Some trauma survivors initially find yoga threatening. “The yoga study had the highest dropout rate of any study I’ve ever done,” van der Kolk says. “It was more scary for many traumatized women to discover their bodies than to take a pill.”
The first time Emerson led a group of women from the Trauma Center into Happy Baby Pose, asking them to lie on their backs, bend their knees with shins perpendicular to the floor, and hold their feet, two of the women left. One never came back. Anne, a 50-year-old participant who endured sexual abuse starting in early childhood, can’t fathom why the pose is called Happy Baby. When she first tried it, her legs shook uncontrollably. “To me,” says Anne (not her real name), “that’s a baby waiting to be hurt.” She prefersBalasana (Child”s Pose), which makes her feel sheltered and safe.
Such powerful responses to Happy Baby led van der Kolk and Emerson to question whether the pose was worth attempting. They decided to continue teaching it very gently, encouraging students not to try it if it made them uncomfortable. “The goal became making them feel safe in Happy Baby Pose,” says van der Kolk. “The women who stuck with it had extraordinary changes.”
For Anne, who was recently able to go calmly into the pose, yoga’s effect has been profound. “There is no way to describe what it has done for me,” she says. More than 20 years of therapy had helped her continue to function in daily life and end self-destructive behaviors. “But I didn’t think I would find peace of mind,” she says, “and now I think I will.”
via Yoga Journal
Sorry for the odd picture. But babies are at that unique stage where they are connected to their body! I’m cold, TEARS. I’m hungry, TEARS. I need a hug, TEARS. I’m happy, GIGGLES. (As we grow older, of course, we learn more adult ways to transmit these feelings.)
With trauma we can create a mind-body disconnect to make un-pleasurable things manageable. And sometimes that mind-body disconnect protects us during a tough time! But it can cripple us emotionally if we cant get that mind-body connection back.
If you’re interested and would like to read more about yoga and trauma or as a path to liberation, try Yoga and the Quest for the True Self by Stephen Cope