By Jenny Park
Practicing beginning standing Yoga asanas can be a great support for trauma survivors who are relearning to connect more deeply with their bodies and emotions after surviving a difficult and painful experience or series of experiences. Trauma survivors often display symptoms of dissociation and affect dysregulation. Dissociative symptoms present as a sense of being not quite in the body and emotionally numb. A trauma survivor may even experience physical numbness in the areas where the trauma is most deeply held. Affect dysregulation is the fluctuation of high and low moods without a stabilizing sense of an emotional center or internal balance.
Two wonderful beginning standing Yoga poses that help to develop skills of present awareness, balance and wholeness are Tadasana or Mountain Pose and Tree Pose. Practicing Mountain Pose in a very aware manner will help a trauma survivor to simply feel more and be more in his or her body. Practicing Mountain Pose will also help a trauma survivor to feel more connected to the earth and more grounded. Practicing Tree Pose will help a trauma survivor to regain a sense of balance and mastery over his or her body. Tree Pose will also help a trauma survivor to feel more grounded and present. If you are teaching a trauma-sensitive Yoga class, please be aware of the needs of your students. Although these poses are beginning level asanas, they can elicit profound feelings in trauma survivors.
To practice Tadasana or Mountain Pose, stand at the front of your Yoga mat. Bring your feet approximately hips’ distance apart from each other. Feel the ground beneath your feet. Lift your toes and be aware of each toe. Shift your weight to the heel of your feet. Play with the balance between your two feet and be aware of the ground beneath you. With your weight evenly distributed between your two feet, take some deep breaths and gently let your shoulders drop.
You may want to roll your neck gently from side to side to release any tension you are holding there. Release any tension you may be holding in your jaw as you elongate your spine and stand with a noble erectness. Feel your presence on your Yoga mat right in this moment. Know that you are supported by your own two feet and by the ground beneath you. Curiously witness any feelings or memories that arise. Do not judge the feeling or memories, simply witness them as your continue to breath and maintain the awareness of yourself on you Yoga mat in this moment in time.
To practice Tree Pose, stand at the top of your Yoga mat in Mountain Pose. As you inhale, lift your right foot up and place it flush against your lower left calf or just above your left knee. Do not place your foot on the left knee, this could injure your knee. Your right lower leg will turn out towards the edge of your Yoga mat as it makes a sideways “V” shape. Slowly raise your arms over your head with your palms in prayer position. Extend your arms as high as they will go while you maintain an unwavering awareness of a point directly in front of you. You may also want to close your eyes for a breath or two and focus on an internal balancing point. Hold Tree Pose for 3-5 complete Yogic breaths. With your next exhale, slowly come back to Mountain Pose and repeat Tree Pose on the left side. Feel the sense of elongation throughout your entire body and a renewed sense of balance and self-mastery.
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