“We can hardly bear to look. The shadow may carry the best of the life we have not lived. Go into the basement, the attic, the refuse bin. Find gold there. Find an animal who has not been fed or watered. It is you!! This neglected, exiled animal, hungry for attention, is a part of your self.” ~ Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score.
Trauma Sensitive Yoga is a clinical and research based type of yoga. It was developed by the Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts, to offer safe healing spaces for people who suffer from psychological trauma.
Memories of trauma can be intrusive long after the initial danger that caused it has passed, leaving the body feeling dis-regulated and unsafe. The alarm system of the brain, known as the amygdala, goes into high alert mode and anticipates danger even when there is none. This leaves the parasympathetic nervous system that is in charge of the "rest & digest " functions unable to find a sate of rest for the body to relax.
Trauma intrusions can show up in many ways that are challenging and extremely painful to the survivors, from nightmares, to flashbacks, to chronic pain to states of hyper and hypo-arousal. But because trauma is an experience that is stored in the body, talk therapy alone may sometimes fall short.
This is where Trauma Sensitive Yoga can offer an adjunctive healing method by tapping into the space of the body. In integrating slow gentle movements and mindfulness such as moving certain parts of the body while focusing on the sound of the breath, survivors are encouraged to re-establish a connection with their bodies.
Trauma Sensitive Yoga is an invitation to befriend the body in a way that feels authentic, safe and loving to be able to piece the fragmented parts of the self, often left by the trauma experience, into an integrated whole.
Click on the link below to practice a short choice-making shoulder rolls by David Emerson, Founder and Director of Yoga Services of the Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute.