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Editorial Reviews


"In this landmark book the authors offer survivors a gentle, step-by-step mindful yoga that is tailored for their specific needs.… This well conceived book is a tremendous resource for therapists and yoga teachers. By engaging the wisdom of their bodies, it is a great companion and guide to those taking the journey of recovery from trauma to wholeness. Overcoming Trauma through Yoga is a gift for those taking the hero’s journey of recovery and vibrancy."
—From the foreword by Peter A. Levine, PhD, author of the best-selling Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma
"This book sets out to facilitate the creation of healing environments. Clinicians will learn basic yoga skills that can be implemented within individual therapy sessions. Yoga teachers will find thoughtful advice on how to make assists that won’t trigger internal defenses. And trauma survivors will receive edict-free encouragement for using yoga as a tool for self-discovery. Thoughtful and thorough, Overcoming Trauma through Yoga brings a spirit of optimism to the process of healing past wounds and reclaiming body and mind."
—Rolf Sovik, PsyD, Yoga International Magazine
"Trauma-related conditions are complex disorders involving dysregulation of the mind, body, and the mind/body interface. Although yoga is a mind/body practice known to have significant therapeutic benefits, yoga for healthy individuals is not the same as yoga therapy for patients, which must take patient limitations into account. The trauma-sensitive yoga developed by the authors through practical and clinical experience, and described carefully, practically, and systematically in this book, incorporates the best that yoga has to offer with what will benefit trauma patients safely and comfortably."
—Sat Bir Khalsa, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Director of Research for the Kundalini Research Institute
“At last, an engaging, accessible, theoretically grounded guide for the safe and effective use of yoga to heal from trauma! With a rich understanding of both the practice of yoga and the legacy of trauma, the authors skillfully weave together theory, research, mindfulness, case vignettes, yoga instruction, and more into a clear and compelling argument for reclaiming the body through their trauma-sensitive modified yoga. Innovative and practical, this book is an indispensable resource for traumatized individuals, yoga teachers, clinicians, and anyone else who is looking to rediscover the natural intelligence of the body.”
—Pat Ogden, PhD, founder of the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute and author of Trauma and the Body: A Sensorimotor Approach to Psychotherapy
“There is a real need to extend yoga to those affected by traumatic experience and this book is a guide toward that action serving yoga practitioners, yoga teachers, and clinicians who are interested in working somatically. This guide fills the gap in the yoga student’s training with a solid knowledge base of trauma and offers ideas about creating a trauma-sensitive yoga class. Furthermore, clinicians can give insight into working with the body in the therapy session.… The yoga skills presented here are designed to center, to ground, to increase mindful awareness, to encourage curiosity about experiencing the present, to help regain the sense of empowerment, enhance affect-regulation, and to befriend the body, all in a trauma-informed way. From a yoga perspective, this guide presents how to work with an individual suffering from symptoms associated with traumatic experience as a fine balance between knowledge and sensitivity.”
Somatic Psychotherapy Today
“If you have suffered trauma or are a yoga teacher looking for ways to expand your class offerings, Overcoming Trauma through Yoga stands alone in providing a complete program developed by clinical experience especially designed to address the needs of trauma survivors.… [The book] offers survivors a mindful approach to healing through calm, step-by-step yoga tailored to their specific requirements in order to engage and awaken the wisdom of their own bodies.… a superb book.… This gem deserves a place on the bookshelf.”
Yoga Flavored Life
“Authors Emerson and Hopper demonstrate how to deliberately and systematically intervene in the body’s alarm systems, and the yoga-based approaches they present in Overcoming Trauma through Yoga use a series of postures and breathing techniques to rebuild a sense of connection to the self.… Overcoming Trauma through Yoga is highly recommended for trauma clients, therapists, and yoga teachers who want to work together toward complete recovery.”
New York Journal of Books
“In his book Overcoming Trauma through Yoga, coauthor David Emerson (with Elizabeth Hopper, PhD) discusses the importance of treating not only patients’ minds, but also their bodies, where memories of traumatic events are stored. They write, ‘While talk-based therapy serves a critical role in the healing process, many are finding that it is insufficient by itself.’ Yoga and other forms of therapeutic physical activity may be the missing link.”
Whole Life Times
“Though the reason for buying this book will vary greatly, I think the message is the same for everyone.… I expected some ‘tips and tricks,’ but instead I got a great discussion on understanding my body and that my healing must come from within myself as well as physically. I am not a yogi; I have watched a few videos and stumbled around my living room, but this book was a great read even for a beginner like me. It was easy to follow the instruction and simple exercises. I am certain that this book has been a great addition to my recovery.”
—Alexandria Vail, Chicklit Club
Very useful book… The essential wisdom imparted here is that a simple hatha yoga practice can support the treatment of trauma by a) reintroducing the PTSD client to having and making meaningful choices when it seems like all choices have been taken away; b) cultivating a sense of living in the present in a way that feels safe; c) taking effective physical action, in direct opposition to what happens in a trauma situation where great effort is made, and often unsuccessfully, toward simply getting away from the threat; and d) establishing personal and interpersonal rhythms when the client may feel out-of-step with his or her own biorhythms, emotions, other people, etc.… I liked the straightforward tone, and the material is streamlined enough that you can pretty much absorb the whole thing in one or two sittings, and start applying it immediately.”
—PCarino, Intellectual House o' Pancakes
“Overcoming Trauma through Yoga tells how trauma survivors can use yoga to reconnect to one's body and introduces the concept of trauma-sensitive yoga, a modified yoga program developed at the Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute. It focuses on reinforcing positive relationships between body and mind through breathing and gentle yoga exercises, and provides an in-depth description of post-traumatic stress disorder. Yoga teachers and therapists alike will find this a fine, specific guide to integrating yoga-based interventions into therapy.”
Midwest Book Review
“The authors, David Emerson and Elizabeth Hopper, PhD, have done an excellent job connecting the dots for readers.… Overcoming Trauma through Yoga eloquently describes and clearly illustrates how trauma-sensitive yoga has been and continues to be an effective tool for trauma survivors, healing them from the inside out. Generally, I would encourage anyone who experiences stress or disconnect from their bodies to give this book a chance.”
—Angela Andiorio, Space & Time
“For yoga teachers, [Overcoming Trauma through Yoga] is invaluable for showing that all students are not the same, and that adapting your class just takes compassion, special care and knowledge, which this book provides. Clinicians will benefit by learning that yoga unlocks traumatized bodies.… Although trauma survivors may have moments of discomfort and strong emotions may surface as they read, Overcoming Trauma through Yoga offers something critical to their healing: hope.”
—Dawn Hamilton, Life Force Yoga Healing Institute
“The information in this book can help anyone engaged in the practice of yoga and the process of healing the effects of traumatic experiences.… Reading this book helped me understand intellectually what I knew experientially. Namely, that the greatest benefit practitioners of yoga receive is the positive shift in outlook. In the context of trauma, this becomes empowerment.”
—Temani Aldine, LifeParticle.com

