Mindfulness Meditation and Hatha Yoga for Trauma Survivors

November 25th, 2011

online yoga teacher coursesBy Faye Martins

A relatively new niche in the practice and teaching of Yoga is the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in trauma survivors through the emotionally sensitive practice of Yoga asanas, pranayama exercises and mindfulness meditation techniques. Physical and psychological trauma often occurs when a survivor experiences a life situation in which he or she is terrified, in a potentially life-threatening situation and completely unable to stop the experience from happening. This sense of helplessness is one of the key areas that trauma-sensitive Yoga classes can address and heal. The psychological defense mechanism of emotional numbing or freezing is also an area that the practice of mindfulness meditation techniques during a Yoga class can successfully begin to heal.

Yoga classes come in all shapes and sizes today. There are gentle, restorative classes and very vigorous challenging power Yoga classes that are held in rooms heated up to 104 degrees. Often a Yogi or Yogini is admonished during a Yoga class to go deeper into postures and to hold the poses for longer than he or she normally would. This self-competitiveness is great for most people who enjoy going to their physical and emotional edge and pushing through that edge as they surpass their previous accomplishments.

With trauma survivors, it is very important to allow the survivor to not dissociated when the “going gets tough” by supporting the Yogi or Yogini to be intimately aware of his or her emotions, memories and physical sensations while practicing Yoga. As the ability to remain in the body and tolerate uncomfortable physical sensations, thoughts and emotions develops over time, the critical skill of affect-regulation will also develop, in addition to a sense of empowerment when the trauma survivor is supported by his or her Yoga teacher to choose whether or not to even practice the asana or pranayama exercise.

If the trauma survivor does practice the Yoga pose or prescribed breathing exercise, it is also critical to allow the student to immediately stop practicing the asana or pranayama as soon as he or she sees fit. A terrifying sense of helplessness is one of the most damaging aspects of a trauma experience. This mindfulness meditation technique of being in the body and tolerating the physical and emotional sensations that the Yoga pose or pranayama is bringing up will support the trauma survivor in being grounded, aware and empowered to stop practicing the posture or pranayama if it is not nourishing to his or her well-being. This is one of the key healing aspects of incorporating mindfulness meditation techniques into a trauma-sensitive Yoga class, the empowerment of a trauma survivor to say “no” to what does not feel good regardless of the reason or the expectations of the teacher or other students.

© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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2 Responses to “Mindfulness Meditation and Hatha Yoga for Trauma Survivors”

  1. ronit avni says:

    I am looking for information about using astanga yoga with post traumatic patients and and patients suffering from on going abuse.

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