Trauma Sensitive Yoga
When I went to Sierra Tucson in August 2016 for a 30 day inpatient treatment program for complex PTSD, I WAS NOT a yoga buff. In fact, I do not believe I had attended more than one yoga class in my entire life.
Honestly, before treatment, my time was spent riding, running and strength training....of the physical kind. Moving, usually fast or lifting, usually heavy.
I "passed" on forms of emotional or mental strength training because I had no idea how much easier my life could be if I focused on more than physical conditioning. I had no idea what emotional and mental strength training "looked like".
Within the first week of treatment, I was introduced to Trauma Sensitive Yoga. Since I felt like I was hanging by a life line, I ate up every option there was for help. Anything. Even the things I previously would never have done, or thought about doing. Yoga included.
My level of yoga knowledge was about at the following level : little basic knowledge of it other than it looks like a practice for the athletic and flexible. Neither one I had ever really "felt" like although I tried hard! So it seemed like an impossible endeavor.
To put perspective on yoga and to prepare for this blog post, I asked two employees in the barn if they did yoga, or were familiar with the plus sides of the practice. One of them said that she simply was not flexible enough (I get that, who ACTUALLY is?). The other and I quote "On instagram all you see are women folded in half doing yoga (she MAY have used more explicit terms but I took the liberty of editing), who can do THAT?"
So, the results from the farm survey reports that it is seemingly an unattainable practice. I have not been introduced to instagram or many of the other social media posts, but I can imagine that yoga can be made to look hard or easy, just like anything.
In an attempt to reshape views of yoga, I submit the following:
When I walked in to my first trauma sensitive yoga (TSY) class at Sierra Tucson, I had no idea what to expect. In hopes of clarifying that yoga is NOT just about being flexible (although it looks really cool when you are), I will briefly describe my experience and "name" TSY. It IS about connecting to your body in a compassionate and deep way. To quote : "TSY is an empirically validated, adjunctive clinical treatment for complex trauma or chronic treatment resistant PTSD. Developed at the Trauma Center in Brookline MA, TSY has foundations in Trauma Theory, Attachment Theory and Neuroscience as well as Hatha Yoga practice with emphasis on body based yoga forms and breathing practices." It is proven to " help manage symptoms of anxiety, acute stress, PTSD, and increase the capacity for healing, wellbeing and health." (SAMSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) website.
From first hand experience, trauma sensitive yoga was the key to the lock that opened up my ability to feel my body. To clarify, it is NOT about being flexible. It IS about opening space for those of us who for whatever reason lost touch with the ability to feel our bodies. Yoga poses are used. But not the ones that turn you inside out. I learned to breathe, to FEEL my feet planted on the ground, to FEEL muscles stretching and mentally touch places I had not thought possible to touch.
The practice of trauma sensitive yoga changed the way I relate to my body, it changed the way I treat others, it changed the way I teach horses and teach riders. It helped change my life.
Through this practice, I have become more compassionate and caring.
Here in Keene NH, we are in a fortunate position of having a wonderful Trauma Center with a Trauma Sensitive Yoga teacher currently practicing. With that said, this post is written with gratitude to Akira Stucky. A wonderful TCTSY coach. For more information check out her profile on the Psychology Today website.
Thank you, Akira
Spring is peeking around the corner, hang in there!
With gratitude, Christina