Trauma is defined as any type of exceptionally distressing event or experience that can have an impact on a young person’s ability to cope and function. The Boston Children’s Hospital conducted a study that found sixty-one percent of young people (age 13 to 17) had been exposed to at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, and nineteen percent had experienced three or more traumatic events in their lifetime. Psychology Today asserts that untreated trauma has the propensity to cause permanent changes in the brain, producing corresponding shifts in intelligence, emotional reactivity, happiness, sociability, and more, all of which directly impact a teen’s mental health.
Research has revealed that “traditional trauma treatments often fail to fully address the complicated symptom presentation, including the somatic complaints, loss of awareness of one’s emotional and physical being in the present moment, and overall lack of integration between the self and the body.” The trauma-sensitive yoga (TSY) model was developed at the Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute in Brooklyn, Massachusetts, as an adjunct treatment for complex trauma. Trauma-sensitive yoga has been explained as a “body-oriented yoga practice, intentionally designed to help complex trauma survivors recover by developing self-awareness, self-regulation, and a benevolent relationship with their bodies.” Its foundation is in hatha yoga, meaning trauma-sensitive yoga classes focus on physical and mental strength-building through breathwork (pranayama), poses (asanas), hand gestures (mudras), and (dhyana). There is a growing body of evidence supporting TSY’s efficacy, some of which includes:
- One study showed that trauma-sensitive yoga significantly reduced the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the effects of it were comparable to well-researched psychological and medicinal methods.
- Focused breathing is associated with improved emotion regulation and sympathetic nervous system functioning.
- A study at Harvard Medical School showed that a regular practice of mindfulness exercises over time increases the thickness of the areas of the brain associated with well-being, self-regulation, and learning in teenagers.
- Trauma-sensitive yoga has been shown to elicit the parasympathetic nervous system’s calming response, alleviating hyperarousal, or a heightened stress response, which is a common physiological expression of trauma.
- A recent article examining yoga’s effects on adolescents facing age-based and school-related stressors observed significant improvement of self-regulation skills.
- Studies have linked mindfulness practice with higher levels of positive affectivity, vitality, life satisfaction, self-esteem, optimism, autonomy, and competence.
- Research has found that young people who combined TSY with psychotherapy were more likely to “experience a decrease in trauma-related symptoms and an increase in positive traits and emotions such as grace, compassion, relating with self and others, acceptance, centeredness, and empowerment.”
Trauma-sensitive yoga facilitates holistic trauma recovery beyond conventional psychotherapies.
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Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times.
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