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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 de- creases 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. De- partment of Defense, military veterans enrolled in a 10-week yoga course also showed improvement in PTSD symptoms. A paper presented at a recent International Society for Trau- matic Stress Studies conference stud- ied 64 people that had experienced childhood abuse and neglect; those that participated in a trauma-sensitive yoga course had a 33 percent reduc- tion in PTSD symptoms. Two months later, more than 50 percent in the yoga group experienced greater freedom and were no longer diagnosed as suf- fering 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



Florida, hundreds of individuals are enrolled in local yoga classes with the expectation of gaining physi- cal benefits such as elongated and toned muscles, as well as flexibility. Often, open and committed yoga students that follow a regular practice reap some unantici- pated benefits—the release of emo- tional and physical pain associated with trauma, and resilience. Local yoga teachers Susanna Tocco, owner of Anahata Holistic Healing & Spiri- tual Center, in Naples; Debi Grilo and Aleksandra Eifler, at Bala Vinyasa Yoga, in Naples; and Susan Lovett, owner of Restore Inner Harmony, who teaches at Joyful Yoga, in Bonita Springs, and at the Happahatchee Center, in Estero, report their own personal and student experiences of these benefits. Tocco recounts a brief story about one of her students that discovered yoga could heal in countless ways. “Rachel had a hysterectomy in 2009 and knee surgery in 2012. As a result, she had many aches and pains, poor digestion and trouble with her overall state of well-being. She felt immediate results. Her knee pain subsided. She no longer feels trapped in her body and her stress level decreased substan- tially,” advises Tocco. Grilo, who is also a clinical social

worker, experienced the healing value of yoga after suffering from post- traumatic stress disorder brought on by witnessing the death of a baby. “I was highly agitated and anxious, living in constant fear of something happen- ing to my children. After about two months of a daily slow flow restorative practice, I noticed a shift in my energy.

I was able to breathe through my anxiety and create space from disturb- ing thoughts and images. The practice gave me a safe space to release my

tension and energy, which in turn cre- ated more space from the event and eventually, peace,” explains Grilo. Lovett teaches yin yoga, a gentle form that targets the connective tis- sue in the body. She combines yoga with the healing power of her crystal bowls. In yin yoga, students hold poses for five minutes. This slow pace allows for insights and the release of tension and stored memory in the body. “In general, students often com- ment about the level of relaxation and peace they feel from this combination of healing modalities,” she says. Overwhelmed and emotionally

drained from attempting to balance long workdays, the responsibilities of motherhood and a tumultuous rela- tionship with her parents, Eifler was also suffering from chronic pain in her back and wrist when she became a yoga student. After removing blocked energy and releasing deep emotions that were often accompanied by tears, Eifler was pain-free and happy. “My life was literally transformed by my teacher training,” she enthuses.

Anahata Holistic Healing & Spiritual Center, 1065 5th Ave. N., Naples. 239-262-0811.

Bala Vinyasa Yoga, 6200 Trail Blvd. N., Naples. 239-598-1938.

Restore Inner Harmony. 617-921- 1037.

natural awakenings September 2013 37

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