In recent years, trauma experts have come to understand that psychological trauma can occur when the body cannot move to escape a threat. Recognized authorities, Doctors Bessel van der Kolk and Peter Levine, have confirmed that following the traumatic incident, patterns of immobility can remain stuck in the body, limiting the client’s connection with their inner and outer experience. Helping your client to explore body movement can be essential to trauma recovery. Research has shown that yoga can be a safe, gentle way to help your clients become reacquainted with their body and regain the ability to move.
But when it comes to yoga, not all styles are created equal. Trauma-sensitive yoga, in particular, is a safe, gentle style which helps your client re-regulate their nervous system and recover from trauma.
When you use trauma-sensitive yoga as a therapeutic intervention with your clients, part of your role is to monitor the state of your client’s autonomic nervous system, and to use somatic interventions when they need to bring it back into regulation.
Here are 3 somatic interventions you can use with your client:
- Ask your client to shift his or her focus from the thoughts and emotions—that may be skewed to the negative or focused on a perceived threat— to the positive body sensations experienced in a yoga pose.
- Pause the narrative and engage in a regulating activity, such as taking a deep breath.
- Interrupt and slow down habitual movement patterns, allowing your client to break through to a deeper awareness of what is happening in his or her body.
Practicing yoga postures can give your client additional experience and skill in achieving these shifts, and this approach encourages the client to keep their cognitions in the positive zone, where healing occurs.
This blog was brought to life by PESI speaker Joann Lutz. She has been training mental health professionals to bring trauma-informed yoga into their healing work nationally and internationally for the past six years, bringing this work to universities, conferences, hospitals, ashrams and yoga centers.