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Yoga for Trauma and PTSD

Yoga is a popular practice that has been around for centuries, and it has been shown to have a variety of health benefits. One area in which yoga has been particularly effective is in helping individuals with trauma and PTSD. Trauma and PTSD can have a significant impact on a person's life, but yoga can provide a way to manage the symptoms and improve their quality of life. In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of yoga for trauma and PTSD, as well as some specific poses and practices that can be helpful.

Firstly, it is important to understand what trauma and PTSD are. Trauma is a psychological response to a distressing event, such as a natural disaster, physical or sexual assault, or the death of a loved one. PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a mental health condition that develops after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Symptoms of PTSD can include disturbing thoughts, feelings, or dreams related to the event, mental or physical distress related to triggers, alterations in the way a person thinks or feels, and an increase in the fight-or-flight response.

Yoga can be a helpful tool for managing the symptoms of trauma and PTSD because it combines physical movement with mindfulness and meditation practices. By focusing on the breath and the present moment, individuals can learn to regulate their emotions and reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. Additionally, yoga can help to release tension and improve physical flexibility, which can be particularly beneficial for individuals who experience physical symptoms as a result of their trauma.

One study conducted by the National Institutes of Health found that yoga can be helpful in reducing symptoms of PTSD. The study involved a group of veterans with PTSD who participated in an 8-week yoga program. At the end of the program, the participants reported a significant reduction in symptoms such as anxiety, and depression. Another study found that yoga can be helpful in reducing symptoms of trauma in survivors of sexual assault.

So, what are some specific yoga poses and practices that can be helpful for individuals with trauma and PTSD? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Child's Pose - This pose is a gentle stretch for the hips, thighs, and ankles, and can help to release tension in the back and shoulders. To practice child's pose, begin on your hands and knees, and then lower your hips back towards your heels. Stretch your arms out in front of you and rest your forehead on the mat.

Child's Pose
Instructor Lana Hulevich in Child's Pose on the Kilimok Yoga Mat.

  • Warrior II - This pose is a standing pose that can help to build strength and stability, while also promoting a sense of groundedness. To practice warrior II, begin in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart. Step your left foot back and turn it out to a 90-degree angle. Bend your right knee and extend your arms out to the sides, keeping them at shoulder height.

Warrior 2
Instructor Megan Reinking demonstrating Warrior II, Virabhadrasana II

  • Legs Up the Wall - This pose is a passive inversion that can help to reduce stress and anxiety, and promote relaxation. To practice legs up the wall, sit with your right side facing the wall, and then swing your legs up the wall as you lie back on the floor. You can place a pillow or blanket under your hips for support.

Legs Up the Wall Pose, Viparita Karani
Instructor Megan Reinking demonstrating Legs Up the Wall, Viparita Karani

In addition to these poses, there are also specific yoga practices that can be helpful for individuals with trauma and PTSD. One such practice is Trauma-Sensitive Yoga, which focuses on creating a safe and supportive environment for individuals to explore their bodies and emotions. This type of yoga is typically taught by trained professionals who have experience working with trauma survivors. Many regular classes may have instructors certified in Trauma Informed Yoga as well, and can be an excellent resource to guide you if dedicated classes cannot be found in your area.

In conclusion, yoga can be a powerful tool for individuals with trauma and PTSD. By combining physical movement with mindfulness and meditation practices, individuals can learn to regulate their emotions, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve their overall quality of life. If you or someone you know is struggling with trauma or PTSD, consider giving yoga a try. With the help of a trained professional, you can learn to use this ancient practice to find healing and peace.

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