Yoga for PTSD
Yoga and meditation may be a great fit for you if you are open to alternative and integrative solutions to healing, recovery, and/or management of your triggers and your co-occurring conditions and ailments.
Yoga has been so effective for me and others, because yoga is not a band-aid. Yoga works from the inside out to re-wire, re-program, and undo all of the conditioning I subjected my body and mind to over the years, the least of which was the conditioning of my body, mind and spirit in the aftermath of sociopath abuse.
As a reader of this blog and others like it, you understand that the toxic love we experience as a result of sociopath and emotional abuse results in layers of imbalance within our body and our mind. These imbalances are a direct result of the two major players that keep us in the relationship long after the abuse begins: the betrayal/trauma bond and cognitive dissonance.
Unfortunately, these major players don’t magically disappear once we are physically outside the relationship. In many cases, these two players become stronger and more powerful (probably because we expect answers that we never receive), leaving many of us overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness, depression, and despair.
During a traumatic event and/or periods of perpetual trauma, our ability to physically move and act is hindered. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that everyone who suffers from trauma holds trauma in their physical bodies…in their muscles…in their connective tissues. The combination of focused breathing and movement that yoga requires has been proven to release that internal tension and “free” a patient slowly and gradually over time.
Yoga helps to align our conscious proprioception (body alignment and awareness of our physical bodies within our surroundings) and our unconscious proprioception (those conditioned patterns of thinking that we’re often too busy to observe also called “samskaras” in yoga philosophy).
When we practice yoga, the skeletal/muscular/neuro proprioceptors (sensory nerve endings throughout our bodies that naturally ignite when imbalance is sensed) are activated and nurtured. This concurrent activation of proprioceptors in our body and mind silently work to bring us back into balance.
Poses like tree pose and warrior 3 and twists and lunges…really all of the postures/asanas, because they all require us to pay attention to our body balance and alignment…work to balance both our conscious and unconscious proprioceptions.
Do you find that as amazing as I find it?
So committing to a regular yoga or meditation practice can naturally cure our addiction and our cognitive dissonance. Other ways yoga tackles imbalances and disease:
>>Internal organs are massaged
>>Nerves are toned
>>Respiration, energy, and vitality are restored
>>Mind relaxes and anxieties are released
>>Self-acceptance is encouraged
>>Body is purified from the inside
Yoga and Integrative Health Care
To add to its credibility as an effective tool, yoga is gaining the spotlight in the integrative health care. Non-profits like Boulevard Zen and Yoga Hope have provided yoga as therapy to domestic violence (DV) survivors and to survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing respectively. Many survivors of cancer also have yoga as part of their recovery programs in hospitals and institutes. In addition, med students are even being encouraged to become yoga practitioners and teachers, so they understand the power of yoga in order to recommend yoga therapy to their future patients.
If I had not seen and experienced the positive results in myself and in others whom I have personally met and been in contact, I would not feel confident enough to share and encourage others to give yoga and meditation a try. To just consider it.
But it does require a commitment of at least several weeks of consistent practice. Recent studies conducted with older generation veterans concluded that after just 8 weeks of a regular and consistent practice of transcendental meditation (TM), vets with PTSD experienced a 50% decrease in their symptoms and triggers. That’s huge to me, considering TM requires zero movement of the physical body beyond the rise and fall of the lungs, pumping of the heart, and the flow of oxygenated blood to all our organs.
What It Takes to Do Yoga
But you worry. You have fears. You’ve never tried yoga. You aren’t flexible. You think you’re too fat or too short or too uncoordinated to do yoga. Many believe yoga is just about moving our bodies and being flexible in our joints and in our limbs.
I’m here to tell you that none of those things matter once you’re on the mat.
First, yoga isn’t a sport or a competition of any kind. If you fear doing yoga because you think you won’t be good at it, ask yourself this:
“Can I breathe and move at the same time?”
If you answered “Yes” to this questions, then you will be fantastic at yoga.
At the heart of yoga is breath awareness. Yoga requires that we come into total and complete awareness of how we breathe, when we breathe, and when and if we stop breathing. Combine this mental and thoughtful awareness of our breath with movement of our limbs and core and one is doing yoga.
It’s that easy.
Regardless of how flexible your body is when you begin practicing yoga, the healing benefits begin with your first practice as long as you do two things:
1. Focus on your breathing by paying attention to your inhales, your exhales, and when and if you stop breathing.
2. Maintain proper alignment of each pose by following the teacher’s cues and only going as deep as your body permits you to go…today.
To learn more about proprioception, read this!