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Trauma-Sensitive Yoga: Healing trauma through embodiment

As a counsellor, it is no surprise that I love words and stories. Being able to express how we feel through words can be an empowering and freeing experience. It can help us understand ourselves better, and can provide a sense of ownership over our thoughts and feelings.

However, sometimes, words are not enough.

In a threatening event, our bodies manage as best they can by activating the "survival mode". The most well-known survival modes are fight, flight, and freeze – intending to get us out of a life-threatening situation by taking down the attacker, by running away, or by being completely still.
Some traumatic experiences are "one-offs", while other trauma takes place over a longer period of time, for example in cases of childhood abuse. This is called "complex trauma". Sometimes, the nervous system of the survivor doesn't quite get the chance to recover, and the body can find itself stuck in a survival state, even when the threat is no longer present. As a result, people might experience a whole range of symptoms. They might feel their emotions like a "rollercoaster", have a dissociative sense of "not being here", or live with unexplained pain.

In addition to this, traumatic memories are often stored as sensory memories. We remember smells or colours, but might not have the ability to recall the full story.

So, what can we do when talk-therapy just doesn't cut it?

Somatic therapies aim to address the trauma that is stored in the body. In this article, I will expand on one somatic approach to trauma healing that we provide at Skylight: Trauma-Sensitive Yoga.
First things first: you do not need to be flexible. You do not need previous yoga experience. Trauma-Sensitive Yoga is available for you regardless of age, body type, physical ability, ethnicity, gender, or race.

This treatment program was developed at the Trauma Center in Massachusetts. Trauma Center Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TCTSY for short) is an evidence-based approach, with foundations in Trauma Theory, Attachment Theory, Neuroscience, and Hatha Yoga. It is a program specifically designed to support people living with complex trauma. Trauma-Sensitive Yoga provides an opportunity to reconnect with your body, on your own terms. The practice revolves around choice-making and noticing sensations in your body. 

For example: you can decide if you would like to lift your arms in a certain yoga form, and if so, to what extent you would like to lift them. You might bring your attention to your shoulders and notice what it feels like to lift your arms. Based on what you're noticing, you might decide to adjust the way you are lifting your arms. The TCTSY facilitator verbally guides you through different yoga forms during the session and practices the forms with you. The emphasis is not on "doing it right", so the facilitator does not give you verbal or physical adjustments. This allows you to focus on how you would like to inhabit each yoga shape. 

The next 6-week Trauma-Sensitive Yoga program at Skylight starts on Monday 31st August. 

If you think you'd like to give it a try, feel free to get in touch with our customer relations team to sign up. The facilitator (me) will give you a call to have a brief chat first, which will also provide you with a chance to ask any questions you might have.

Looking forward to connecting with you – with and without words

Merel
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7 tips for when you're feeling overwhelmed by the NDIS process

 Overwhelmed by the NDIS process? Here are some tips to help get you through the application and planning phases.

Going through the application and planning processes for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) can be daunting, but there are ways to make the process less stressful. Here's what we came up with.


Write it down

There are dozens of potential questions you might have surrounding the NDIS application and planning processes. Instead of them swimming around in your head, get them down onto paper. Perhaps even sort them out into a priority of most urgent to least urgent. Start having a go at them yourself – what do you think? What do you already know about the topic? Getting your thoughts onto paper can help to clarify what information you are going to need.


Talk to someone

Now that you have written down your questions and thoughts, it's time to talk to someone. Maybe you have a support worker who is working on your application with you. Bring your thoughts and questions to your next session and they can support you to find the answers. If you don't have a support worker, you may have a carer or someone you know who can act as 'support buddy' with you to help you understand the processes. Skylight has a Customer Relations Team that can be accessed over the phone or in-person and they can talk to you about all things NDIS. Alternatively, you might call the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) for some answers. Waiting on the phone line is not everyone's favourite thing, but put your phone onto loud-speaker, make a cup of tea or do the dishes while you wait and someone will be there to take your call. Make sure you note down the answers to your questions so that you can refer back to them in in the future.


One step at a time

When thinking about the NDIS application processes as a whole, it can certainly seem overwhelming. However, remember that you need only to focus on the next thing. With your support worker, carer or support buddy, divide up the tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks, make an application process action plan and even put tasks in a diary or calendar so that you know exactly when you are going to address each one.


Come to an NDIS café/workshop/talk

Feeling stuck? You're not the only one. Seek out NDIS information sessions in your area so that you can be part of the information sharing that is happening in your community. Skylight runs information sessions as well as an NDIS café in various locations – visit our website for more details or give us a call!


Research, research, research

The NDIA's website can seem like a lot to take in, however, a little bit of searching might just lead to some fact sheets and FAQs that are relevant to you. You might want to go through them with your support worker, carer or support buddy – to get it straight in your mind. It's also important to get to know the language used by the NDIA to improve your chances of gaining access to the scheme. Phrases such as "psychosocial disability" "permanent and lifelong", "significant functional limitations" and "cannot do" are all phrases that will make sense to the NDIA when processing your application.


Organise your paperwork

As with most administrative tasks, staying organised helps. You might find it useful to keep papers in labelled folders, stick post-it notes as reminders and make copies or scans of important documents. Whichever way you know how, keeping organised is a good way to alleviate anxiety and help you to feel less overwhelmed.


Stay focused on your goals

Ultimately, the NDIS process is about identifying what is important to you to get the support that you need. Keep focusing on what it is you want out of the NDIS and keep talking about these goals with anyone helping you to apply for the NDIS. Having a clear idea about what kind of services you need will hopefully help you to stay on track.


Photo by Kelli McClintock

Unsplash - @kelli_mcclintock

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