Health professionals now recognise the physical and physiological effects of trauma and engage the body as resource in treatment. There is a growing body of research on the effectiveness of yoga practices in reducing key symptoms of TRAUMA such as stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia.
WHAT IS THE NATURE OF TRAUMA?
Health care professionals generally define 2 types;
SIMPLE: generally as result of single event eg. an accident, weather catastrophe, death of someone close. COMPLEX: thought to occur as result of prolonged exposure to traumatic events such as war, domestic violence, child abuse.
SYMPTOMS OF POST TRAUMATIC STESS SYNDROME (PTSD):
RELIVING the traumatic event disturbing daily activities. Strong emotional and physical reactions to reminders of the event, flashbacks and nightmares.
AVOIDANCE: Emotional numbing to avoid pain and suffering. It is adaptive and protective but can impact capacity for spontaneity, authenticity and sensitivity.
CHANGES IN THINKING AND MOOD: Distorted view of world, a struggle to feel positive emotions rather there can be anxiety, panic, anger and depression.The experience of “the world is not safe”. An experience of loss of control is a key issue,a feeling and perception of victimhood.
CHANGES IN AROUSAL AND REACTIVITY: Difficulty concentrating, exaggerated startle response, difficulty falling or staying asleep. Irritability, anger management issues, a sense of always being alert for the next traumatic event.
BODY BASED SYMPTOMS OF POST TRAUMATIC STRESS SYNDROME (PTSD). Symptoms are often similar to those experienced in response to the traumatic event(s). Accelerated heart rate, sweating, rapid breathing, palpitations, hyper-vigilance, hyper startle response. These all may trigger flash backs. CHRONIC TENSION IS HELD IN THE MUSCLES.
THE PHYSIOLOGY OF TRAUMA AND ITS IMPACT ON THE BODY:
Traumatic stress impacts the nervous, endocrine and immune systems, and changes patterns in brain functioning. Physiologically one becomes out of balance, dysregulated.The glandular system becomes depleted and the nervous system taxed. A traumatic event changes the body’s normal stress response. Mental health professionals describe hyper(over) or hypo(under) arousal. Hypo-arousal leads to the experience of numbing or dissociation, while hyper-arousal experiences are of heightened anxiety and distress. Hormone balance (cortisol and serotonin production) is disrupted causing sleep irregularities and impacting emotional well being.
HEALTH IMPLICATIONS OF TRAUMA:
Chronic stress associated with PTSD disrupts the normal stress response, impacting the immune system and the DNA in the cells leading to many health problems. Evidence has shown that individuals suffering trauma are susceptible to substance abuse in an attempt to medicate themselves to reduce pain. Hormonal imbalances caused from trauma can lead individuals to engage in high risk behaviour.. Research has shown that suicide risk is higher for those suffering PTSD. The normal emotional range of a trauma survivor is exaggerated. Poor impulse control makes interpersonal relationships challenging.
HOW KUNDALINI YOGA HELPS WITH PTSD:
The underlying physiology is addressed not the symptoms.The focus is on re establishing regulation of the brain, the glandular and the autonomic nervous system. The student is able to increase their ability to self regulate, build self efficacy and restore rhythmic strength through the practice of rhythmic breath, posture , mantra and deep relaxation. The frequency and functioning of the brain, nervous and endocrine systems change producing and increased sense of vitality and positivity. The experience of deep relaxation allows one to heal and restore natural stress cycles to the body. Learning to relax is gradual process and leads to increased restorative sleep, vital for health recovery.