Heather Mason (CEO of the Minded Institute) answers your questions on how yoga can be used as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), ahead of her latest professional training course on the subject, which is taking place on 17th-21st May in Central London.
Here at the Minded Institute we constantly receive lots of questions about the many Yoga Therapy training courses we run, and we always love to hear from you. So many gems of information come from your questions, and so we decided to sit down with Heather Mason here at the Minded Institute HQ, to put a few questions to her about Yoga Therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – which is Heather’s specialist area.
Q: Let’s bring it back to basics, what exactly is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
A: PTSD is a disorder that emerges when a person has experienced or witnessed a highly traumatic event that overwhelms their psychological and physiological ability to cope, leading to changes in both the mind and the body as a result. One of the key features of PTSD is a feeling of being highly dysregulated. This might mean experiences states of emotional numbness or being very very nervous and anxious. PTSD is often accompanied by painful flashbacks of the traumatic event, or problems with memory, as well as high levels of fear. People tend to avoid situations that are triggering and over time may become more and more isolated. Yoga is such a wonderful treatment for PTSD because it works with both the mind and the body and helps to forge a sense of safe community.
Q: You’ve spent a lot of your career developing Yoga Therapy for various mental health conditions, including PTSD. How does Yoga help PTSD sufferers?
A: Yoga therapy can help PTSD sufferers in a variety of ways. First of all, one of the key features of PTSD is a significant disconnect between body and mind, usually believed to occur because the individual who has suffered a traumatic event does not want to come into contact with the sensations in the body – after all, as a famous book is entitled, ‘The Body Keeps the Score’, there is a host of experience encoded in the body that is often to difficult to bare. This disconnect, although protective keeps a person disintegrated and is often associated with health behaviours that lead to further harm and despair. Yoga really helps a person to slowly develop a graduated connection with the body again, in a safe environment. Moreover, PTSD is physiologically correlated with a high level of dysregulation in the autonomic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that is responsible for either rest and digest, or, flight and fight). This means the person may get upset and simply cannot come down from an intense experience of anxiety. Yoga is people who practice yoga know that it helps to rebalance this system and whole host of research studies confirm this finding So…yoga…. it is a wonderful way to bring somebody back to a place of safety and balance.. Likewise, the sense of community that is cultivated in a yoga class, especially one that is trauma sensitive, also supports the healing process.
Q: You have an extensive background in neuroscience and psychotherapy, which has enabled you to develop many yoga therapy for mental health training courses. Would you say this training is suitable for people who don’t have any prior learning in these fields?
A: This training is relevant for yoga teachers, mental health professionals, and health professionals in general. Regardless of which camp you’re coming from, we help everyone to understand how yogic techniques can be used for the treatment of PTSD within their specific profession. So, yoga teachers learn how they can offer classes and also offer one on one sessions to people with PTSD in an evidence based and deeply compassionate way. Therapists and those in psychological therapies learn what kinds of skills they can bring into their therapeutic work, and the same with nurses and doctors. Talking therapies are limited in their ability to address dsyregulation in the nervous system so yoga is such a helpful tool.
Because we cover a high level of neuroscience within the course, everything we talk about refers back to something tangible, and with medical credibility behind it. In this way we not only offer hope, we offer concrete methods for really transforming a person’s experience. As I myself suffered from PTSD this real palpable clear methodology of helping a person to reduce their suffering is so important. Often in my quest to heal I sought methods that promised much, but were based on a concept not on evidence. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that anything I teach as real leverage behind it.
Q: What does this training offer that makes it different to other Yoga Therapy for PTSD trainings?
A: This training is different from other trainings for PTSD, specifically ones that are trauma sensitive – and trauma sensitive trainings are wonderful and important in understanding the sensitivity necessary to work with trauma survivors. However, we are unique because we spend a lot of time focusing on the neuroscience of PTSD and very particular strategies that can be used in a graduated way – from point A to point B – to help somebody shift whats happening in their nervous system, so they can cope better with daily life. It isn’t just based upon a ‘feeling’ tone and sensitivity, but actual concrete knowledge base of what helps the autonomic nervous system to become strong again, and also, theoretically, aspects of the brain that can be strengthened to help the person to stop experiencing the negative symptoms of PTSD.
Q: We often hear you talk about ‘the Minded approach’ to yoga therapy. What does this mean in the context of this training?
A: This training follows the Minded Institute model by combining techniques from yoga therapy with mindfulness, neuroscience and medical physiology as well as psychotherapeutic sensitivity. The training also follows our ethos of digging deep into the research and offering a very profound, in-depth approach to how to work with any disorder, so that people who graduate have a high level of confidence and a strong knowledge base. We try to provide a gold standard so that when people teach others practices that we offer, they benefit at a deep, profound level.
Q: How do we sign up for your next training course?!
The next 5-day training course in Yoga Therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is taking place in Central London on 17th-21st May. You can sign up by clicking the link below. You can also find lots more information about the course syllabus on this page too…
Sign up or find more information about the course by clicking here