Self-help

Does Yoga Help You Heal From Trauma? The Experts Weigh In

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We've heard all about the benefits of yoga to our bodies. Yoga has been used to eliminate back pain, loosen tight muscles, and regulate breathing. But what about the deeper benefits? Does yoga help heal your thoughts in a similar way?

According to studies, more victims of trauma are using yoga to help them cope and recover. One victim, Rocsana Enriquez, has been participating in a yoga program called The Art of Yoga Project. Teachers are specially trained to help girls heal from abuse, trauma, and other difficulties.  

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By slowing down breathing, recognizing emotions without reacting, and routine, girls like Rocsana have experienced balance and healing. Exercises on the mat taught her to "slow herself down when she got angry and to pause before reacting." Also, the "breathing techniques and poses...made her feel better about herself."

Since trauma has become a very real problem, it's refreshing to know yoga can be used as part of the healing process. In a study of children in the U.S., "26% said they were physically abused and over 14% reported emotional abuse." In addition, PTSD is much more common in women than men.

Medication and talk therapy are most often used to deal with traumatic events, but physiologists are starting to believe other therapies, such as art therapy and yoga, can be a new way to help victims.

Missy Hart from California is another example of how yoga can change victims' lives. She was just 13 years old when she was jailed for using drugs. Before that, she'd been involved in gangs and had been in and out of foster care.

While still in the juvenile hall, she went to "trauma-sensitive yoga," but not without complaints. She didn't like it at first, but over time, she got used to the rhythm and credits yoga with helping her learn to be calm and deal with bipolar disorder.

"Where I'm from," Missy said, "you're constantly in alert mode, like fight or flight."

"Most of us [in juvenile hall] come from traumatic childhoods," she said. "It was the only time you experienced a quiet time, when everything wasn't so chaotic."

Both Missy and Rocsana grew up to pursue careers in helping others after their experiences with yoga. Rocsana became a yoga instructor with The Art Yoga Project, while Missy is an art therapy teacher.

Continue to the next page to find out what experts have to say about yoga as a treatment for trauma and PTSD.

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