A Trauma Informed Future (by Nicole Walker, 11936)


nikkiTrauma affects all of us. It has no age, sex, gender, ethnicity, or economic requirement. Trauma occurs when a person experiences a life-threatening event, this can be a car accident, sexual assault, verbal abuse, or going to war. The effects trauma can have on people if it goes untreated can lead to extreme symptoms within the body and mind. For the past nine weeks I have been working with an organization called Living Yoga that provides trauma informed yoga classes to people in rehabilitation facilities and prisons. Their goal is to address untreated trauma with the healing power of yoga. Through working with their organization I have discovered how trauma is often the stem of many other easier to see issues, such as drug addiction, homelessness and criminal behavior.

Trauma is a huge issue that should not only be addressed in rehabilitation facilities and prisons it should be addressed in all areas of our community. Therefore I am asking the question: How does yoga aid untreated trauma and why is being trauma informed important to the community? My hope in answering this question is to bring to the surface the success yoga has in healing trauma and how being trauma informed in other aspects of the community can help people who have experienced trauma to be understood as well as help them to heal. I want you to learn how you can be more trauma informed and how trauma informed yoga is just the tip of the iceberg on how our community can help support people with trauma.

For someone who has experienced trauma simply going to the grocery store or visiting the doctor can severely trigger his or her hyperactive nervous system. These simple tasks have to be experienced through states like “fight or flight” or “freeze and fold.” Where the person is constantly on guard or completely shut down. Even when the traumatic event happened in someone’s childhood its effects can remain in that person’s body if it goes unaddressed. Yoga is a great way to relieve the body of that remaining trauma. In Bessel A. Van Der Kolk’s book The Body Keeps the Score he explains exactly what happens in the brain and heart for someone who has experienced trauma. By reading just one chapter of Van Der Kolk’s book called “Learning to Inhabit Your Body: Yoga” the issue of trauma is clearly stated so you can understand what goes on in the body of someone who has experienced trauma and how yoga can help heal these issues.

Trauma informed yoga is not the only successful way to help people who have experienced trauma. In the journal I have listed below, “Trauma-Informed Treatment For Disenfranchised Urban Children And Youth,” a case study is reviewed in which children with severe behavioral problems were addressed in a trauma informed way. They found that many of the behavioral problems were stemming from trauma that had happened earlier in these children’s lives which many of the parents and the children themselves did not realize. Explaining trauma and using trauma informed treatment create a safe place for these children to overcome all the issues they were having. Trauma can affect a person in all aspects of their life and when trauma goes untreated it doesn’t simply go away it instead shows up in other negative ways. Being trauma informed is important not only in treatment programs and case studies, its important for everyone because like many of the families in this study we might not realize that an earlier trauma is affecting our daily lives.

Reading scientific books or case studies isn’t the only way to learn about trauma and how to be trauma informed. Information can also be found online or in magazines. I found a magazine article in Yoga International that does a great job of simply explaining trauma and how yoga can help. The author, Linda Sparrowe, shows how gentle yoga can reduce the reactions of a hyperactive nervous system, “intrusive thoughts” and “dissociation from the body.” She shows how our bodies hold on to trauma so having a therapy like yoga that uses the body is important to the healing process.

Get Informed: The Annotated Bibliography

  1. Van Der Kolk, Bessel A., M.D. “Learning to Inhabit Your Body: Yoga.” The Body Keeps the

Score. Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. NY, NY: Viking, 2014. 263-76. Print.

This chapter explains the effects trauma has on the body and mind through a client example and research studies developed by Bessel A. Van Der Kolk and his peers. He also explains how yoga can help heal the effects trauma has on the brain and heart. Bessel A. Van Der Kolk is a psychologist who specializes in the effects of trauma and its treatment. This chapter connects to my research question because it explains how yoga has aided people with severe trauma.

  1. Becker, Julie, Ricky Greenwald, and Cricket Mitchell. “Trauma-Informed Treatment For

Disenfranchised Urban Children And Youth: An Open Trial.” Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal 28.4 (2011): 257-272. Academic Search Premier. Web. 4 Mar. 2015.

This journal explains a case study that explored the use of a trauma informed therapy model called the “fairy tale model” in treating children with trauma in minority groups. The results were successful with “87%” of participants overcoming their trauma within the study. This source is a peer reviewed case study journal on the effects of trauma informed treatment. This study relates to my research question by showing how being trauma informed has a high success rate of treating trauma and helps the participants better understand the issues they are having and empowers them to overcome.

  1. Sparrowe, Linda. “Transcending Trauma.” Yoga International (Fall 2011): 48-53,89. Web.

4 Mar. 2015.

This magazine article explains how the nervous system of a person who has experienced trauma can often get stuck in a state of “fight or flight” or “freeze and fold”. The author, Linda Sparrowe shows how these states and trauma can be reduced through the practice of yoga. She explains what trauma-sensitive yoga is and how this approach to yoga gives people with trauma more control as well as “safe parameters” to heal. Linda Sparrowe was the editor of the yoga magazine “Yoga International” and has written several books on yoga. This article connects to my research question by explaining how people with trauma feel on a daily basis and how yoga can help relieve these symptoms.

How To Get Involved

Getting involved is the most important part of solving issues in our community. Trauma affects many of the people in the community so spreading our knowledge about trauma and how it can be resolved is important in improving the health of everyone. The first step in fully understanding trauma is to learn more. This includes:

  • Reading books and articles about trauma
  • Learning how it affects the body and ways it can be healed
  • Sharing the issue of trauma with your family and friends

Another way to get involved is to donate and volunteer for organizations that are striving for a more trauma informed community such as Living Yoga or Trauma Informed Oregon.

Ways to get involved with Living Yoga:

  • Attend a trauma informed yoga teacher training
  • Volunteer at one of the yoga classes they provide in rehabilitation centers and prisons
  • Donate to their cause
  • Participate in events they host (April 4th kicks off the 2015 Yogathan)
  • http://living-yoga.org/

Ways to get involved with Trauma Informed Oregon:

  • Visit their blog to keep up with new trauma research and what Trauma Informed Oregon is doing
  • Contact their organization with questions and ideas about being trauma informed
  • http://traumainformedoregon.org/

Lastly, Here’s a list of five ways we can all be more trauma informed. These steps can be used in our daily lives as well as yoga classes were they were developed.

  1. When interacting with people provide choices
  2. Don’t touch people with out asking permission
  3. Speak simply and clearly
  4. Use repetition
  5. Think the best of people

One comment

  1. Julia Taylor

    Nicole, I love what you have created!
    I was not sure what trauma yoga was before I was intrudocted to it by you. In hearing about your work these last few weeks I have been inspired by you and in awe of your chosen theme. You have described this type of yoga so completely and so well that it makes it easy for someone like me, who had never even heard of it, be able to understand it!
    I love your format for this blog post, and all of the great information you have given us all. I think the part at the end that you have added (the five helpful tips) are so very spot on! I think it would be great if you continue to help this organization, or even branch out on your own…..If you know of any great yoga poses, (stress relief?, headache relief? tired cure…ect) it would be wonderful if you included a video of you doing yoga or just a picture and instructions, (like your steps at the end) You have such a great heart and I wish you all the best!!!! Great job!

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