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Survivors of trauma—whether abuse, accidents, or war—can end up profoundly wounded, betrayed by their bodies that failed to get them to safety and that are a source of pain. In order to fully heal from trauma, a connection must be made with oneself, including one’s body. The trauma-sensitive yoga described in this book moves beyond traditional talk therapies that focus on the mind, by bringing the body actively into the healing process. This allows trauma survivors to cultivate a more positive relationship to their body through gentle breath, mindfulness, and movement practices.
Overcoming Trauma through Yoga is a book for survivors, clinicians, and yoga instructors who are interested in mind/body healing. It introduces trauma-sensitive yoga, a modified approach to yoga developed in collaboration between yoga teachers and clinicians at the Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute, led by yoga teacher David Emerson, along with medical doctor Bessel van der Kolk. The book begins with an in-depth description of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including a description of how trauma is held in the body and the need for body-based treatment. It offers a brief history of yoga, describes various styles of yoga commonly found in Western practice, and identifies four key themes of trauma-sensitive yoga. Chair-based exercises are described that can be incorporated into individual or group therapy, targeting specific treatment goals, and modifications are offered for mat-based yoga classes. Each exercise includes trauma-sensitive language to introduce the practice, as well as photographs to illustrate the poses. The practices have been offered to a wide range of individuals and groups, including men and women, teens, returning veterans, and others. Rounded out by valuable quotes and case stories, the book presents mindfulness, breathing, and yoga exercises that can be used by home practitioners, yoga teachers, and therapists as a way to cultivate awareness, tolerance, and an increased acceptance of the self.
This practical guide presents the cutting-edge work of the Trauma Center’s yoga therapy program, teaching all therapists how to incorporate it into their practices.
When treating a client who has suffered from interpersonal trauma—whether chronic childhood abuse or domestic violence, for example—talk therapy isn’t always the most effective course. For these individuals, the trauma and its effects are so entrenched, so complex, that reducing their experience to a set of symptoms or suggesting a change in cognitive frame or behavioral pattern ignores a very basic but critical player: the body.
In cases of complex trauma, mental health professionals largely agree that the body itself contains and manifests much of the suffering—self hatred, shame, and fear. Take, for example, a woman who experienced years of childhood sexual abuse and, though very successful in her professional life, has periods of not being able to feel her limbs, sensing an overall disconnection from her very physical being. Reorienting clients to their bodies and building their “body sense” can be the very key to unlocking their pain and building a path toward healing.
Based on research studies conducted at the renowned Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts, this book presents the successful intervention known as Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TSY), an evidence-based program for traumatized clients that helps them to reconnect to their bodies in a safe, deliberate way.
Synthesized here and presented in a concise, reader-friendly format, all clinicians, regardless of their background or familiarity with yoga, can understand and use these simple techniques as a way to help their clients achieve deeper, more lasting recovery.
Unlike traditional, mat-based yoga, TSY can be practiced without one, in a therapist’s chair or on a couch. Emphasis is always placed on the internal experience of the client him- or herself, not on achieving the proper form or pleasing the therapist. As Emerson carefully explains, the therapist guides the client to become accustomed to feeling something in the body—feet on the ground or a muscle contracting—in the present moment, choosing what to do about it in real time, and taking effective action. In this way, everything about the practice is optional, safe, and gentle, geared to helping clients to befriend their bodies.
With over 30 photographs depicting the suggested yoga forms and a final chapter that presents a portfolio of step-by-step yoga practices to use with your clients, this practical book makes yoga therapy for trauma survivors accessible to all clinicians. As an adjunct to your current treatment approach or a much-needed tool to break through to your traumatized clients, Trauma-Sensitive Yoga in Therapy will empower you and your clients on the path to healing.