The Role of Yoga in Healing Trauma

Originally posted here on NPR.org

Missy Hart grew up in Redwood City, Calif. — in gangs, on the street, in the foster care system and in institutions.

“Where I’m from,” the 26-year-old says, “you’re constantly in alert mode, like fight or flight.”

But at age 13, when she was incarcerated in juvenile hall for using marijuana, she found herself closing her eyes and letting her guard down in a room full of rival gang members.

Back then, she says, yoga was just another mandatory activity, run by a Bay Area program called The Art of Yoga Project. It offers what it calls “trauma-sensitive yoga” to incarcerated girls.

At first, 13-year-old Hart felt uncomfortable. But, gradually, she learned to use the poses and breathing to relax, and she loved it.

“Most of us [in juvenile hall] come from traumatic childhoods,” she says. “It was the only time you experienced a quiet time, when everything was so chaotic.” She believes the practice helped her cope with symptoms of bipolar disorder.

A new report from the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Georgetown University’s law school, says that for young women like Hart, who have been through trauma, there is mounting evidence that yoga can have specific benefits.

The study focuses on girls in the juvenile justice system. It also reviews more than 40 published studies on the mental health benefits of yoga.

“What we’re learning,” says Rebecca Epstein, one of the report’s authors, “is that fights go down on wards after adolescents participate,” in yoga.

Girls, she adds, “are requesting medicine less often. They have fewer physical complaints.”

The findings, Esptein explains, come from speaking to experts in the field, as well as the authors of peer-reviewed articles and some randomized, controlled trials.

Study of Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACE, in boys and girls in the juvenile justice system. Courtesy of Georgetown Law

Two Georgetown pilot studies showed girls and young women who did yoga reported better self-esteem and developed skills that they could use in stressful situations — taking care of their own children, for example.

Educators and others who work with youth are, increasingly, paying attention to the science of trauma.

Large studies show that people who have been through one or more “adverse childhood experiences” have not only poor mental health outcomes, but also higher incidence of heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers. Those experiences might include such things as physical abuse, the incarceration of a close family member or mental illness in their household.

Further, statistics show that compared with boys, girls experience different forms of childhood trauma, with an impact that adds up over time. They disproportionately experience sexual violations, for example. And, for girls, this abuse is more likely to occur in the context of a relationship, Epstein says, which interferes with forming intimate and trusting relationships with others.

The new Georgetown Law report argues that, since the effects of trauma can be physical, “body-mind” interventions, like yoga, may be able to uniquely address them. Regulated breathing, for example, calms the parasympathetic nervous system. Practicing staying in the moment counteracts some of the dissociative effects of trauma. And the physical activity of yoga, of course, can directly improve health.

Yoga that is specifically designed for victims of trauma has modifications when compared with traditional yoga teaching.

For example, says Missy Hart, “they always ask you if you want to be touched,” for an adjustment in a pose. “I see now that really helped me. Other girls who have experienced sexual abuse, sexual trauma or are in there for prostitution at the age of 13, 14, they had their body image all mixed up.”

And the institution doesn’t always help, she says.

“Being asked to be touched, it gave us a little power back in a place where all our power is taken,” she explained. “We’re kids and we’re being strip-searched. We can’t even go to the bathroom, take a shower, or brush our teeth without asking.”

Yoga, she said, offered choices. “You can sit and reflect and think about what you want to think about. It helped us feel normal.”

When Hart turned 18, she was out of the foster care system, and became homeless for a time. “I was really searching for myself.”

Today, she is painting and studying to become an art therapist at Foothill College, near San Jose, Calif. She’s going back this summer to one of the institutions where she spent time as a girl, this time as an art teacher.

And, she is beginning her vinyasa yoga teacher training certification. Her ultimate goal, she says, is to open a group home that will offer creative arts and yoga. “When I was doing yoga, that seed was planted. I built my toolbox.”

3rd Annual Charity Yogathon

Spiritual talk, music, Q&A, meditation for world peace

A free public program with Brahmachari Ramanand

Saturday, May 20th  •  1:30 – 3:30PM

Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church

2931 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 37919

 

Holistic Health Fair in the Breezeway

Non-drug Therapy for Back Pain

http://www.local8now.com/content/news/New-guidelines-outline-how-to-treat-back-pain-414637613.html

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) – New guidelines from the American College of Physicians say the first line of therapy for back pain should be non-drug treatments.

Jay Dee Clayton finds peace from his pain through yoga.

“Whenever I start to feel a little twinge, I pull my knee out and stretch the area that’s giving me a problem and it dissipates. It goes away,” he said.

But, yoga wasn’t the first place he looked for relief.

“I took medication immediately after the surgery and I didn’t like feeling like my head was on a balloon string, so I looked for alternative methods of just managing through it,” he said.

Several months ago, Cecelia Aurand also went looking for relief.

