Inspiration: Healing Trauma & PTSD

Even the “simple things” that yoga can help with have a tremendous impact on people, particularly those suffering from trauma effects:

The Incredible Impact of Trauma Relief

The Veterans Yoga Project did one more thing for me. It gave me a full night sleep. That may not seem like much to most people but for someone who had not slept more than an hour or two at a time for over 5 years it was huge. Dan Libby led a Yoga program just before we went to bed the first night. I found a way to quiet my mind, let things go without holding on and allow myself to actually sleep. I slept a full 8 hours that night. – L/Cpl USMC

Trauma expert and yoga teacher Susan Pease Banitt offers this beautiful invitation to those who may feel lost in the grips of trauma:

The Resilience of the Human Spirit

The blooming desert struck me as a perfect metaphor for the resilience of the human spirit. It is possible to go from the scorched earth condition of trauma to rainbows of flowers. It is inevitable. Even when it feels like we have nothing left, there is never nothing there. There are always seeds. Seeds of happiness, seeds of love, seeds of passion, seeds of creativity, of joy, connection, of LIFE. – Susan Pease Banitt

Expert Shawn Ginwright was explaining the impact of stress and trauma on brain development and emotional health to a group of trauma survivors when a young man abruptly interjected, “I am more than what happened to me, I’m not just my trauma.” From this experience, Ginwright realized that even the term “trauma informed care” focuses only on harm and is “akin to saying, you are the worst thing that ever happened to you.” He explains:

Acting as an Agent of One’s Own Well-Being

A healing centered approach to addressing trauma requires a different question that moves beyond “what happened to you” to “what’s right with you” and views those exposed to trauma as agents in the creation of their own well-being rather than victims of traumatic events… A shift from trauma informed care to healing centered engagement (HCE) is more than a semantic play with words, but rather a tectonic shift in how we view trauma, its causes and its intervention. HCE is strength based… the young men I worked with offered me a way to reframe trauma with language that humanized them, and holistically captured their life experiences. – Shawn Ginwright PhD

The following quote is very consistent with the yogic perspective in general:


You do not heal from trauma, and nobody heals you either. You simply reconnect with that sacred place in yourself that was never traumatized, never broken, never damaged in the first place; your true Self, absolute and ever-present, innocent and free. It is not a destination; it is You, alive and awake in the moment. Know yourself as the Absolute, and let all thoughts and feelings move through you, however intense or uncomfortable. The forms pass, they always pass, and You remain. You are not broken; you are Unbreakable. – Jeff Foster

A yoga teacher in prisons shares her experience:

I’m not going to make it sound like it was all like some magical carpet ride, because it wasn’t. This is a class in a prison. The amount of stress, suffering, and pain feels daunting on a good day, and overwhelming on a bad one… My students are survivors. I am in awe of their strength and resilience. Trauma can make your body feel unsafe, even like an enemy. It’s scary to be in your body and feel anything, because it will hurt…a lot. It might also mean that you have a lot of protective armor on, all the time, and being in a yoga class makes you feel vulnerable… Gradually there was more openness and sharing. As people learned more about themselves and what shapes and modifications worked for them, I’d see more variations in movement and in stillness. I’d hear from some of the students how they were applying things from class into their lives—it would almost make my heart explode. — Rosa Vissers