The majority of individuals in addiction recovery have experienced some sort of trauma in their lives. In order to address the cycle of addiction, the body and its systems must be acknowledged, including the trauma that each person has experienced. Because of this, trauma-informed care in addiction treatment becomes a key part of the healing process.
A number of recent studies have examined what trauma-informed physical activity looks like, and how it can be used in therapy professions. According to the summary of literature, “individuals who have experienced violence and trauma often feel unsafe with others in their own bodies.” With this in mind, standard modes of physical activity can be retraumatizing. Thus, trauma-informed yoga geared toward gentle and restorative poses is one way to help such individuals.
Yoga designed to be trauma-informed is first and foremost an evidence-based therapy. It was developed in order to treat symptoms resulting from traumatic exposure. One recent study tested trauma-informed yoga with veterans. It demonstrated how yoga on its own can actually exacerbate the symptoms of trauma such as “hyperarousal and disassociation.” But if the yoga therapy is trauma-informed, it can be a significant factor in healing and restoration.
According to the study above, yoga should be adapted to include the following factors that address trauma:
Additional facets of trauma-informed yoga include an emphasis on being in the present moment. Furthermore, it draws on attachment theory, trauma theory, and neuroscience which is why certification and proper training is recommended.
Many types of yoga focus on achieving the proper forms and poses. In contrast, trauma-informed yoga focuses on the internal experience of the individual and is sensitive to how their body is responding. This sensitivity is very beneficial for those in recovery who’ve experienced trauma because they often suffer from self-loathing or feel disconnected from their bodies. In trauma-informed yoga everything is optional, gentle, and designed to help clients reconnect with their bodies.
Rather than pushing through to a physical achievement or goal, trauma-informed yoga is designed to facilitate a safe space. It meets people wherever they’re at and invites them to safely connect to themselves. Everything is an invitation rather than being forced or coerced. Ideally, trauma-informed teachers are trained in nervous system regulation techniques. These help to create a practice that supports healing, builds resilience, and empowers personal autonomy and choices. In this way, trauma-informed yoga can help people recovering from substance use disorders more directly than regular forms of yoga therapy.
Yoga is practiced worldwide and is increasing in popularity in the US as each year passes. The reasons people practice yoga vary widely, ranging from pure physical exercise to a devotional, spiritual practice. The physical benefits of regular yoga practice are well-evidenced and include:
As the acceptance of holistic treatment for addiction recovery becomes more common, researchers are looking more closely at the benefits of yoga for those in recovery. Because of what the research has shown, yoga and meditation are now an essential part of many addiction recovery programs.
Some of the benefits of trauma-informed yoga for those in addiction recovery include:
With your body and trauma, it’s always better to begin with a professional. A certified trauma-informed yoga instructor will help you set up the right parameters for your practice. There are, however, some easy places to get started with gentle and restorative yoga.
To learn more about trauma-informed yoga and how to integrate it into your recovery journey, get in touch with a team member at Seven Arrows Recovery today.
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