You may be asking, why yoga? How does yoga, as a personal tool, help a person work through trauma? Trauma sensitive yoga, under the care of a well trained and experienced teacher, is a profound way to work from a fight or flight, or freeze response, back up to social functioning. There are scientific reason why it works, here are just a few:
Slow yoga accesses the limbic system, releasing held or stuck places over time, and moving us toward rest and equilibrium. Yoga also increases our body's GABA (Gamma-amino butyric acid) which is the primary substance that calms and reduces activity in the limbic system.
Breathing practices vibrate the upper palate and the Vagus nerve, signaling peace to the body and helping to improve vagal tone which increases stress resilience. We use various focused types of breath to care for our Vagus nerve and engage social function. Our studio is story focused and we consider our yoga practice to be a type of meditative movement. The opportunity to tell our stories, and to move and breathe together, calms the Amygdala and grows the Hippocampus in our brains, increasing an overall feeling of peace.(1)
Yoga has a profound effect on our brains and our emotions. Certain poses and sequences increase neurotransmitter release, decreasing aggression and impulsive behavior. Neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, help us to feel good. Yoga also helps us to integrate left and right hemispheres, reset the nervous system, and helps us restore a sense of control through body awareness. “Yoga resets the nervous system and helps the trauma survivor to: reestablish a connection with the body, cultivate self-awareness and self-regulation, increase emotional and physical resiliency, and become present and reconnect to daily life and loved ones.” (2)
Poses are specifically used to signal to the retina, adrenal glands, and nervous system that it is safe to move out of fight or flight and into relaxation mode.
Ushering ourselves into opportunities to shake allows us to give our bodies another chance to react, even years later, this time with our own choices intact, in a safe environment. We slowly work with held areas, or frozen places moving our way gently back up the chain, finding healing and wholeness along the way. Peter Levine describes this shaking as “an oscillating between fear and exploration” (3). Levine also describes how we reengage agency and mastery, instead of feeling the rage of pent up trauma:
“Empowerment derives directly from expelling the physical attitude of defeat and helplessness and restoring the biologically
meaningful active defense system- that is, the embodied triumph of successful protection and the visceral actuality of
competency. Such renegotiation also helps to dissolve the entrenched guilt and self-judgement that may be byproducts of
helplessness and repressed/dissociated rage. By accessing an active and powerful experience, passivity of paralysis and
collapse is countered.” (3)
Thank you for considering the addition of yoga to your personal tool box, or as a professional recommendation. We are happy to talk further with you regarding Polyvagal Theory, Meta Cognition, and the Science behind what we teach at Haven. Visit our blog for more articles, or contact us directly with your questions.
1 Bessel VanDer Kolk
2 YogaFit, Healing Physical and Emotional Trauma, p 415.
3 Peter Levine, In An Unspoken Voice, p 77
I could not love Haven more. First of all, you feel you are up above the world in an inviting fairy tale-like tree house. When you need quiet, direction, hope, rest, exertion, challenge, peace, gratitude or just a break from your life, this is the place to come. Each instructor offers a different fragrance of Goodness, and you come away feeling nourished, reoriented, and directed back to joy. Excellent, indeed!!! -Julie
Haven Yoga Studio is absolutely a physical and spiritual manifestation of the meaning of haven (a place of safety and refuge). It's a slice of Heaven on earth. From the moment I walk through the door I feel an exhale and release of all that I hold too tightly. The quaint and thoughtful atmosphere is so delightful, so safe, so adorable and lovely, such a perfect space for practicing yoga. I find the Restore class to be rejuvenating and restorative for my mind, body and heart. The Instructors at Haven are not only excellent and inspiring in the instruction and practice of yoga, but the grace and love and thoughtful intention that flows from them sets them apart. What a special place and special experience! -Sarah
I was brand new to yoga the first time I visited the Colorado Springs Haven Studio. I loved the look and feel of the room and was immediately greeted with warm smiles from the teacher and the other students. I came very broken and needy and was accepted with open arms by every staff member. I have spent several months now with my new Haven family and these people have ministered to my heart on so many occasions. Haven is truly a "haven" for those in grief. The teachers have all been very sensitive to my season of life and my personal process. Haven is a one-of-a-kind place. -Bonnie
The ladies at this studio are GIFTED. What an amazing sanctuary to go and feel loved, to feel good about my body, and to be led in spirit. You can count on, if you wish, getting the perfect adjustments, little massages on your temples, toes, etc., and prayers. It's a unique studio, but not so much that you feel like you're not getting in a good workout. You must visit Haven Yoga - it's truly a gem in Colorado Springs.
The Science of Trauma Sensitive Yoga as a tool for Life