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Overcoming Trauma through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  605 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Survivors of trauma—whether abuse, accidents, or war—can end up profoundly wounded, betrayed by their bodies that failed to get them to safety and that are a source of pain. In order to fully heal from trauma, a connection must be made with oneself, including one’s body. The trauma-sensitive yoga described in this book moves beyond traditional talk therapies that focus on ...more
Paperback, 159 pages
Published April 19th 2011 by North Atlantic Books
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Average rating 4.22  · 
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 ·  605 ratings  ·  48 reviews

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April Dawn
Jan 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I am a social worker & I have seen PTSD like symptoms in nearly all of my clients, regardless of what their presenting problems were. Hell, even I have noticed PTSD symptoms in myself at times, like unconsciously holding my breath. How did I recognize this? Through yoga.

In our society, not only have the majority of us experienced traumas of some sort, but we also place an emphasis on instant gratification. The combination of this is enough to have anyone running with their body in hyper vig
May 12, 2012 rated it liked it
For yoga teachers this book seems basic to me in that the details on creating a safe yoga space for those who have experienced trauma is just common sense and the result of showing respect for practitioners, trauma or no trauma. We may run classes for those specifically and knowingly for people with trauma backgrounds, but what about all those who wander in unbeknown to teachers, or even themselves, that have trauma memories stored in their bodies, at the ready to be triggered. Good communication and re ...more
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology, yoga, trauma
Outstanding! And at less than 150 pages, it is a quick and accessible read. Anyone who is a trauma survivor, clinician, or yoga teacher should read this book. It contains an introduction to the history of yoga, an explanation of how yoga can improve heart rate variability (HRV), a description (both in words and pictures) of a trauma-sensitive yoga sequence that you could try in the privacy of your own home, and chapters dedicated to strategies for clinicians and yoga teachers working with trauma ...more
Sep 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: yoga, therapeutics
This was a quality resource for yoga therapeutics and stress physiology in general. I appreciated hearing more about how the Trauma Center Yoga Program had adapted to students and survivors over time. Since my training was very alignment-based and I deeply care about the physical integrity of students in postures, I often encourage use of props, specifically straps, blocks, etc. However, it didn't not occur to me until I read this book that straps, specifically, could trigger a stress / emotiona ...more
Alex Linschoten
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mindfulness, movement
Short, practical and to the point. This book offers an overview (and a sample progression / routine) of trauma-sensitive yoga, as well as the research background supporting its use as a clinical tool. Some useful sections towards the end for yoga teachers / therapists etc, but the main thrust and value of the book is to patients themselves.
Scott Rennie
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the many insights of this book and, as a practising yoga therapist, was happy to see that most of the suggestions are present in my teaching of non-trauma clients and that I already had an understanding of how different it can be to work with trauma. However this book also gave a good framework for me to consider my own approach in future interactions and many solid and practical suggestions that will be useful.

Their analysis of more common approaches to Yoga and their unsuitability t
Jean-Paul Eberle
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: yoga, trauma
This is an excellent concise and accessible resource of simple yogic-based practices for the survivor, clinician, and/or teacher. The authors clearly describe the history of the trauma field as well as the relevant scope of yoga in this regard, capturing key elements that provide a sufficient base for mapping specific psychotherapeutic goals with yogic interventions. Not to mention, the importance of preparing the environment, invitatory verbal instruction, and other frames of orientation emphas ...more
Armagan Kilci
Dec 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
The book gives concrete, mostly academic information on correlation between trauma overcoming and yoga therapy. It has a focus on yoga practitioners with post-traumatic stress syndrome. It also helps to get a framework on the effects on physical and emotional trauma. I particularly enjoyed reading the differentiation between hysteria and the effects of post-traumatic stress syndrome. Practically, the book gives images of yoga poses, which may be used by trauma survivors. If you are interested in ...more
May 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
I've been to Dave and Jenn's trauma sensitive training, and I think this book served as a nice reminder of the basic principles of TSY and the nature of trauma.

A few reviewers have said that this is "basic" and "obvious"; I'm not sure that's true. I have faced traumatic moments in yoga classes with teachers who would have benefited from this book.

