Daniel Sernicola yoga teacher shares five practices to help yoga students get grounded more mindfulness and cultivate.
One of the main objectives of yoga is to bring student squarely into the present moment, which is very important and also very difficult for trauma survivors. in the present moment, trauma survivors have the chance to live “without according to feel irrelevant demands belonging to the past,” according to Bessel van der Kolk, M.D., author of The Body Keeps the Score. But it’s also more challenging for traumatized people than non-traumatized people to be present, says David Emerson, author of Overcoming Trauma Through Yoga. The good news? We can all get better at it with practice. “Over time through a mindfulness yoga practice, we can build a map of the mind, notice our habitual thought patterns, and develop patience and compassion for our minds,’ says Christopher Willard, PSYD, author of Growing Up Mindful: Essential Practices to Help Children, Teens, and Families Find Balance, Calm, and Resilience. Here, a few key strategies for helping trauma survivors—and everyone else—in your yoga classes get grounded and present.
Below some importants strategies for helping trauma survivors and students in your yoga classes get grounded and present.
1. Cultivate mindfulness from the ground up.
Yoga teacher Marcia Miller likes to start yoga class by rolling the feet over massage balls to create heightened sensations in the feet that make it easier to feel grounded. “Then, I might ask questions like these throughout the class, ‘Can you feel how your feet are touching the floor? Can you feel the weight of your hips on the chair? Can you feel the texture of the fabric on your arms? What are the sensations you are feeling right now because of the pose we just did? Where exactly are they? Do you enjoy these sensations?’” See also What All Yoga Teachers Need to Know About Teaching Trauma Survivors. “Start with simple things that can help students feel grounded and centered,” Marcia Miller says
2. Anchor the mind.
He recommends inviting students to rest their attention on something—the body, the breath, movement, the senses, an image, numbers, a word or phrase—to anchor them to the present moment, “All practices that strengthen concentration or mindfulness use an anchor,” Willard says.
3. Give a nurturing Savasana.
Some people think Savasana is the best pose of a yoga class. For others, it can be a difficult and uncomfortable yoga pose experience. Encouraging students to do what feels comfortable for them, Offer choices for resting by providing suggestions on how to set up for Savasana : sit up, lie down, a folded blanket under their head,use a bolster under their legs, a blanket to cover up with, or a folded blanket over their belly. Encourage students to close their eyes or soften their gaze, knowing some may only feel comfortable keeping their eyes wide open.
4. Take it to the next level with Yoga Nidra.
Yoga Nidra is meditation practices that help you feel connected to yourself, with others, and to the world around you,” according to Richard Miller, PhD. Miller has adapted this meditation practice, calling it Integrated Restoration. He describes it as a guided progressive scan of the body incorporating the tools of intention, body-sensing, breath-sensing, awareness, and more. He has had great success treating persons suffering from trauma and PTSD with his method. He says these self-care tools help yoga students “experience self-mastery, resilience, and well-being.” Don’t be surprised if your students fall asleep, as their mind is able to release and relax in this deeply grounding practice. See also 5 Ways to Create a Safe Yoga Space for Trauma Survivors
5. Include breath practice.
We are seldom taught how to breathe and yet, a number of studies “cite evidence that yogic breathwork may be efficacious for the treatment of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder and for victims of mass disasters,” says Amy Weintraub, author of Yoga Skills for Therapists: Effective Practices for Mood Management. She suggests using three-part breath and breath retention among other techniques, adding that “control of the breath not only enables language but gives us a measure of control over our mood.” Ancient yogis knew that breath regulation could help manage and regulate feelings and moods. Studies have shown that breathwork may be helpful in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and for victims of mass disasters. “Finding and experimenting with new ways of breathing may be a way for folks to feel better in their bodies,” Emerson says. Breath practice is an effective tool all students can take home and use to help with anxiety outside of class. Try the 7-11 Breath, as taught by Christopher Willard, PSYD. He suggests breathing in for a count of 7 and breathing out for a count of 11, suggesting that this practice can reset the breath to “regulate, shift, and stabilize energy and mood.”