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erson observes. “But you may be able to do it with your body.” The study found that eight female patients that participated in trauma- sensitive yoga saw significant decreases in the frequency and severity of their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. In a study at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense, military veterans enrolled in a 10-week yoga course also showed improvement in PTSD symptoms. A paper presented at a recent Interna- tional Society for Traumatic Stress Studies conference studied 64 people that had experienced childhood abuse and neglect; those that participated in a trauma-sensitive yoga course had a 33 percent reduction in PTSD symptoms. Two months later, more than 50 percent in the yoga group experienced greater freedom and were no longer diagnosed as suffering from PTSD, compared to the control group’s 21 percent. Yoga can also transform trauma- tized lives in other ways. “For many traumatized people, being touched intimately can be a trigger,” Emerson remarks. “Yoga may let them feel ready for physical intimacy again. Others have mentioned victories such as be- ing able to go to the grocery store and knowing exactly what foods their bod- ies crave.”


Emerson notes that such programs emphasize choice and individual em- powerment. “The beauty of yoga is that you reclaim your body as your own.”


Spreading the Word Once largely concentrated on the East Coast, trauma-sensitive yoga programs are spreading. Jennifer Johnston, a research clinician and yoga instructor at Boston’s Mind Body Institute, sees programs like these enriching our cul- ture’s understanding of the physical and mental health connection. “In a country where drugs and surgery are often the first go-to,” she says, “it’s important to remember that things like yoga can change our chemistry, too.”


Sarah Todd is an East Coast-based writer and editor. Connect at SarahToddInk.com.


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natural awakenings September 2013 23


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