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Word from Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Patricia Casanas

What is trauma and how does it affect us?

As a practitioner of yoga and Licensed Mental Health Counselor working with clients day in and day out that have experienced subtle to severe traumatic events, the collaboration between yoga and mental health in addressing trauma has never been more important than it is today.

Trauma is in the eye of the beholder. In the mental health field, it is recognized that one can have “small T” traumas (such as growing up in a house full of conflict, having financial issues, going through divorce, having chronic mental or physical illnesses) and other situations where one was unable to cope with the given event in such a way that the individual remains impacted in their present day lives.  Large “T” traumas are the more commonly understood major events that disrupt and can ultimately, shatter, one’s life, such as experiencing war, sexual or physical abuse, loss, and so forth.

Trauma acts like a kaleidoscope, fragmenting one’s inner psyche and sense of self to leave that person never the same again. As mental health providers, it is our duty to assess for trauma in individuals and learn to make it standard practice to view clients through a holistic and trauma informed lens; when we can do so, we can work with the client with much more sensitivity and awareness.

It is becoming increasingly understood that the root of many pathological issues, stems from traumatic experiences. In my practice, I work often with clients with eating disorders, borderline personality disorders, generalized anxiety disorders, and more, in which there is a high rate of trauma shared with these mental health illnesses.

Effective new practice, Accelerated Resolution Therapy is treating trauma.

The world of mental health has recently been gifted the ground breaking therapy intervention called Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART). ART has had tremendous positive impacts in research when tested on the military population. ART is a type of eye movement therapy for clients with trauma, grief, addictions, phobias, and more, and as the name implies, one can reach resolution from their trauma at an accelerated rate, often as little as 1-5 sessions! The therapy works by using what is called Voluntary Image Replacement (VIR) where clients learn to visualize positive images while recalling their traumatic scenes and replacing their negative images, this is all done while the therapist uses eye movement techniques and other tools specific to this therapy. Had it not been done on myself and had I not used this therapy on others, I would not have believed of its efficacy.

When clients are able to acknowledge that their experiences truly were traumatizing and impactful, they can begin to heal as they have learned to name their pain “trauma.” Part of the effects of trauma can be seen through body sensations (e.g., tightness, numbness, ongoing sense of tension and anxiety, fight/flight reactions.), emotions (e.g., hopelessness, shame, anger, suspicious and mistrustful), behaviors (e.g., a traumatized client may experience higher rates of suicidal ideation and self-harming behaviors) and their perceptions of the world (e.g., a traumatized client may see the world as more cynical and hold an overall negative view for instance).

Word from Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher, Dina Georgoulis

How yoga can help with trauma.

Our memories, emotions, and indeed, so much trauma, can reside in our body’s tissue. The tissue system is the connector of everything beneath the skin. The ancient practice of the eight limb path of yoga explores the mind/body/breath connection deeply. Just by taking shapes of postures or sitting in meditation, we begin to stretch, lengthen, & strengthen the tissue. Through these actions, we’re able to learn to breathe in such a way as to release energy, unprocess emotion, & all the undesirables that hide deep within our bodies.

I have personally experienced and had the honor to witness when an emotional release occurs in a private session or a group class. Suddenly, our mind may be ready to process trauma that would not have been possible previously. We may cry, laugh, or see a flood of memories. The manifestations can, and often are, myriad.

Thusly, practicing asana (postures), Pranayama (breathwork) & meditation can all serve as powerful vehicles to unshackle, process, and move through grief or trauma. The way is simple, but the work of yoga is complex. And yet, we begin at any age and at any time to do some self study, with love, beginning our journey of learning. In yoga, we call this awareness. Everything begins there.

Turning inward to heal takes courage. Especially in a world that does not teach us how to deal healthily with trauma or how it can shatter us. But most importantly, we can rise from the ashes like a phoenix and when we heal correctly, we become infinitely stronger & able to sit with others.