“I’ve had spinal stenosis and back pain for quite a while,” she said.

She, too, first tried the prescription route.

“It didn’t really help. After I had the surgery it did help for a time but it didn’t last,” she said.

So, she turned to acupuncture where she says she saw immediate results.

“Within three sessions, I was walking normal again. It was amazing,” she said.

“Many people are able to reduce or completely discontinue the use of pharmaceuticals to manage pain because of acupuncture,” said Dr. Will Foster, an acupuncturist at Traditional Health Clinic.

The fact that both Clayton and Aurand were able to find relief outside of pain pills doesn’t surprise Dr. Samuel Yoakum.

“There are certain types of pain that pills treat really well. They don’t treat chronic back pain well,” he said.

New guidelines from the American College of Physicians back this up.
The guidelines say the first line of therapy for back pain should be non-drug treatments. For pain lasting less than three months, those include heat wraps, massage, acupuncture and spinal manipulation. The authors stress that clinicians should avoid costly and potentially harmful treatments like narcotics.

For pain lasting more than three months, treatments include stretching and strengthening exercises, tai chi, yoga, acupuncture, and mindfulness techniques like meditation to relieve stress.

If those fail, anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen should be considered first, then medications that can dull nerve pain, like tramadol or duloxetine.

“Be as active as possible. That’s what we take from these guidelines more than anything else,” said Dr. Yoakum.

Not all insurances cover alternate therapies. It’s important to consult with your physician or a specialist to diagnose what type of back pain you have and what treatment plan would be best.

Silent Meditation & Yoga Retreat

A Weekend Workshop offered at Prama Institute & Wellness Center

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION
It is amazing how only a couple days of silence can create a sense of self discovery and camaraderie. Our Slient Meditation and Yoga Retreats give participants the opportunity to connect with themselves and others at a deeper level beyond the usual discourse.
This weekend retreat will give you the opportunity to revitalize yourself, unclutter your mind, deepen your understanding of yourself and others, and discover sources of strength you may have only glimpsed but now can come to own. Silence allows you the time you always wanted to put things into perspective, find the balance, and recognize what the signs of your life are trying to tell you.
Silent Meditation and Yoga retreats at the Prama Institute are unique:

  • We combine open periods of personal reflection with powerful meditations, both sitting and moving.
  • Yoga classes that combine flow and restorative poses.
  • The nature walks along the scenic trails of our land are ideal for experiencing the beauty and peace around you and within.
  • The visualization exercises help you reflect on where you have been, where you are, and where you are going.
  • Journaling lets you express your discoveries and remember them whenever you want to review them.
  • And, of course, our legendary gourmet meals keep it all in perspective.

DETAILS

When:  April 7 – 9, 2017

Location:  Prama Institute

Program: Silent Yoga & Meditation Retreat

Faculty:  Howard Nemon, Sid Jordan

 

COST & REGISTRATION

Shared Accommodation

$350 (Till March 15), $395 (After March 15)

Private Accommodation

$450 (Till March 15), $495 (After March 15)

REGISTER HERE

Subtle Body, Radiant Mind: A Yoga and Meditation Workshop

AcroYoga at Breezeway

Introducing Acro Yoga at Breezeway!

12814103_746257692111_648908030243128729_nStarting on the first Tuesday in November, we’re pleased to welcome Rebekah Luhrs to Breezeway for AcroYoga classes.

Rebekah is a certified yoga instructor who has been doing AcroYoga since 2011. After several years of teaching both in the US and internationally, she is excited to be offering weekly acro classes in Knoxville. Meryl Kerns will be joining her as assistant teacher. 

AcroYoga is a dynamic partner practice that blends the wisdom of yoga, the dynamic power of acrobatics, and the loving kindness of healing arts.  New content will be explored each week while reviewing components taught in previous classes and workshops, providing a space for students to form strong foundational skills. AcroYoga as a practice that is available for every body, age, and ability.

Namaste Betty: free yoga on the lawn

NamasteBetty_Facebook-Header-5

Help us celebrate Betty’s legacy to our community.

September 10, 9:30 AM • Farragut High School football field

Join us on the Farragut High School Football field as we gather to continue Betty Kalister’s legacy of community building through the practice of yoga.

All levels of experience are welcome to attend this free event.

Radiant Yoga and Qi Gong workshop

AdobeStock_48419414-SmallRadiant Yoga and Qi Gong workshop


Sunday September 11, 2016 1-3pm with Mebbie Jackson and Belle Kent.

Come experience an afternoon to uplift your energy. Mebbie and Belle will facilitate yoga, qi gong, and dance movements to help reset your energy for the change of seasons. Fall is a time of rest after the busy experiences of Summer. Refresh yourself with movement and laughter in this energizing workshop!

Cost $25.00 in advance, $30.00 at the door.

To register, connect with Mebbie via email: mebane8@mac.com or call (865) 679-9642