Yoga and Trauma: Now and In the Future

Yoga and Trauma: Now and In the Future


3:49 Yoga and trauma came together as more was known about trauma. Bessel van der Kolk who did a small study of yoga and PTSD. He is a strong voice, and the trauma community recognized the body’s role in trauma healing. Allows a safe and structured way for body to feel again. PTSD as a diagnosis occurred in the 1980’s Society has realized that everyone has experienced trauma in their lifetime. Can react to trauma in present moment situations that not helpful to situation.

6:38 Research has focussed and supported yoga as a helpful modality for trauma. Research studies for PTSD have had encouraging results – lots of feasibility studies. Demand for yoga for trauma courses are very strong. Heather’s popular yoga for trauma course attracts psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, and yoga teachers. More and more course applications are from the medical community.

9:12 Yoga teachers should know about trauma. Recently published a book  (Yoga for Mental Health by Kelly Birch and Heather Mason) where chapters are written by experts in their field. A chapter about  trauma focused yoga therapy by Daniel Libby and Dana Moore is provides a good information on this topic. Yoga teachers dealing with students who are experiencing PTSD should be careful of language during class. The student’s experience may not be positive either mentally, physically or emotionally. Don’t tell people what they are likely to feel. PTSD is likely to make people feel disembodied. Better to give them a cue with a focal point (e.g., you may feel tension in your hamstrings at the back of the legs in a forward bend). Touch should be approved by the student at all times. Movement to make yoga trauma-sensitive but yoga can be so much more than that because of its effect on the autonomic nervous system.

13:05 Yoga Training for Trauma: when dealing with PTSD understanding what people are presenting with (it can be variable) – more difficult if have a group class. Restorative allows people to deeply rest but some may some may feel vulnerable. Moving can be empowering. Every style of yoga can be appropriate for people with PTSD; depends on the stage they are in, what’s going on and their proclivities. All teachers need to understand how to handle triggering. Can’t stop anyone from triggering. All yoga teacher training courses should have a mental health component because yoga classes have a higher percentage of people attending with mental health issues than the population average. Teach yoga teaches to handle general mental health issues and triggering.

20:00 Overall yoga community is more aware of trauma but see growing interest from mental health professionals in the therapeutic value of yoga. #Metoo movement and the reporting about yoga teachers abusing their students has created awareness of inappropriate touch. Adjustments are Ok with informed consent (and to be informed, have to be in tune with their body to know if they allow touch)

22:50 Where will trauma and yoga be in 10 years? Yoga will be more and more integrated into the mental health system (in UK). Difference between health care systems in different countries makes it difficult to predict and will manifest differently. In UK – trauma-based treatments with yoga components are now included in their national health care system (NHS).  Yoga teachers will be increasingly aware of value of yoga for mental health issues and best practices. More research in this area. Flourishing of classes for those with mental health issues. Yoga community should offer yoga saying it is for depression anxiety, PTSD, trauma.  People are desperate for help. The stigma of mental health illness is decreasing now and will continue to do so. Online technologies allow people to access yoga in their homes.

27:00 Integrated into the system in UK; how can we get into the health care systems in all countries. Where health care is paid for by the government, it is easy as only have to convince one entity while a system of 100’s of insurance companies is much harder to enter. Governments want low-cost, effective and efficient modalities for their health care systems. UK and India are making great progress, most successful countries will export their systems to others. Countries like the US where individuals pay for their health care will be interesting. But Medicare does pay for the Dean Ornish treatment which includes yoga. Either UK, India or Sweden may be the model for the rest of the world.

29:30 Parliamentary Group – Yoga in Society. Heather is the Secretary of the Group and it has four pillars. Yoga in: a) education, b) criminal justice system, c) health care, and d) occupational health. Different groups are working in all four areas.

31:33 Yoga and Trauma for yoga teachers who are suffering from mental health issues remember you do not have to be the perfect guru. That will delay your own healing process and creates false expectations


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