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Survivors of trauma—whether abuse, accidents, or war—can end up profoundly wounded, betrayed by their bodies that failed to get them to safety and that are a source of pain. In order to fully heal from trauma, a connection must be made with oneself, including one’s body. The trauma-sensitive yoga described in this book moves beyond traditional talk therapies that focus on the mind, by bringing the body actively into the healing process. This allows trauma survivors to cultivate a more positive relationship to their body through gentle breath, mindfulness, and movement practices.

Overcoming Trauma through Yoga
is a book for survivors, clinicians, and yoga instructors who are interested in mind/body healing. It introduces trauma-sensitive yoga, a modified approach to yoga developed in collaboration between yoga teachers and clinicians at the Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute, led by yoga teacher David Emerson, along with medical doctor Bessel van der Kolk. The book begins with an in-depth description of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including a description of how trauma is held in the body and the need for body-based treatment. It offers a brief history of yoga, describes various styles of yoga commonly found in Western practice, and identifies four key themes of trauma-sensitive yoga. Chair-based exercises are described that can be incorporated into individual or group therapy, targeting specific treatment goals, and modifications are offered for mat-based yoga classes. Each exercise includes trauma-sensitive language to introduce the practice, as well as photographs to illustrate the poses. The practices have been offered to a wide range of individuals and groups, including men and women, teens, returning veterans, and others. Rounded out by valuable quotes and case stories, the book presents mindfulness, breathing, and yoga exercises that can be used by home practitioners, yoga teachers, and therapists as a way to cultivate awareness, tolerance, and an increased acceptance of the self.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781556439698
Publisher: North Atlantic Books
Publication date: 04/19/2011
Pages: 184
Sales rank: 147,859
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

David Emerson is the director of yoga services at the Trauma Center ( In 2003 he codesigned the Trauma Center Yoga Program that includes classes and teacher training programs. He lives in Cambridge, MA. Elizabeth Hopper, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in traumatic stress and works as the associate director of training at the Trauma Center. She lives in Somerville, MA.

Table of Contents

Foreword Peter A. Levine xi

Foreword Stephen Cope xiii

Introduction Bessel A. van der Kolk xvii

1 Reclaiming Your Body 1

2 Traumatic Stress 9

A Brief History of Traumatic Stress and Trauma Treatment 9

Historical Views on Mental Health Symptoms 9

Link between Traumatic Events and Symptoms 10

Veterans and Traumatic Stress 12

Expansion of the Application of the PTSD Diagnosis 13

Modern-Day Treatment Models for Post-traumatic Stress 14

Complex Trauma and the Limitations of Available Treatment Models 15

More Recent Treatments 16

The Future of Trauma Treatment 17

Trauma and the Survival Response 18

The Impact of Trauma 21

Yoga as Trauma Treatment 23

3 Yoga 25

The Origins of Yoga 25

Yoga in the West 28

4 Trauma-Sensitive Yoga 35

The Need for Trauma-Sensitive Yoga 35

Key Themes of Trauma-Sensitive Yoga 39

Experiencing the Present Moment 39

Making Choices 43

Taking Effective Action 50

Creating Rhythms 52

5 For Survivors 59

Developing a Trauma-Sensitive Yoga Practice 59

An At-Home Practice 62

6 For Clinicians 91

Integrating Yoga-Based Practices into the Therapy Office 91

Matching Yoga-Based Interventions to Goals 95

Creating Present-Moment Focus 97

Developing Mindfulness Skills 98

Building Curiosity and Developing Tolerance for Experiencing Sensation 99

Changing the Relationship with the Body 100

Centering 102

Grounding 106

Building Affect-Regulation Skills 107

Breathing Practices and Affect Regulation 108

Practicing Choice 109

Integrating Aspects of Experience 111

Increasing Confidence 112

Building Connection to Others 114

Addressing Challenges in Introducing Yoga-Based Strategies into the Therapy Office 116

7 For Yoga Teachers 119

Building a Trauma-Sensitive Yoga Class 119

Language 120

Assists 122

Teacher Qualities 126

Environment 128

Exercises 130

Responding to Triggered Reactions in a Yoga Class 134

Conclusions 139

Notes 143

Index 153

About the Authors 159

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