The effects of traumatic experiences on any level can be debilitating to our health and detrimental to our emotional balance.
Dr. Peter Levine, a leading expert in the somatic healing of trauma, states that Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not a "...pathology to be managed, suppressed, or adjusted to, but the result of a natural process gone awry."
Despite the understanding that traumatic symptoms are often a legitimate, natural response to the experience of a dangerous event, a stigma still exists for those who suffer. Many are left ashamed and thinking, "Why can't I just get over this and move on?"
To provide symptomatic relief, current therapeutic approaches often focus on utilizing cognitions to restructure destructive thought patterns, to help make sense of emotional distress and ultimately change undesirable behaviors.
However, for many trauma survivors memories are literally stored within the confines of the body. Attention to cognition alone is not enough to fully heal. In order to address trauma holistically, body-oriented therapies have been introduced as a way to bring attention to the sensations in the body as a means to gather information about trauma responses. This helps to cultivate the ability to endure and eventually shift overwhelming sensations.
It is of no surprise that the practice of yoga is part of a growing body of evidence that reports myriad beneficial effects among those who suffer from PTSD. From decreased heart rate, lowered blood pressure, enhanced immune function and a reduction in depression and anxiety, survivors of trauma are discovering the healing power of yoga.
But for those who suffer from severe physical or mental illness, the intensity of an active yoga practice may not always be accessible or beneficial.
Restorative yoga is a series of completely supported, nurturing postures, typically practiced in a dimly lit, comfortable and quiet environment. A central benefit of this practice is to promote the relaxation response in the body — a process that teaches the body to return to pre-stress levels by balancing hormones, relieving muscle tension, and decreasing heart and breath rate.
Most notably, for trauma survivors who can feel stripped of their power over their bodies, this practice empowers the practitioner to play the primary role in their own healing process.
Try these three powerful restorative yoga poses for total relaxation and optimal healing. If you don't have all of the props listed here, you can always improvise with pillows or other suitable materials you may have on hand.