Mind-body connections and trauma-informed yoga

| June 23, 2020
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We are living in the midst of multiple, often intersecting traumas. 

COVID has caused and continues to threaten significant, unexpected losses. The pandemic, along with recent horrific acts of state violence, underscores the racial terror and inequities that have existed for centuries and continue to imperil Black and Brown lives. Additionally, financial stress, job loss, and stayathome measures can lead to feelings of helplessness and lack of control, which may be trauma triggers. Those setbacks can also exacerbate existing abusive relationship patternsand many people are confined to homes where their physical and emotional safety are at risk. 

These mass-scale events layer on top of other past and ongoing individual traumas. Even when personal traumas have no overt connections to world crises, they may be activated by parallel resonant themes. In other cases, regardless of external events, personal trauma remains partially or fully unprocessed.

Experiences of trauma can cut us off from parts of ourselves, as we naturally seek to avoid coming into contact with pain. As instinctive as this may be, and as necessary a survival strategy it may be for any particular time, it also means that the wounds we carry can go untended and even unrecognized, and that increasingly more barriers must be constructed and maintained to keep them away from our conscious mind. 

This strategy can work well until it doesn’t, when what has been effortfully pushed away all rushes out, overwhelming us and intruding into our thoughts and the sense-memory of our bodies. 

Many people, after trauma, will experience a varying cycle of hyperarousal and hypoarousal, in which overwhelm and intrusion managed by numbing and disconnection. 

In hyperarousal, feelings of panic, fear, and anger may race through our minds. Our bodies may feel on high alert and unsafe. 

In hypoarousala shutdown state sets in, as well as feelings of emptiness or disconnection, including disconnection to positive sensation and feelings of aliveness. 

Caught in this intense cycling, we can feel unable to self-regulate, ie unable to nurture ourselves into a state of calm, active presence where we feel able to skillfully handle the ups and downs of our emotional landscapeThe body that we live in can feel inhospitable, something that we must escape. 

A trauma-informed yoga practice can help us reconnect with disconnected and challenging parts of ourselves and improve our capacity for self-regulation. It can help us feel calmer and more grounded. It can help to establish and strengthen connections to a sense of goodness and aliveness to the body, as well as the self-compassion that is such a vital ingredient in healing.  

The Homewood Counseling Center is glad to resume our popular trauma-informed yoga therapy group, beginning on July 10, 2020Our “Yoga as Healing” series is a six-week program which will be conducted over Zoom every Friday from 9:30 to 10:45 am EDTNo yoga experience or special equipment is necessary. 

The group is open to all KSAS, WSE, and Peabody students who arlooking to foster healing from trauma, however you define trauma and the role it has played in your life. Please be aware that in this current era of telehealth, some limitations on participation exist due to student location and state licensure rules. If this is the case, please know that we plan to offer this group each semester for the foreseeable future, so there should be other opportunities as well.  

If you are interested in participating, please email me at ktaylo56@jh.edu no later than June 28 in order to set up a screening appointment to determine if this is the right group for you at this timeIf we determine that this may not be the best fit for you at your current place of healing, there are still many tools available to you to address and treat trauma. 

First and foremost, you can always contact the appropriate Hopkins medical provider to seek treatment and referrals as needed: 

The university also provides free access to Mental Telehealth, powered by TimelyMD, for all students and trainees.  

Available to all Hopkins students across every campus this summer is a drop-in Racial Trauma group, which is being offered as a space to discuss issues and experiences in the world, in our communities, and at Hopkins, related to racial trauma. These drop-in groups meet Wednesdays at 3:30 EDT and require no ongoing commitment, although you do need to register ahead, which you can do here. 

Additionally, organizations like the Center for Mind Body Medicine have some wonderful, self-paced, traumafocused, self-care resources, which can be a beneficial way to begin or to continue your healing journey.