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