Yoga as a Healing Modality
International Day of Yoga is Tuesday, June 21st and as such, it was important to me to share my experience with yoga, as well as some of the research.
Prior to practicing yoga, I had the belief that yoga was for “hippies” and “old people”. This belief was completely shattered, however, within the first five minutes of a vinyasa class. I remember the instructor showing me the base pose, downward facing dog, and once class began, asked us to hold it for what felt like an eternity! I don’t remember much else from that first class, but I do remember getting home that evening and noticing that I had never felt that relaxed before.
From that night on, I started practicing twice a week, and noticed my life changing. However, it wasn’t until a student of mine verbalized to a colleague how much my teaching style had changed that I truly understood that yoga reaches something beyond what a conventional workout does. Slowly, my heart opened more; I had more patience and compassion. It took the edge off of my mind and body.
It wasn’t until I was in my graduate studies that I found that science was actually studying what I had experienced first hand. Researchers studying Posttraumatic Stress Disorder were finding that women who practiced yoga consistently had a significant reduction in their symptoms of trauma (Rhodes, van der Kolk, & Spinazzola, 2016). Others (Neukirch, Reid, & Shires, 2019) found that a yoga practice reduced symptoms of not only PTSD, but anxiety and depression as well. More and more research continues to support this idea of how a yoga practice can help with conditions such as trauma, anxiety and depression.
Perhaps one of the most compelling examples of yoga as a tool for healing came to me when I read the memoir Warrior Pose: How Yoga (Literally) Saved My Life. Brad Willis tells his life story as a journalist, covering stories all over the world including living in war zones, investigating drug lords and sex traffic industries overseas, all the while having a broken back. But throughout his journey, he finds himself suffering from failed surgeries and addictions. It was only once he stumbled upon yoga that his life started to shift. His memoir is riveting and compelling to read.
Here in Edmonton, we are fortunate to have an amazing yoga community. There are many types of yoga and yoga teachers, so finding the style that matches your needs is important. I am so grateful to be connected to a few amazing members of the yoga community. Ricky Brennan, at Octo Yoga, offers a wide range of challenging yoga classes. He encourages you to start where your body allows, but shows you where your body might one day go. Iava Wellness, an amazing centre offers a variety of services including small yoga classes. And, for the little ones, Glow Kids Yoga offers many opportunities for children and youth to also experience the joy and magic of yoga.
Yoga for PTSD and the role of interoceptive awareness: A preliminary mixed-methods case series study (Neukirch, Reid, & Shires, 2019)
Yoga for Adult Women with Chronic PTSD: A Long-Term Follow-Up Study. (Rhodes, van der Kolk, & Spinazzola, 2016)
Warrior Pose: How Yoga (Literally) Saved My Life by Brad Willis and Bhava Ram