I recently took part in a workshop exploring Trauma Informed Yoga and spent a few days learning how to look at trauma from a Yogic perspective to support a person’s experience and healing journey. Learning about how to use the body as a tool, whether through movement or grounding, to assist in helping someone who is suffering from a traumatic experience is knowledge I’m grateful to have learnt and can now begin to bring into my own work with clients.
Trauma and PTSD are words that have become a lot more common and because of this, more understanding, research, awareness and help is becoming available. Children are also being recognized and helped when possibly exposed to traumatic events, as seen in the news lately with the soccer team trapped in the cave and those separated from their parents at the US/Mexican border. There are many reasons a person could experience trauma in their lives from terrorist attacks and natural disasters, to a car accident or fall, a tragic loss or a medical situation. This is not an exhaustive list, but these scenarios, or any distressing or life-threatening situation or event, when one or other’s physical and emotional safety feels threatened, can leave residual tension and memories in the body.
Those who are survivors of trauma may develop extreme anxiety, anger, sadness, or PTSD, or they may have ongoing problems with sleep or physical pain, and even relationships or self-esteem. Trauma effects live in the body and these tension patterns may hold onto the stories, protection, and fear. Not all people who experience a traumatic event will display or feel these symptoms but when a traumatic event overwhelms the nervous system and ordinary coping mechanisms for self-regulation, a person may be unable to process the thoughts and emotions of the event and can be stuck in the survival response of fight, flight or freeze. Your body cannot tell the difference between physical and emotional danger and therefore we have the fight or flight response to stimuli. Our brain will think we’re in physical danger and create the physical symptoms, even if the trauma is more on an emotional level.
Physical symptoms may show up as acute or chronic pain, headaches, dizziness, stomach pain, muscle cramps, back pain, etc. Traumatic events or situations affect people differently, and what may work for one person to help move through the held patterning and post symptoms may not help the next person. Some studies have shown that addressing the physical, possibly through movement or bodywork, creating a safe environment, and offering choice can bring the body’s response system down. This may calm down the nervous and hormonal system that has been telling a person they are in danger. By supporting the body in this way, it can engage the rest, relax, and repair, or parasympathetic, nervous system to bring about a calmer state of being.