How does yoga relate to trauma?

 "A traumatic event or situation creates psychological trauma when it overwhelms the individual’s ability to cope, and leaves that person fearing death, annihilation, mutilation, or psychosis. The individual may feel emotionally, cognitively, and physically overwhelmed. The circumstances of the event commonly include abuse of power, betrayal of trust, entrapment, helplessness, pain, confusion, and/or loss.

This definition of trauma is fairly broad. It includes responses to powerful one-time incidents like accidents, natural disasters, crimes, surgeries, deaths, and other violent events. It also includes responses to chronic or repetitive experiences such as child abuse, neglect, combat, urban violence, concentration camps, battering relationships, and enduring deprivation. This definition intentionally does not allow us to determine whether a particular event is traumatic; that is dependent upon many factors. This definition provides a guideline for our understanding of a survivor’s experience of the events and conditions of his/her life."  What is Pyschological Trauma, Esther Giller, President of Sidran Institute


When we experience life events, the nervous system responds. Most of the time the experience is felt and then the nervous system returns to equilibrium.  

However, sometimes an event can linger in the body- this is trauma. The body has systemic responses as though in danger even when there is no imminent danger present.  The flight or fight mode can be in a consistent state of arousal (hyper-arousal) . Another alternative is the body systems shut down (hypo-arousal).  Being in a consistent state of protection affects the endocrine system (responsible for the release of chemicals and hormones), the brain's cognition,  the overall energy  and well being of the body. 

There are many beneficial practices that can help recalibrate the nervous system and responses in the body. We have discovered one the most beneficial forms of treatment is a combination of  talk or cognitive therapy  and a body-centered approach. Massage, yoga, and qi-gong are examples of body-centered approaches.  

Yoga helps to recalibrate our nervous system.  Practicing yoga with safe and supportive guidance can give us tools to understand our body's signals, empowers us with a skill set to navigate triggers with love and compassion, and helps us gain more respect and understanding of our body and the information it contains. 

Overall, we have the potential to become more resilient human beings. We have the potential to bring balance and harmony back into our experience more quickly. 

*Resilient: able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. 

We can't change our past experiences but we can learn how to live with them in our present. 

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