There’s a lot of buzz these days about how effective yoga therapy is for trauma. For over 30 years we’ve seen some amazing results. In the early years, we didn’t know much about how or why our particular approach (Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy) worked so well for so many. Now we not only know our work is “trauma-informed” (and pretty much has been from the outset 30 years ago). It also is clear now from both research and recent developments in neuroscience, that the body is involved when a traumatic experience occurs and that the body can also play a role in the healing process if and when engaged appropriately. And we can now explain the “how” and the “why” more effectively. Here is an abridged story from a courageous client willing to share her story in her own words.
I had spent years with different counselors trying to make sense of the somewhat distorted world I had built on a foundation of childhood trauma and the seemingly unshakable burden of feeling isolated and unconnected to myself and the world around me. It seemed to me that I had done a lot of talk in a conventional, predominantly cognitive therapeutic environment without actually being able to break the cycle of repetitive and harmful patterns. I remained stuck both physically and mentally.
……In the beginning (of my Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy sessions) I did not have any access to what was stored in various parts of my body. I seemed unable to make a connection between movement or touch and where I felt what. Neither did I seem to have the vocabulary to describe my body’s reactions. The walls around me were so rigid that nothing seemed to penetrate the top layer and I was not ready to release anything either.
….I kept rejecting the whole process, finding excuses, canceling sessions and tried to quit several times. What I did not know at the time was that all of this was part of my own personal progress.
….What stopped me wanting to quit was the kindness, patience and unconditional acceptance I received in a safe and forgiving therapeutic space. This preceded my own awareness of patterns and of fear that had kept me very much in the past and was not useful to me anymore.
….I used to be terrified of exploring and admitting the truths my body has been holding. Now I am on the mat with more forgiveness of myself, with greater momentum towards becoming unstuck, and I am more relaxed.
….The tuning into the churning of my stomach, the raw and bubbling mass of unexpressed anger and the tightness of my throat provide pathways into the origins of these sensations without reliving what had initially caused them. Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy enables me to stay in the present moment with sensations and emotions that are current.
….Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy has saved me at a time when I had little hope for a brighter future.
Aileen’s Yoga Therapist is Jess Glenny. An experienced practitioner, Jess says “The more I do this work (it’s been 15 years now), the more I understand that if we can create conditions for the client’s nervous system to regulate itself, everything else follows organically.”
A key in what Jess says here is her intention to “create conditions”. This calls for a different kind of process than the one we might engage with an intention to “treat”, “cure”, “regulate”, “diagnose”, or “fix”. In this work, holding the intention to serve the client by creating suitable conditions for their healing, the practitioner is being the facilitator of a process rather than applying a treatment. Doing this also demands a high degree of faith in the wisdom of the body. In a sense, the practitioner is “giving over to a higher authority” – the body wisdom – with each and every client. It takes courage to do this (as well as thorough training and lots of applied practice). The process (and the training) is also informed by a somewhat different paradigm of both education and healing than the more traditional approach – a diagnosis/treatment model.
This story above contains only the highlights of Aileen’s Story. We also want to thank Aileen for giving her permission to share her story publically in the interest of supporting others.
Jess Glenny PRYT, C-IAYT, graduated as a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist in 2001 and practices in the UK in London. She tells her prospective clients, “As an autistic person, I love working with other neuro-divergent people and have found Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy often works very well with autistic and ADHD processing styles. I also specialize in working with developmental/complex trauma and eating disorders.” Contact details are on her website. Contact Phoenix Rising for information on our upcoming trauma-informed courses – where yoga, mindfulness, and psychotherapy converge.
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