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Yoga class aims to heal trauma victims

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

When it comes to post traumatic stress disorder, sometimes therapy alone is not enough.

Medical studies show that trauma is carried by cells and tissue in the body. Physical activities such as yoga can help alleviate that trauma. A Geneva social worker and a yoga instructor are teaming up to offer a program helping those who suffer from PTSD to heal.

“There’s no other program out there combining the verbal and nonverbal like this,” according to Isie Brindley, a licensed clinical professional counselor practicing in Geneva.

Brindley is working with Green Leaf Yoga instructor Pam O’Brien to develop a program that incorporates the benefits of therapy with a type of yoga designed to help victims of trauma. The program they are looking to create is called Pathways to Empowerment.

They are trying to generate enough local interest to begin the class.

Sometimes someone with severe trauma has lost the connection between mind and body. Something simple such as a command to lift your left leg may not compute in the mind of a trauma victim, she said.

“It helps people come back to awareness and learning how to self regulate,” she said.

Yoga for trauma patients is different than traditional yoga in how it is taught. It involves a more sensitive approach.

“The intention is different,” she said. “With this, you never force and you never push. You’re just inviting the student to explore.”

O’Brien is a certified Trauma Sensitive Yoga Teacher through the Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute in Brookline, Mass. The class she is certified to teach is based on the research of Bessel van der Kolk, an expert on PTSD who is exploring the use of yoga to regain a physical mastery.

O’Brien is currently teaching an eight-week session of yoga geared toward trauma victims. For that class, there is a screening process to ensure that people are also seeking outside help.

With the program they are looking to create, O’Brien and Brindley will be able to more closely intertwine the yoga and therapy. Brindley said it would help to put someone in a place where they can process the information related to their PTSD without the trauma.

“It’s shifting the unconscious mind into the conscious memory,” Brindley said. “Rather than being victimized, they’re now in control.” The therapy also will help them to process the information related to the incident, she said.

For more information on yoga for trauma patients, visit or call 630-917-9171.

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