Trauma – Informed
Yoga and Mindfulness

What is Trauma Informed Yoga?

Yoga comes from the Sanskrit root meaning “to yoke” or “to join.” Yoga is not a religion. It is a physical practice derived from Hindu spiritual traditions. The practice of yoga includes breath awareness, simple meditation and specific body postures.

Trauma-informed yoga is the physical practice of yoga postures, meditation and breath awareness that have been informed by trauma recovery and attachment theories, neuroscience and Hatha yoga.

Trauma-informed yoga is expertly designed to aid the recovery of those who have experienced complex trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Art to Healing’s trauma informed yoga approach draws also from Somatic Experiencing®, The Polyvagal Theory & Neurosequential Model of therapeutics (NMT).

“The memory of trauma is imprinted on the human organism… I don’t think you can overcome it unless you learn to have a friendly relationship with your body”

– Bessel van der Kolk

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the act of focusing and paying attention to the present moment. It can involve sitting down and focusing on a single thought or object or moving (i.e., walking or dancing) and paying attention to sights, sounds and the sensations within the body. The aim of mindfulness is to simply observe or witness sensations and experiences as they happen, without judgement or criticism.

At Art to Healing, mindfulness is used to help women and girls to direct their attention to feelings and sensations as they happen in moment.

The practice of mindfulness helps women and young children who have experienced debilitating trauma to observe and connect to the sensations and feelings arising in their bodies.

For many women and children who have been sexually abused and subjected to violence, their ability to feel sensations within their bodies has been lost. Mindfulness helps to re-train the brain to witness what is happening within the body, re-connect to sensations and subtle movements and to develop vital self-compassion.

Mindfulness not only makes it possible to survey our internal landscape with compassion and curiosity but can also actively steer us in the right direction for self-care.

― Bessel A. van der Kolk

Why Trauma-Informed Yoga & Mindfulness?

Trauma is both biological and physiological.

Trauma affects the body in complex ways. For women and children who have been raped, tortured and sexually abused, it is simply unsafe for them to feel the sensations within their bodies. It is unsafe for them to truly be in their bodies.

When the body cannot be inhabited, women and children find it extremely difficult to heal the wounds of sexual abuse.

In healing trauma, it is vital to address the sensations within the body and to help women and children to reconnect with their bodies in a safe and gentle way.

Trauma-informed yoga, together with mindfulness are tremendously effective in supporting women and children to safely reconnect with their bodies. As we bring attention to the body and work towards healing it through yoga and mindfulness, the healing of the mind and opening of the heart swiftly follow.

“Yoga has helped me to increase my self-care. Before practicing yoga, I was not connected to my body, and the idea of caring for myself. After participating in Art to Healing yoga programs, I have realised that I am also worthy of care and love from myself.”

– Manju B.K, Nepal, Art to Healing participant

Yoga and Mindfulness

The combination of mindfulness based practices and trauma-informed yoga help women and children severely impacted by sexual abuse to:

  • Calm their nervous system and reduce debilitating stress and anxiety
  • Re-awaken to subtle physical sensations
  • Become fully present to the here and now
  • Practice developing mastery and making powerful choices
  • Create healthy, safe boundaries
  • Connect to their unique strengths and inner resources
  • Develop a trusting relationship and direct relationship with their feelings and instincts

“Trauma victims cannot recover until they become familiar with and befriend the sensations in their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort.
Physical self-awareness is the first step in releasing the tyranny of the past.”

― Bessel A. van der Kolk