About the Author

David Emerson is the director of yoga services at the Trauma Center (traumacenter.org). In 2003 he codesigned the Trauma Center Yoga Program that includes classes and teacher training programs. He lives in Cambridge, MA. Elizabeth Hopper, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in traumatic stress and works as the associate director of training at the Trauma Center. She lives in Somerville, MA.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: North Atlantic Books; 1 edition (April 19, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556439695
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556439698
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,786 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

David Emerson is the director of yoga services at the Trauma Center JRI (traumacenter.org) where he coined the term, "trauma-sensitive yoga". In 2003 he co-designed the Trauma Center Yoga Program that includes classes and teacher training programs. More information, including events, at http://www.facebook.com/OvercomingTraumaThroughYoga and http://www.traumasensitiveyoga.com.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

91 of 98 people found the following review helpful By Rachel W on May 28, 2012
Format: Paperback
I thought the reviews are a bit inflated. No doubt this is a useful book. The most useful aspect for me is that it points out many aspects clinicians and yoga teacher should pay attention to when working with a trauma survivor. Very useful tips.

But I find it lacking in any groundbreaking insights or asana sequence that are proven to be working to alleviate the sufferings of these individuals. Many anecdotes, for sure, but I would like something more concrete, more evidence-based.

Seems to me that the so-called "Trauma-Sensitive Yoga" is yet another "niche market" for the ever-increasing number of yoga instructors to be in (on top of yoga therapy, therapeutic yoga, restorative yoga, etc.) Not that it's a bad thing. Just that I had a much higher expectation (hoping of more intensive psychological research), and I was somewhat disappointed.

