Yoga for Trauma, Anxiety and Nervous System Dysregulation

Shortly after I began teaching yoga, I noticed a new student experiencing difficulty. She reported being unable to move out of Pigeon Pose, and soon became panicky and weepy. With gentle guidance, she found her way into Child’s Pose and did her best to finish the class. But she never returned. Years later, I’ve come to understand that the student’s emotion was probably triggered by the deep hip opener, and that her nervous system had automatically gone into a freeze state. Her body was likely holding charge in the hips from past trauma, and the release was too much. For some trauma survivors, it can be very difficult merely being aware of the body, let alone participating in a yoga class. When we have high levels of anxiety and a tendency to panic or if we’ve become alienated from our emotions and physical sensations, inhabiting the body can be scary. But it is necessary, for healing to take place. Is Trauma Sensitive Yoga Right for Me? Trauma Sensitive Yoga can be a helpful complement to talk therapy if you have
  • High levels of anxiety
  • Social anxiety
  • Post Traumatic Syndrome
  • The accelerator and brake on simultaneously in your body
  • A critical judge looking over your shoulder. “You are too out of shape to take a yoga class!“ “Too heavy.” “Too weak.“ “Too stupid – you won’t be able to keep up.” We’ll learn to give a friendly wave to the critical judge, but not listen to its voice as we practice together.
What to expect from Trauma Sensitive Yoga Classes
  • SAFETY – For trauma survivors, a sense of safety is of paramount importance. The space at Yoga for Living is womb-like – quiet and private.
  • CHOICE – Participants are given a choice about whether or not to move in a certain way, how far to go in a movement or to do something entirely different. Students are encouraged to tune into their bodies and decide what is best at any given moment.
  • SELF-COMPASSION – Taking care of oneself is a fundamental part of the learning.   Sometimes this means going deeper into the pose and other times it might mean releasing a posture.
  • CONNECTION – Becoming familiar with the inner landscape - reconnecting with the felt sense.
  • BALANCE – Encouragement to find balance between effort and ease.
  • NON-JUDGMENT – The instructor emphasizes not judging oneself or others in the class.
  • COMMUNITY – Being in a supportive community with others who have experienced trauma, overwhelming states or nervous system dysregulation.
  • VERBAL CUES rather than physical assists.
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