Yoga as Therapy

I recently attended an intensive program with leading trauma therapist and researcher Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, author of the best-selling book “The Body Keeps the Score”.

According to van der Kolk, we get traumatized when something happens that is too overwhelming for us to process. We end up storing tension and resistance in our body, instead of letting it go and moving on with our life. The amount of tension and resistance we store can be minor, and cause us only minor problems, or it can be huge, and prevent us from having a happy life.

When we’ve been traumatized, we may not feel safe and relaxed in our own body. Instead, we may feel a constant sense of danger. We may also be out of touch with what is going on inside ourself, both emotionally and physically. We may feel uncomfortable, but be unable to identify what exactly feels bad, or where exactly the pain is. This may be because we’ve numbed ourself to the pain of the trauma — and this numbing makes us unable to tune into our other feelings and sensations, too.

One of the methods that Dr. van der Kolk recommends for healing after trauma is doing yoga. Doing yoga can help us notice where we are holding tension in our body. It can help us tune in to the messages that our body is sending us.

Noticing and paying attention to trauma that is stored in our body can be an emotionally challenging process, especially for people with heavy trauma. If you feel that it might be too much for you, you should not jump into doing yoga alone. Consider doing it carefully in conjunction with talk therapy, or under the guidance of a trauma-informed yoga teacher.

By doing yoga in conjunction with therapy, we notice that there is a rhythm between tension and relaxation in our day-to-day lives, and we learn to regulate our emotional arousal and to control our bodily reaction to events so we can be more peaceful and relaxed.

Interested in trying yoga? Check out, a directory of local yoga studios. And, check out my friend Melissa West’s online yoga community.

Interested in doing some talk therapy? Come and see me. I do sessions at my Victoria BC office, and over Skype.

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