I think it is safe to say that you can never have too many complementary therapies for trauma options and here is why… 70% of adults in the US have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, according to the National Council for Behavioral Health. Many of whom may never seek out any form of therapy for trauma. That number doesn’t even include the amount of people who have the signs of complex trauma, which results from living in states of chronic and prolonged stress.
Complex trauma can be the result of growing up in a dysfunctional family system or being in an abusive relationship (physically, mentally, emotionally or verbally abusive), experiencing neglect in childhood, anything that leaves an individual feeling unsafe and lacking security.
When left undetected or untreated trauma can really wreak havoc in a persons life. People with trauma often deal with things like intrusive thoughts and images, flashbacks, extreme levels of fear and anxiety, difficulty forming healthy relationships, difficulty maintaining relationships… Over all trauma can absolutely interfere with a persons ability to lead a happy and fulfilling life.
Trauma is linked to substance use disorders, gambling addiction, codependency and a number of other problematic behavioral issues.
So, we know trauma is problematic and many people deal with it. The good news is, that it doesn’t have to ruin your life. There are a number of treatment options available and I highly encourage anyone dealing with trauma to reach out to a mental health professional who specializes in trauma to begin therapy.
One practice that yoga therapy offers for trauma is yoga nidra. It is a little known practice and you are probably wondering what it is.
What is yoga nidra?
Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep) is an ancient tantric practice that is similar to guided meditation. The goal of yoga nidra is for the practitioner to reach a state of ‘yogic sleep’. This is a state in which the body is sleeping but the mind is aware and awake.
Wit regular practice, yoga nidra teaches practitioners how to access their natural ability to self-soothe and calm the central nervous system. All of the troublesome effects of trauma are related to the central nervous system and how it does its job by attempting to keep us alert in the face of danger. Often the problem with trauma is that the nervous system becomes hyper-active because the brain perceives things to be dangerous, that are not.
The body can also become overwhelmed by this hyper vigilance and throw a person into depression and lethargy.
Complementary Trauma Therapy: Neutralizing Extreme Emotions
In a 2011 study, a small group of 16 combat veterans were taken through an 8 week course in iRest Yoga Nidra. At the end of the study 11 veterans remained and they all reported decreased feelings of rage, anxiety and emotional ups and downs and increased feelings of relaxation, self awareness and self efficacy.
One reason for these results may be because yoga nidra is great for helping to neutralize the extreme highs and lows that can come with trauma.
We can begin to neutralize these reactions of the mind and the body with a practice called pratipaksha bhavanam (comparison of opposites).
In some yoga nidra practices, from your state of relaxation, you will be asked to feel things such as hot and cold, heavy and light, tense and relaxed, etc. With the comparison of these opposites and bringing them together into a single experience, they become neutralized.
In other words, when we can experience anxiety and relaxation at the same time, it can lose its power over us. It becomes just an experience and we begin to break this pattern of attachment to relaxation and aversion to anxiety. The experiences become part of the lived experience and may, over time, lessen.
Connecting to the Experience of Bliss
The whole goal of yoga nidra is to take you through the levels of your being (the kosha layers which I will talk about in another post), the physical body, the subtle and mental bodies and down to the bliss body ‘the anandamaya kosha’. From a yogic perspective, this is the part of your being that is untouched by your experiences, it is pure consciousness. It is radiant well-being that is the observer of all that is occurring in your human experience. It is always available to you and the more you practice yoga or yoga nidra, the more easily you will be able to access it.
The Power of Human Connection in Complementary Trauma Therapy
One of the things that might be difficult for survivors of trauma to utilize in the healing journey is human connection. This has been shown to be extremely effective in healing from the effects of trauma.
If you are ready to utiliize yoga therapy in a small group setting using tools like restorative yoga and yoga nidra as a complementary form of trauma therapy and you live in the Northern Nevada area, I strongly encourage you to come check out Savasana for Survivors. This is a donation based small group yoga therapy service where you can experience the magic of these practices in a safe setting with others who are on the journey of healing their trauma.
If you are not in the area you can check out the Savasana for Survivors subscription program where you will get yoga therapy practices for trauma that you can do at home, anytime you wish! It is super affordable and convenient. My main goal is to make these practices affordable and accessible to anyone who wants them.
If you are ready to work with me 1:1 in a more personal and in-depth program you can book with me here.