Overall, I found this to be an accessible, outcome-oriented, and encouraging book. It's a quick read with some good models for classes.
Jul 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
My review is a little too long for GoodReads, but you can pop in over here.
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As a yogi and I spent 5 years learning a variety of types, and perpetually seeking *something* from my yoga practices that no style of yoga could seem to satisfy.. I started the yoga sequences in this book in March adapting them to other styles I’ve learnt over the year and wow this stuff is EXACTLY what I needed. It is grounding, regulates mind and body and movement, encourages mindfulness and presence with a focus on trauma release and somatic experience. The missing ingredient I was perpetual ...more
Kelly Carmichael
Nov 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic book for survivors of trauma, clinicians, and yoga instructors. The book does a lovely job of breaking down what trauma-focused yoga is, how to do it, and the theory behind it. There are pictures included to assist in choosing yoga postures that would be helpful for trauma survivors. Overall, a very informative and helpful read.
Sep 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a great resource that shows that "Because trauma affects the body's physiology...trauma treatment must incorporate the body." There is so much success with yoga as that treatment because the practice is one that connects the mind, body, and heart. I really enjoyed reading the different yoga postures. They were so simple, but the effect of using them is quite profound.
May 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A must for yoga teachers. A must for anyone dealing with trauma. The first chapter made me cry for mankind. It increased my empathy for those struggling and made me aware of some behaviors I might not have understood before but now do.
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: yoga
This was great for me as both a teacher and someone who has experienced trauma. Understanding what helps and what hurts in recovery is vital to healing yourself, or facilitating a healing environment.
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A practical read with some of the research and experience underlying the yoga sequences included in the book and how they can help students benefit from yoga who have undergone trauma.
Jaime Yslas
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book opened up my eyes to phenomenon I observe all around me, but more importantly, in myself as well. The writing is penetratingly clear and simple, but very effective.
Krissie Bentley
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Required reading for Yoga and Trauma workshop. Loved how it broke down ways to utilize information as a therapist, a yoga teacher, and as a student. Well-rounded and timely.
Angela Boland
Oct 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Summary: For someone who has experienced trauma (many of their examples include veterans or survivors of physical or sexual abuse), a typical yoga class may not be as healing or therapeutic as one would hope. For instance, many trauma survivors feel completely out of tune with their own body, since their body has in many cases been violated or rendered powerless during the trauma. They may also feel that they cannot be “in the moment”, since there are so many triggers that can send them back to ...more
Barbara Ginsberg
Oct 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Although some of the David Emerson's advice is common sense, dealing with students who have experienced trauma or even how yoga can trigger emotions in a well-adjusted student is often left out of yoga teacher training. With that in mind, I say this book is essential for teachers. I was taught formally only to be wary of adjusting the opposite sex but even this is not always demonstrated properly. Just last week, I watched a TV yoga show where the female teacher assisted a male student in Supine ...more
Dana Lee
Mar 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
If I was a trained yoga instructor looking for guidance in creating a trauma friendly class this book would have been very helpful. I guess I was looking for a more indepth look at how a history of trauma presents itself through yoga. I know for myself camel is often way too much to handle, deep emotions come right out. I did like how to they often refered to listening to the body and what it is experiencing. My own experience in class is that this happens with any good yoga instructor, not just ...more
Jun 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
I found this book helpful, though it is really just an introductory book designed to be useful to yoga teachers, yoga students, and therapists together. There is a section of suggested poses, and a lot of acknowledgement of the way that the experience of the body can be changed by trauma. As simple as it sounds, this was an eye opening book for me mostly because I recognized things I had always thought were just defective about myself and now realize are part of how I relate to my body. It has c ...more
Feb 02, 2015 rated it liked it
I read this as a part of my yoga teacher training course to learn about what to look for and how to teach yoga students that are using yoga as a form of therapy for trauma they have experienced. It's a quick read and very informative as to what can trigger a persons' emotions. There is even a sequence of poses that they use at their trauma center in Massachusetts. This would be a good book to read if you want to learn a bit about what triggers to look out for and what can trigger a person - idea ...more
Brandy Vanderheiden
Jun 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommend
This is a great book for explaining the basics of what happens to the body in stress and why we must address the stress physiology in order to heal. As a yoga teacher I used the exercises in classes, and as a therapist, I have given take home poses for clients. Great resource and the easy to read introduction by Bessel Van der Kolk is helpful for clients wanting to learn more about somatic perspectives on healing.
Katy Sudlow
Nov 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: yoga instructors, clinicians, and trauma survivors
I enjoyed this book, but it was basically a smaller version of the book The Body Keeps the Score. It was still good, and it was a quicker read that you could even read before bed (unlike the other which was so mind-boggling you needed to be fully awake). However, I prefer the in-depth coverage the other book provided.

The part at the back, where there were different sections for: survivors, clinicians, and yoga instructors, was good to read as it had lots of helpful tips I needed to hear.
Nov 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Really good book on yoga and trauma. Simple, practical, and gives a lot of examples and quotes from participants in their Trauma Center yoga program. Includes:
- some basics of trauma and trauma therapy
- a chapter for trauma survivors giving a sample yoga practice to use
- a chapter for therapists on integrating yoga into therapy
- a chapter for yoga teachers on making trauma-sensitive practice
Jul 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I think this is one of the only books of its kind. For people unfamiliar with the facets of traumatic experience or PTS, this will provide a well formed background on the various impacts on the individual. The specific tutorial style applications for clinicians and yoga teachers are immensely helpful. Overall a great resource for those interested in somatic approaches to mental health.
Josh Solar
Aug 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best descriptions of trauma

I don't thoroughly enjoyed this book. The descriptions and language used to explain trauma and its effects on the mind/body were the best descriptions ever. This book is highly recommended for any trauma survivor or people who have loved ones in their lives who are trauma survivors.
Oct 12, 2013 rated it liked it
This book does several things at once and tries to marry them together with mixed results. You have explanations of trauma, of yoga, of trauma-focused yoga and its benefits, and case studies of trauma. It would actually be better if they included a CD with it, or made it a multimedia package. Nonetheless, it is still very useful for therapists, yoga teachers and people who are suffering trauma.
Adrienne S.
Dec 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Difficult for those with PTSD to read.

I think everyone who teaches yoga should read the introduction and how current yoga centres are actually unwelcoming for those with PTSD. This is of course not done on purpose. But I am glad to have read it.
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