Building resilience through the wisdom of the body
Over half of the US population reports having experienced at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, and approximately 7.7 million American adults suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) every year (Emerson & Hopper 2011, p.3).
Research has demonstrated that somatic and movement-based therapies, including trauma-informed yoga, have a profound impact on healing from PTSD and adverse childhood experiences. Benefits include (but aren’t limited to):
Pilot studies conducted by Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality and results from programs in the juvenile justice system showed that after girls practiced trauma-informed yoga, they:
Following up on previous work by Bessel Van der Kolk, another 2017 study of women with chronic PTSD symptoms found that “participants achieved more substantial reductions in PTSD severity, including loss of diagnosis and attainment of asymptomatic status, as well as clinically significant decreases in dissociation symptoms at levels comparable to those established for bona fide trauma-focused psychotherapies (e.g., measured by treatment effect sizes).”
“Th[e] model of a gentle yoga practice, versus the fixed or universal administration of specific exercises or techniques per se, are the most critical aspects of [the] characterization as a trauma- informed intervention. These processes include use of invitational language; emphasis on personal experimentation, choice, curiosity, and self- care; individually tailored selection of postures, pacing, and challenge level; repetition of specific postures and forms to build incremental mastery; application of yoga elements (breathing, meditation, postures) as primary vehicles of self-control and self-regulation (affective, somatic, behavioral, cognitive); and provision of contained opportunities for social learning, attunement and modeling, co-regulation, and peer support.”
Trauma informed yoga is highly individualized and builds by session so that there is a great deal of repetition of postures. The focus is mostly on connecting with the self and self-care. In many yoga environments there can be an (intended or accidental) emphasis on competition or feelings of exclusivity. Trauma informed yoga (and Terra Firma) strives to create inclusive and healing spaces and encourages participants to explore their own personal experience versus following exact instructions (thereby creating more sense of agency).