Psychological health

Benefits for Trauma Treatment and Mind-Body Wellness

When talk therapy alone does not address the effects of trauma to the body, consider yoga therapy as a complementary approach to healing the mind and body.

Eastern traditions have long recognized the importance of the mind-body relationship for general wellness, and Western thought is beginning to follow suit. An increasing amount of research is emerging to support this link. Yoga in particular has become particularly popular in recent years as a way to facilitate the mind-body connection and is now one of the most widely practiced forms of complementary health care in the United States.

Yoga has been shown to be beneficial in treating many physical health conditions, mental health concerns, stress, and trauma-related issues among them, and many use it to develop mindfulness through a combination of physical movement, breathing and relaxation exercises. In fact, yoga therapy is a growing field of mental health treatment.

Yoga Therapy: Trauma, Mind and Body Health Benefits

Yoga and the stress response

Several studies have noted the effect of yoga on the fight-or-flight response, which is the body’s natural response to stressful and life-threatening situations. The fight-or-flight response, which aims to save us from immediate physical danger, can also be experienced when we experience stress, such as a life change, a toxic relationship, or the challenges of recovering from addiction.

Chronic stress and constantly elevated levels of cortisol (the body’s primary stress hormone) underlie many physical and mental health issues. However, it has been found that practicing yoga regularly reduces cortisol levels naturally. This natural decrease in cortisol can give the body a chance to return to a state of restful awareness. Relaxing awareness allows the physical impact of the flight or flight response to normalize and gives the body a chance to heal.

RELATED: How Yoga Can Help With Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Research Reveals

Trauma Therapy: Yoga Therapy

During traumatic experiences, the body may become disorganized by overactivating or suppressing the fight-or-flight response. When this happens, we weigh ourselves down, and the result may be a highly anxious, trapped state of mind, or some sort of fluctuating between the two. Trauma to the body may be caused by severe or irregular physiological states and physical symptoms. The body itself, then, contains and shows much of the pain it experienced after a traumatic event. As it was said, “Problems live in handkerchiefs.”

When working with individuals who have experienced personal trauma, mental health professionals may find that traditional talk therapy alone is not always the most effective procedure.

A cognitive symptom of trauma is difficulty or impaired ability to remember, pronounce, and/or process one’s experiences. Therefore, insight-based approaches are often not sufficient on their own. Moreover, trauma and its effects are often so well-established and complex that a change in the cognitive framework or behavioral pattern ignores a very basic but crucial component: the body.

Technologies that help increase awareness of internal states and physiological responses to both internal and external stimuli have shown promise in addressing trauma in the body. Redirecting the individual to his or her own body is often key to getting rid of his or her pain and building a path toward healing.

Related: Studies Show How Yoga Can Help You Fight Depression

What is trauma sensitive yoga?

An evidence-based practice designed to directly address trauma-related symptoms, trauma-sensitive yoga focuses on present-day body awareness. Drawing on the theoretical foundations of attachment theory, trauma theory, and neuroscience, TSY helps individuals in therapy learn about choices about the body and develop the ability to take effective action based on knowledge of these choices.

The language used in therapy is an invitation language and emphasizes the person’s choice in therapy. The experience is shared and no physical assistance is used.

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