There are still some spaces on our Yoga Therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Professional Training course at the end of October. Read more to found out how specialised yoga therapy can help PTSD.

Here at The Minded Institute, we are acutely focused on educating practitioners in the safe use of evidence-based techniques from yoga and mindfulness to complement the treatment of mental health problems. One of our key interests is the use of yoga and yogic techniques to help with symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Our founder and renowned yoga therapist, Heather Mason, specialises in the use of yoga with trauma. Heather has developed a professional training course (Yoga Therapy for PTSD) designed to teach practitioners how to use yoga to help those managing PTSD. The course offers an overview of PTSD and the use of yoga as an intervention, covering cutting-edge research and practical techniques for practitioners. The course is tailored for yoga teachers, psychologists, therapists and medical staff.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by psychological and physiological responses to distressing or stressful events; these include (but are not limited to) violent personal assault, sexual abuse, neglect, military combat, terror attacks and natural disasters. It is characterised by the re-experiencing of traumatic events; often as nightmares, flashbacks, or intrusive memories and thought patterns.

An individual can re-experience this trauma at any time, and this can be ‘triggered’ by many different (often seemingly unrelated) situations. PTSD affects around 1 in 3 people who experience significant trauma; symptoms are often severe, persistent, and have a significant impact on the lives of affected individuals.

PTSD is among the mental health problems that are hardest to communicate. The majority of those affected encounter problems cycling between anxious hyperarousal (feeling on edge, and hypervigilant) and emotional desensitisation (feeling numb, and avoidant). In many cases, this can lead to dissociation; where individuals experience impaired functioning or altered consciousness as a protective mechanism against psychological trauma.

To an observer, these symptoms can present as irritability, anxiety, depression, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, acute mood swings, isolation or avoidant behaviour. Symptoms of PTSD are often associated with other mental health problems; such as anxiety, panic, depression, substance abuse and disorganised cognitive processing of interpersonal interaction.

Major treatments for PTSD include psychological therapy and antidepressant medications, but there is increasing interest in complementary therapies offering adjunctive help to ease symptoms. Principal among these are mind-body practices, such as yoga.

Evidence is still emerging, but points toward several mechanisms via which yoga can reduce symptoms of PTSD. Primarily, the breathing techniques and mindful movement utilised in yoga have been shown to reduce amygdala hyperactivity (associated with emotional processing) and reduce cortisol levels (associated with stress) by increasing activity of the parasympathetic nervous system (associated with rest and digestion).[1]

Yoga also encourages mindful evaluation of the present; this is associated with improved emotion regulation and positive self-appraisal, which can reduce interpersonal stress and improve self- esteem in sufferers of PTSD.[2]

A key focus of yoga for trauma is the use of gentle and safe movement, with practices that integrate controlled breathing and mindful activity. Crucially important in practice of yoga with sufferers of trauma, is the awareness and sensitivity of physical poses or situations which may make the individual feel vulnerable or exposed (this is an area explicitly covered by the course). With awareness of post-traumatic symptoms, the practice of yoga can help individuals to achieve healing and reclaiming of wellbeing by reconnecting with their body and by supporting individuals to process their feelings in a safe and compassionate space.

The next Yoga Therapy for PTSD professional training course still has some spaces available, and is running over 5 days from the 31st October – 4th November 2018 in London. Book your place now, while spaces are still available!

by Tom Cardigan

[1] Streeter, C.C, Gerbarg, P.L, Saper, R.B., et al. (2012). Effects of yoga on the autonomic nervous system, gamma-aminobutyric-acid, and allostasis in epilepsy, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Med Hypotheses, 78(5), 571-579.

[2] Cramer, H. (2016). The efficacy and safety of yoga in managing hypertension. Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes, 124(2), 65-70.

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