The Healing Power of Yoga - How Yoga can Help Heal Trauma + PTSD
Yoga is described as a moving meditation, useful for many forms of healing on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level. Moving the body through yoga allows the mind to free, and allows the soul to begin to shift and emerge into a new awareness where healing can begin. What about those deeply rooted, ingrained forms of trauma, which need serious attention and healing? For those with PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, healing is a linear process needing time and constant attention. Yoga is a tremendously useful tool to begin the healing process of such trauma. What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? PTSD is defined, by the Merriam Webster dictionary, as "a psychological reaction occurring after experiencing a highly stressing event (such as wartime combat, physical violence, or a natural disaster) that is usually characterized by depression, anxiety, flashbacks, recurrent nightmares, and avoidance of reminders of the event." It's a very delicate, and serious mental state which can affect anyone at anytime who suffers a trauma. It is not solely delegated to combat veterans, as many may think, although veterans do make up a large portion of those with PTSD. There have been many research programs and studies dedicated to the use of yoga in aiding the healing in patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Doctors and psychologists alike add yoga into their therapy plans regularly for patients who need a natural alternative or supplementation to medication. Researchers and physicians understand that a mind-body yoga practice and deep breathing are beneficial to the mental health of any patient. How does yoga heal? Yoga is a form of self-discipline, which brings the mind and body together as one to allow a foundation for deep healing. Allowing the mind and body to meld together, and harnessing the breathing techniques that yoga provides sets the stage for peacefulness and reduced anxiety. Yoga has many varieties which range from Hatha or Vinyasa- which allows the body to flow into a slow form of dance which aids in peace and relaxation, to Power Yoga which allows the patient to release tension, or pent up anxiety. Any form of yoga that works for the patient at certain times of their healing journey will aid in the process. There are also forms of yoga all about the mind, which promotes deep relaxation and allows the mind to go into a meditative state, such as Restorative yoga or Yoga Nidra. Restorative yoga is defined in it's name- it is simply restorative. In a restorative practice the body is to be propped up into positions where the muscles do no work whatsoever, which allows the mind to begin to calm and center into a place of stillness. For those with PTSD, this may bring up certain memories which are trigger points. Allowing the mind to go to those places and "sitting there" in the memories is one of the first steps to healing. Rather than avoidance, allowing a restorative practice to bring you exactly to the place that needs healing and allowing the mind to sit there will develop new pathways on the road to healing. Yoga Nidra, also known as Yogic Sleep, is a relation practice where a student is brought through a guided mediation. During a Nidra session useful affirmations and a spoken meditation is used to induce a blissful state of consciousness. In turn this promotes deep relaxation, and is a beneficial tool for insomnia which many PTSD suffers encounter. During a Nidra session you are brought through different states of consciousness. You drift away from the waking state straight into a deep sleep state- bypassing a dreaming state of consciousness. This allows the body to delve into total relaxation and is beneficial for deep healing. In fact, I used yoga as a means of getting past my own short bout of PTSD. In 2015, my uncle suddenly passed away from a heart attack. Being on the scene at my uncles house where he had been found, I had the sad moment of seeing him after death in a state that I wish I had not seen. I dealt with nightmares and lack of sleep, and decided to see a therapist to talk it out, as I could not get the image out of my mind. The therapist had a list of suggestions, and in it was a familiar word: yoga. Being a yogi since the age of 12, it wasn't unfamiliar to me, but my practice had very much suffered due to effects of a busy life. I used yoga as a tool to speed up my healing process. I took all classes I could get my hands on, and found restorative yoga to be the most beneficial for me personally, as it brought me to my memories and I was forced to sit in them. Sitting in the memories, and letting them be rather than avoiding them was exactly what I needed to help me move past the fear I held within and allowed me to begin to heal. If you or someone you know is dealing with PTSD, or is in need of any form of healing, give yoga a chance. Use your body as a moving meditation, use your breath to promote that deep relaxation, and allow your soul to begin to heal.
About the Author: Danielle Warford is a yoga teacher, reiki master, and owner of The Wild Feminine LLC out of Arizona. The Wild Feminine is a blog and website about the metaphysical, crystals, yoga and all things healing arts. To learn more click HERE.