Trauma Center Trauma-Sensitive Yoga

Trauma Center Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TCTSY) is an empirically validated,  clinical treatment for complex trauma or chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD. Developed at the Trauma Center in Brookline, MA under neuroscientist Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk and yoga instructor David Emerson. TCTSY has foundations in Trauma Theory, Attachment Theory, and Neuroscience as well as Hatha Yoga practice with an emphasis on body-based yoga forms and breathing practices.

Trauma-Sensitive Yoga in Therapy: Bringing the Body into Treatment
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

PTSD and Complex Trauma

A traumatic event is defined as anything experienced or witnessed that threatened or caused death or serious injury and evoked feelings of intense fear, horror or helplessness.

The Autonomic Nervous System responds to threats (or perceived threats) to one’s safety by putting into motion a set of physiological responses to ensure survival. After the threat has passed, the nervous system often continues to respond as if the body is still in danger. Over time, this can cause certain parts of the brain to become overactive while other parts are under active. This imbalance can lead to difficulties with focus, problem solving, impulsivity and information processing. Additionally, survivors report trouble with relationships, inability to tolerate physical closeness and feelings of disconnection from the self and others.

Advances in neuroscience have brought about discoveries in the area of traumatic memory. One such discovery is that traumatic memory is stored in different parts of the brain than nontraumatic memory; it is stored as sensations, feelings and pictures. Additionally, 80% of the nerves in the body run from the body extremities to the brain. Therefore, the body is gathering information and telling the brain how to respond. Furthermore, the parts of the brain responsible for language processing and problem solving are impacted.

Given this information, it makes sense that to foster healing, we need to engage the physical body. The pathway that needs to be strengthened is called the Interoceptive Pathway. By engaging these parts of the brain, we can increase body awareness, regulate nervous system responses and create a sense of safety in the body.

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