can give you the tools to handle anything in your life. Trauma sensitive yoga does not only have to be for those who have been through trauma, it is also a valuable resource if you are dealing with a high level of stress in your life,

I am trained in trauma sensitive yoga so if you feel like this could be of benefit to you please do get in touch. I offer one to ones and in the New Year I will be looking to set up a group class in the Brighton and Hove area. This will be different from my usual Monday and Wednesday night classes at Revitalise.