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New Service: Trauma-Sensitive Yoga. What Is It? Why Are You Offering Yoga at a Therapist's Office!?


 Hi Everyone! Long time, no blog. I wanted to provide an update about a new service that I'm offering: trauma-sensitive yoga. This past year, I've been up to lots of things, but my focus has primarily been on obtaining my yoga teacher certification. Why, you ask? What business does a therapist have offering yoga classes to the public? Well, lots of reasons.

 First and foremost, have you seen the research out there about yoga and mental health? It's pretty compelling. In his book The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel Van der Kolk talks about how trauma has real physical effects on our bodies. Folks with trauma disorders or anxiety disorders are more likely to suffer from chronic pain, autoimmune disorders, insomnia, fatigue, unexplained headaches, stomach aches, and chest pain, and a general feeling of disconnection from their bodies. Heart rate variability (HRV), the tiny fluctuations between our heartbeats, is also affected by trauma. When our autonomic nervous system (the part of our nervous system that slows us down and helps us feel relaxed) is well balanced, we have a reasonable ability to manage our emotions when faced with a stressor. But when our autonomic nervous system is out of whack due to trauma or anxiety, our HRV also becomes out of whack, leading to poorer ability to bounce back from stressful situations. What's all this got to do with yoga, you ask? Yoga helps improve our HRV, and in turn, heal our nervous systems (p.
286). 

Yoga offers an amazing opportunity to help trauma-survivors, people with anxiety, and those in recovery, to address the physical effects of these concerns and reconnect to their bodies. Most of us know yoga as a physical practice, or asana in Sanskrit. However, this is only a very small portion of what yoga is. Yoga also involves breath work, or pranayama, and meditation. This focus on breathing and meditation helps us to activate our parasympathetic nervous systems as we move our bodies throughout the practice. We create small amounts of stress in our bodies, and then breathe through it, staying present in the discomfort. This helps increase our distress tolerance, and strengthen our nervous systems. It's sort of like a workout for your nervous system. 

On the topic of nervous systems, we can't talk about the physical effects of trauma without talking at least a little bit about the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is this really long nerve that runs down our torso from our brain stem. It's responsible for communicating any signs of threats to our brain. It's sort of like a watchdog for our nervous system. When we practice yoga, we "tone" the vagus nerve, improving it's ability to switch between the sympathetic nervous system (the part that goes, "hey, this is really dangerous, let's switch into fight/flight/freeze mode) and our parasympathetic nervous system (the part that says, hey wait, we're not actually in danger, this is just a little uncomfortable. Let's breathe and get through it). Better vagal tone means better ability to regulate your emotions and recover from stressful situations. Yoga supports a healthy vagal tone. 

So, there you have it. This is what makes yoga a wonderful supplement to traditional treatment for trauma and anxiety. So what's trauma-sensitive yoga, then? What makes a yoga class trauma-sensitive? While any practice of yoga will provide these benefits, a trauma-sensitive yoga class has a focus on healing and the mental health benefits of yoga. A trauma-sensitive yoga teacher has knowledge of just how impactful trauma can be to the body, and how uncomfortable it can be to be in your body when you're experiencing the effects of such conditions. In a trauma-sensitive yoga class, things move at your pace. There's no pressure or focus on getting "the right pose" or obtaining any sort of flexibility or strength level. The focus is on just being present in your body, exploring sensations in your body, learning how to breathe through uncomfortable (but not painful) sensations, feeling safe in your body, and taking ownership of your body again. There's no physical hands-on assist given unless it's expressly consented to, and there's opportunity to process what you might be experiencing during class. It's a powerful practice to help rebuild the mind-body connection and create a healthier relationship with  your body. 

I hope this was a helpful explanation to how excited I am to be offering this service. If you'd like to try a trauma-sensitive yoga class with me, you can sign up here: https://renteriacounseling.com/yoga.html

LIVE STREAMING also available if you can't make it to the space. 

I'll also be offering a Yoga for Mental Health and Wellness workshop on November 17, 2022 at 5:30. 

Looking forward to sharing yoga with you all.

Namaste,

Kayla

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