Let’s take a practical look at why Living Yoga makes sense, starting with the work we do in prisons. Prison and trauma go hand in hand. People who experience great and repeated trauma are more likely to go to prison. People who go to prison are more likely to experience increased trauma. It’s a vicious cycle.
Yoga is one of the most effective--and cost-effective--ways to break this cycle. Most experts agree that the effects of trauma are stored largely in the body. Yoga, with its focus on being present, on breath, on long stretches and movement, helps rewire the connections between mind and body in important and lasting ways.
And, of course, the same sorts of dynamics that are operating in prison populations also hold true in substance abuse treatment facilities and in transitional services. These issues and behaviors are often interwoven so thoroughly that separating cause from effect is impossible. Yoga therapy short circuits this cycle, opening up a new way forward.
Yoga isn’t the only answer. Other therapies can be important parts of helping people lead positive, contributing lives. But one of the great things about yoga--and Living Yoga--is how it opens the door for other therapies to work by breaking the trauma-block and reconnecting mind and body.
The research on yoga and trauma is detailed and fascinating. Want to know more? It’s here.
• Helps the body learn to maintain homeostasis, while also offering gentle challenges such as difficult poses.
• Teaches use of breath for calming and inner awareness versus outer hyper-vigilance.
• Teaches that things (a pose, or a threat) will not go on forever- they will end – and one option is to wait and be with it.
• Helps create movement where physical patterns from trauma responses are likely to be rigidly held in the fascia, the nervous system or elsewhere deep in the body.
• Helps you to feel stronger so you feel like you can help yourself.
• Helps you learn to express aggression in an appropriate way. For example, the pose “plank” helps you experience pushing away, which can help you feel stronger and able to defend yourself. Twisting poses can make you feel like you are able to look around you for help.
• Is a healthy social habit and helps create a feeling that other people are with you and can help you.
Each of these is important for supporting and helping people recover from trauma.
Did You Know?
More than 50% of men and women in the US will experience trauma in our lifetimes. It might be a one-time event, it might be childhood abuse or it might be repeated and prolonged stress. Maybe you’ve had such an experience yourself--perhaps a car accident--and you can remember the feeling of time almost standing still. Some people talk about an “out-of-body” experience. People who repeatedly experience trauma can get locked into that response. It becomes the new normal and it changes the way they see every moment and approach every decision.
Yoga can unlock that response by connecting people to their bodies and showing them that the discomfort that comes with a particular pose is not forever. The sensation can be experienced, understood and then left behind. Again and again, when they come to the mat, our students learn this. And bit by bit they take it with them into their lives.
Read more about how trauma shows up and lives in the body and how yoga can help