Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

In the 1970s, Vietnam veterans came back to the US and found that they had elevated levels of anxiety and stress. The term “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” was created to define the problems with anxiety they experienced after the shocking events they had witnessed and taken part in. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), can also result from any number of traumatic incidents, including domestic violence.

Yoga can be used as a form of therapy for PTSD. Individuals who have experienced PTSD have started using yoga to compliment more traditional forms of therapy. In addition, the US military recently started funding research on the effects of yoga on PTSD amongst war veterans.

Yoga can also help domestic violence survivors who experience PTSD. I know this not only through personal experience, but also through observing my class at the shelter I am facilitating a yoga support class at.

During several of the classes, I noticed extreme anxiety in one or more students. When they came in, they would be nervous, almost scared, to a point where they didn’t want to talk. Later, I noticed that they would be scared to close their eyes. I noticed eyes fluttering, trying desperately to do what I said– soft eyes– but feeling nervous that I would chide them if they opened. Savasana was just too hard, and so was sitting. Sigh after sigh on each deep breath indicated a lot of stress left to release.

Others, however, were happy to lie down and enjoy restorative poses with props.

When I started yoga after trauma, I was told by some instructors not to keep my eyes closed, especially during lying down poses. Other teachers did not suggest that.

I was happy to close my eyes. Savasana was not only easy, it was the pose I enjoyed the most. When instructors would ask “is there anything in particular you’d like to work on?”, I would respond immediately, “Savasana”. I just wanted to lie there and let life go by, and let my body relax after being on an alerted edged all day. I wanted to have someone guide me through relaxation using deep breathing.

But each individual person responds to trauma such as domestic violence in different ways. And each person needs different forms of support. Some enjoy active work to burn energy, while others prefer restorative poses to calm nerves, and others fall into every other shade of the rainbow! In the article  Healing Life’s Traumas (Yoga Journal), Denise Kersten Wills writes of a woman who actually didn’t like happy baby during her first class. For whatever reason, it just didn’t work. Happy Baby ain’t happy for everyone!

If you or someone you know has gone through domestic violence and would like to take part in a study on yoga, nature, and PTSD, please contact me for group or private lessons.

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Word of the Week

Namaste. This section will begin to explore sanskrit terminology associated with yoga. First word: Namaste. This is a salutation, "I salute the light within you that is within me also."
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News on Domestic Violence

Since I've been blogging about yoga and domestic violence, I thought I would share Dr. Phil's stories as well. The television icon is asking people to break the silence!
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