Besides, if I were a trauma survivor, and my local studio offers a class called "Trauma-Sensitive Yoga," I don't think I'd walk in due to the stigma it implies, or due to my own denial. This label isn't very sensitive IMHO, nor is it very marketable.

If you are a clinician or a yoga teacher, read the precautions mentioned in this book- they are useful. If you are already teaching yoga, you should know the asanas described here very well already. Be gentle and sensitive, and exercise common sense. And if you are a trauma survivor - honestly, I feel that you deserve another book - a more comprehensive and personal one - that is dedicated solely on healing. All in all, it's a nice book to read, but it's not one that I would want to keep a copy for repeated reference in my career.
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Lotus on June 7, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Overcoming Trauma through Yoga is one of the best books I have read on this subject. It has helped me to understand why, as a student of yoga, I have certain habits when I attend a class with strangers. And it is incredibly helpful to me as a yoga teacher. I teach yoga to people who have been through some of the toughest situations imaginable.
The book teaches us to be mindful, respectful and compassionate toward our students and ourselves. This book will be with me for a long time to come.
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62 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Real Mommy on June 7, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book because my daughter suffers from severe PTSD as a result of early childhood trauma. I expected to read some 'how to tips.' Instead, I was blessed with scholarly discussions of the possibility of healing for my daughter from one of the leading trauma treatment researchers in the world! The book is very readable for a lay person who does not do yoga herself. There are some simple exercises to get a person started that can be done by anyone. I have recommended the book to my daughter's therapist. When I identify a yoga instructor, I am going to make sure that he/she reads the book if he/she hasn't done so already. I am hopeful that this book will mark a new stage in my daughter's healing and in my personal growth.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Dawn Hamilton on October 14, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Overcoming Trauma through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body by David Emerson and Elizabeth Hopper, PhD
Reviewed by Dawn Hamilton, LFYP - 2

This concise book is a helpful and uplifting reference work for clinicians, yoga teachers as well as survivors of trauma. As a LifeForce Yoga Practitioner, I can say that the book is completely aligned with the compassionate guidance I received at LFYP training. Using recent discoveries in neuroscience as well as their own clinical experience at The Trauma Center, the authors clearly demonstrate that yoga, when adapted to the unique sensitivities of trauma survivors, can help them manage the debilitating onset of triggers in their daily lives, assisting them forward on their healing journey.

Emerson and Hopper provide a good framework for understanding the deep impact of trauma on the entire human being, with profound and compassionate descriptions of PTSD and trauma. The book includes an informative history of the treatment of people affected by various forms of trauma, whether it be war, abuse, violence or accident, and the evolution of that treatment. They reveal new scientific research which shows our sense of selves is deeply anchored in a vital connection with our bodies. This tells us the wounds of trauma are held deep within the human body, and therefore to fully heal, treatment must include somatic elements. The intrinsic mind/body connection of yoga provides the practitioner with the vital link between wounds stuck inside the body and the deep healing needed.

The authors do an excellent job distinguishing specific needs of trauma-sensitive yoga practitioners from other yogis by sharing case studies of trauma survivors bravely attending classes.
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53 of 60 people found the following review helpful By HappyDay on July 11, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book brings a heap of research on trauma that is nicely packaged for the everyday reader. The book is filled with helpful facts that show how yoga, as a practice, can help people with deep-seated trauma issues to move in their bodies and in their lives. My challenge with this book is that it presents yoga as a packaged "treatment" for individuals who suffer from PTSD and complex trauma. As is common in the trauma literature, the authors find it necessary to stamp "trauma" onto yoga practice to somehow fit yoga (now called trauma-sensitive yoga) into the trauma framework. It seems more helpful to view yoga as a pathway out of trauma as a form of suffering. And, rather than guide readers to search for "trauma-sensitive yoga" classes, why not simply help readers to find a yoga class that fits for them, their personal trauma considerations included. I work with young people who have past childhood trauma and so fully appreciate that trauma has real consequences for one's quality of life. My work with young people has also taught me that trauma survivors are a unique bunch with interests and preferences as varied as the next group. Yoga is a practice, a beautiful practice of mind, body and spirit. It is the yoking of mind and body and can be an expression of spirit. My hypothesis is that trauma survivors who are guided by clinicians to find their way into community yoga classes that feel right to them will be more at ease than those taking trauma Center yoga classes. That said, I am glad to see this book available and will keep a copy on my bookshelf.
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