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Hope: How Yoga Heals the Scars of Trauma

Hope: How Yoga Heals The Scars Of Trauma

We are pleased to announce the arrival of a new and important book on how yoga heals trauma by Swami Ahimsadhara (Helen Cushing).  Swami Ahimsadhara will teach a course on this topic through Big Shakti’s education platform in 2017. (Register your interest below).

Yoga for Trauma Recovery

Yoga is a powerful and efficient system for changing the brain. This is exactly the need of people suffering from post-traumatic disorder (PTSD). Not all trauma survivors develop PTSD but for those who do, life becomes unbearable, just as the trauma was. Devoid of hope, suicide can feel like the only way to freedom from physical pain and mental anguish. Yoga offers a vital seed of hope.

Although PTSD is generally treated as a psychological disorder it is increasingly recognised as a condition of the entire organism. Hence, body inclusive therapy has an important role to play in full recovery. The need is to heal the nervous system, reset the brain and learn methods for relaxation, mind management and putting the past to rest. As the symptoms of PTSD reduce it becomes possible to re-establish fulfilling relationships with loved ones and interact comfortably with society.

Yoga came along at the right time and saved my life.
Vietnam War veteran

Holistic yoga offers a comprehensive system for healing the lasting effects that deeply traumatic experiences can leave. Over more than a decade of teaching yoga to war veterans and others with PTSD I have repeatedly seen the transformation that a combination of simple asanas, breathing/pranayama, yoga nidra and meditation have when practised consistently. Practice is the condition for recovery. With daily practice recovery can happen quite quickly as the body-mind’s self-healing capacity is enabled by regularity and repetition.

PTSD means that the nervous system is stuck in the fight or flight response and the body is overdosed with stress hormones. Over-reactive and always on alert for danger, it becomes impossible to relax, let alone have a good night’s sleep. Re-experiencing the event in flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts lead to avoidance of situations and feelings that might trigger the memories. Loss of confidence and isolation increase the burden as entrenched negativity makes it hard to see a way through. Numbing of feelings with both prescription drugs and by self-medicating with alcohol and other substances contribute to a downward spiral into a very dark place. The cost to self and others is high and the problem of being alive can seem just too great.

Relief with Real Relaxation

The first priority is to know that you can feel better. Feeling better comes with the experience of full relaxation. This is simply achieved with gentle, beginner’s yoga: simple asanas take tension out of the body and start to free up the breath; breathing basics start to rebalance the nervous system; yoga nidra brings deep rest; and meditation develops the skill of witnessing or mindfulness which is essential for self-understanding, letting go of the past and being consciously in the present.

This package of holistic yoga directly addresses both the physiological and psychological issues faced in PTSD. Guidance from an experienced teacher is vital as unblocking emotions too fast can trigger powerful, disturbing feelings. Gently, gently is the way, so that inner memory processing can occur without re-igniting the horror. Combined with the support of a skilled counsellor, yoga teacher and/or loved one, holistic yoga brings both short and long term relief from the life-destroying effects of PTSD.

Even if the war leaves scars that are difficult to heal, yoga makes you forget about the evil.
Colombian ex-militant


Article by Swami Ahimsadhara (Helen Cushing), author of Hope: How Yoga Heals the Scars of Trauma. Her work with war veterans is portrayed in the award-winning film, Heroes of Peace. Ahimsa teaches and consults internationally on yoga for trauma recovery. Find out more and buy her book at

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