The Health Benefits Of Yoga

Yoga For Stress Relief Silhouettes Doing YogaRegular yoga practice can be a powerful and transformative tool, both emotionally and physically. Yoga improves flexibility and strengthens our muscular systems, it boosts our immune systems and regulates our breathing, enhances our self esteem and focuses our minds. In fact there are so many positive benefits to yoga that it’s worth exploring them in more depth in the article, 38 Health Benefits of Yoga. One benefit which this article doesn’t directly refer to is the positive role which yoga practice can play in recovering from stress and trauma.

PTSD And Yoga

Yoga has not been widely publicised as a tool for overcoming Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is an area of research in which psychiatrist Bessel Van Der Kolk has been leading the way and in 2014 he published the book ‘The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma’ which explores the processes involved when trauma occurs and provides ways to overcome trauma. In the book Van Der Kolk looks to yoga, mindfulness and play therapy as empowering techniques to help the body to rewire itself and he cites techniques like this as an effective way to achieve positive change where drug or talk based therapies might fail.

“In yoga you focus your attention on your breathing and on your sensations moment to moment. Simply noticing what you feel fosters emotional regulation, and it helps you to stop trying to ignore what is going on inside you. … Trauma makes you feel as if you are stuck forever in a helpless state of horror. In yoga you learn that sensations rise to a peak and then fall.”

-Bessel Van Der Kolk

For more on Van Der Kolk’s work you can read one of our earlier articles, ‘How body-focused psychotherapies can help patients with PTSD’.

Yoga For Stress And Trauma Recovery Workshop

I was recently lucky enough to attend an excellent yoga workshop in London which was focused on trauma recovery. The course was run by Helen Cushing who is an Australian yoga teacher specialising in using yoga to heal trauma. This is an approach which Helen has been dedicated to for over a decade, helping war veterans, refugees and other trauma sufferers to practice holistic yoga and integrate yoga techniques into their lives. As part of the group Tools For Inner Peace Helen and her fellow yogis there are helping to promote yoga as a healing tool through the courses and retreats they run. She has also created the inspiring video below to highlight the positive impact which yoga can bring to the lives of those suffering from PTSD.

Inhale The Future Exhale The Past

I learnt a range of useful yoga techniques at the workshop and I felt restored myself through a day spending time focusing on my own yoga practice. It reminded me of how wide the breadth of experiences are which go into shaping us as human beings, both positive and negative. It focused my attention on the incredible human ability to work through challenging times to restore inner stability again through the nurturing moments and events in our lives.