The practice of yoga in combination with regular psychotherapy has been shown to lead to reductions in symptoms of traumatic stress and anxiety. In fact, Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive (TCTSY) is an evidence-based practice for the reduction of post-traumatic stress.
Trying a class or two at your local yoga studios can be a great way to get familiar with the practice of yoga and begin to build a yoga community or kula. It's a great idea to try a few different studios/class settings as different spaces, style of practice, and communities will have different feels! Ways to find local places to practice:
Many great yoga teachers now provide classes online so that you can begin your practice at your own pace and in your own space! Here are just a few ones that we recommend:
While it is true that a consistent yoga practice holds potential for health and well-being, the challenge is finding the style that is suitable for you. If you have experienced childhood or relational trauma, finding a safe way to practice yoga may be a challenge. Yoga is not just about exercise. All yoga is not done in tight clothes. Yoga classes do not all have an instructor pushing you into shapes and telling you how to be in your body. Many yoga spaces may perpetuate the trauma dynamic and feel unbearable. If that is the case, or if you have never tried yoga before but have heard about the benefits, trauma-sensitive yoga might be useful to explore.
Trauma-sensitive yoga is a practice that allows you to explore being in your body in the
present moment. In the context of trauma, this is no small feat. Individuals experiencing chronic stress are familiar with managing and anticipating threat and often live with intrusive memories, intolerable body sensations, or numbness. Feelings of safety in relationship with others and ourselves may be rare. Discomfort and fear can make the thought of stepping into a yoga class to explore being in your body seem impossible. It is certainly hard. Trauma is stored in the body. Choosing to show up for your own pain is also certainly brave, and one path to heal from trauma.
With a deep understanding of the trauma dynamic, The Center for Trauma and Embodiment at the Justice Resource Institute developed a trauma-sensitive yoga method designed specifically to meet the challenges of complex, relational trauma. Each and every form is invitational. No one is coerced, and no one is abandoned. You are offered time to explore yoga forms in any way that is useful to you, including not at all that day. Choice-making allows you to practice taking effective action and exploring different ways of being in and noticing your body. You have the choice to sit, stand, be on your mat in any way you’d like, or walk out of the door at any time.
Honoring that there is no right or wrong way to be in your body, this practice hopes to hold a space for you to safely explore how being in the present moment might be for you. To heal from trauma is to reconnect with your body in the here and now, aware and curious of your experience. We all heal at our own rate and in our own ways.
Written by LORA GIRATA, MPH, CYT, TCTSY-F, Yoga Beyond Trauma (Click here to visit her website)