Close your eyes and notice if you are carrying any stress in your body in this moment. Maybe in the jaw or stomach? Now, try to create space around the tension or stress by sending the energy of the breath around the tension. Breath regulation is beneficial in allowing people to slow down into what is happening right now.
When we experience stress or trauma, it can live in the body and can create a stress response in people of all ages. The stress response may be varying in levels such as clenching your jaw, tensing your body, needing to leave the room, or having a panic attack.
While it is happening, it can seem scary. There is some good news. Stress response can be controlled using modalities such as mindfulness, yoga, as well as therapeutic touch such as acupuncture or massage along with therapy.
This gives us the ability to regulate and recalibrate the autonomic nervous system, to control a stress response. In children, similar activity to assist in this release of stress include needing movement, play, and joyful engagement. These are all considered bottom-up methods, which calm physical tensions in the body, and shifts people out of flight/fight to reorganize people’s perception of danger. Basically, it can help you feel better.
Memories of trauma can but not always, lead to physiological symptoms such as autoimmune disorders, or skeletal muscular problems. Why? Because there is a proven mind, brain, and body connection to stress.
“So how can we help that? I am a busy person and life is hard.” When we practice asana (yoga movements) no matter how modified, gentle, or vigorous, a reconnection and ability to warmly love self exists. This then shifts to other areas of life including but not limited to diet, relationships, energy, etc, which helps us to feel better.
Proven studies exist to show the physiological benefits and shifts in breathing exercises which change when a person becomes upset, is having a trauma memory, or is well regulated. Interpreting physical sensations is called interoreception, which allows people to have a relationship with their interior world and self. To be able to understand what the body needs, allows people the ability to tune into nourishing and healing the self.
Studies exist that show after twenty weeks of one weekly yoga class in people who have experienced stress and trauma, there are increases in activation of brain structures involved in stress regulation. These brain structures include the insula, and medial prefrontal cortex. Does this have to be only yoga? No! For some it could be running, reiki, massage, or even gardening.
Feeling safe in our bodies allows people to communicate previously overwhelmed situations that were not easily felt or talked about.
Children and adults can be taught self-regulation skills. The act of educating about physical sensations and becoming friends with our bodies, can assist in healing. Yoga, therapeutic touch such as acupuncture or massage, and breath work in addition to talk therapy may help you feel better. Contact us to start your journey to wellness.
Chirokas, Dennis, C., & Bradshaw, M. (2021). Phenomenological Reflections of Trauma Survivors on Healing Through Yoga. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 75(S2), 7512505186–7512505186p1. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2021.75S2-RP186
Gulden, & Jennings, L. (2016). How Yoga Helps Heal Interpersonal Trauma: Perspectives and Themes from 11 Interpersonal Trauma Survivors. International Journal of Yoga Therapy, 26(1), 21–. https://doi.org/10.17761/IJYT2016_Research_Gulden_E-pub
Van der Kolk. (2014). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. Penguin Publishing Group.
This month’s blog post was written by TriWellness’s newest counseling intern, Rebecca Caliendo, MM, who has been teaching yoga from 2016.