Therapeutic Yoga for Trauma Recovery Book

Applied Polyvagal Theory in Yoga

Therapeutic yoga book Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Therapeutic Yoga for Trauma Recovery

Trauma recovery is as much about healing the body as it is the mind.

Yet, so often, the focus of healing involves retelling the story of the past without addressing the physiological imbalances that trauma leaves in its wake.

Therapeutic Yoga for Trauma Recovery bridges this path of healing between the psyche and the body by walking you through the sacred practice of yoga so you can release the burdens of trauma from your body and mind.

Grounded within the principles of polyvagal theory, affective neuroscience, and trauma-informed care, this book will help you gain a better understanding of how our brains and bodies respond to stress and trauma and offer a self-led healing journey toward feeling more empowered, grounded, clearheaded, inspired, and at ease.

This book introduces you to the power of the yogic philosophy and offers a variety of accessible yoga poses and breathing practices that will allow you to:

  • Nourish your nervous system
  • Reconnect with your body
  • Ground yourself in the present moment
  • Release unresolved patterns of fight, flight, freeze, or faint
  • Widen your ability to tolerate emotional discomfort
  • Develop a felt sense of resilience
  • Anchor yourself in self-love
  • Reclaim connection with and trust in your body
  • Create a personalized yoga practice for your own self-care

Based upon Dr. Schwartz’s Vagus Nerve Yoga, Therapeutic Yoga for Trauma Recovery walks you through the sacred path of yoga to facilitate your own courageous journey of self-discovery that will help you release the adverse effects of trauma from your body and mind. You will be invited to become a compassionate witness to your mind, explore conscious breathing, and discover mindful movement practices that enhance your mental, emotional, and physical health.

If you are a therapist or yoga teacher, you will learn how to guide your clients or students through yoga practices that facilitate trauma recovery. The addendum of this book offers guidance on how to design a sequence of postures for an individual client or student, as well as a framework for creating a six-week therapeutic yoga class for a group of students.

Dr. Arielle Schwartz Therapeutic Yoga for Trauma
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Collective Trauma, Embodiment, and Community | Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Our Shared Hero’s Journey

I invite you to think of collective trauma as a call to enter the transformational process of a hero’s journey. Collective trauma refers to the impact of current or historical events that are experienced by groups of people, communities, and society as a whole.

American mythologist Joseph Campbell (2008) described the hero’s journey as a “monomyth,” in which a period of ease is tragically disrupted by a crisis that sends us into exile. The hero fights the dragon, retrieves the treasure, and returns to the community with new gifts and healing capabilities. 

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, writes: “There will always be times when you will feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.”

As I see it, we need to attend to our despair without letting our lives be defined by it. While we are capable of fighting dragons, we cannot fight them alone. While you may feel as though you have been thrown into an abyss; we can overcome these challenges. However, it does require that we have support. We need to go into the dark with our allies, those who stand by our side and help us courageously face the pain of the world.

Collectively, we can carry a light with us as we walk into the darkness. Ultimately, you can tap into you inner strength, wisdom, and hope which will allow you to emerge with an enhanced sense of meaning and purpose. These become the gifts that you have to offer to the world so that you can be a guiding presence for others.

Dr. Arielle Schwartz
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Embodiment in Trauma Recovery | Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Awakening to your Felt Sense

Embodiment is as an active process of self-discovery that you renew and strengthen by repeatedly attending to your sensations, emotions, and instinctual movement impulses. Mindful body-awareness practices help you learn to sustain the focus of your attention on how your body feels or moves in the present moment.

Embodiment in trauma recovery involves setting aside time to focus your attention on your breath and body sensations as related to traumatic events. You attend to the burdens of adversity whether they reside in your body as protective armoring or a loss of integrity at your core that leaves you feeling collapsed and defeated. 

Awakening to your felt sense allows you to reclaim healing movements. You release defensive bracing or vigilance from your body and mind. You explore moving out of freeze or collapse into the presence of a balanced and regulated nervous system. With regular practice you accumulate a reservoir of embodied wisdom that resides as a reliably accessible sense of self.

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Nourish your Nervous System | Dr. Arielle Schwartz

A Restorative Reset

Nourish your Nervous system
Nourish your nervous system (IC: Jes Kimak)

Although rest is an integral part of our body’s rhythm, many of us have a complicated relationship to rest. That’s because our culture tends to condition us to believe that our self-worth is based on productivity. You might feel guilty for resting or believe that it is selfish to take time out. You might fear that if you slow down, you will miss an opportunity. Maybe you fear that you will lose momentum or that you will become stagnant. Perhaps you have received messages that you’re lazy if you’re not working hard or being productive. These ingrained messages can cause you to neglect your health or believe that “hard work” is what brings happiness. Sadly, this can lead you to feel disconnected from your deeper self, and you might question the point of all this hard work.

Over time, an addiction to busyness can also lead to burnout, which can affect your endocrine system functioning and overall physical health. Cultivating a nourishing relationship to rest takes consistency and practice. Paradoxically, when you do embrace the need for rest, you tend to be more focused and attentive during the day, which can ultimately allow you to be more productive.

In order to rest into a place of deep stillness, you must feel safe enough to let go of your defenses, which will allow you to access your parasympathetic nervous system’s relaxation response. Reclaiming a healthy relationship to stillness can take time.

Settling into stillness also allows you to access the inner wisdom that can be found within the depths of your psyche. As if diving deep below the surface of the ocean, you find the slowest moving currents of your soul’s wisdom. Within these depths, you connect to your intuition. As you reside in this deep connection to your heart, you learn to trust this inner knowing, which becomes the guiding compass for your life’s decisions.

Dr. Arielle Schwartz
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The Vagus Nerve and Eye Movements: Tools for Trauma Recovery | Dr. Arielle Schwartz

The Window to your Soul

Eye Movements and Vagus Nerve Stimulation Dr. Arielle Schwartz
IC: Eyes by Bruno Henrique

It is often said that the eyes are a window to your soul. Indeed, your eyes provide great insight into how you are feeling. When we are stressed we tend to furrow our brow which contracts the muscles around your eyes making them appear smaller. When we are tired our eyelids grow heavy. When we feel connected and excited to see someone our eyebrows lift and our eyes appear brighter and larger. While you might try to hide your true emotions by controlling the muscles of your face, you really can’t stop your eyes from revealing how you really feel. This is because the eyes are closely tied to your autonomic nervous system.

When you are on alert, your pupils dilate helping you scan your environment. This is one reason why individuals who have experienced traumatic events at night are often able to describe the scene as if it was in broad daylight. And when you feel safe, your eyes tend to sparkle and express warmth as a signal that you are engaging your social nervous system. This is because four of your cranial nerves are directly associated with vision or eye movements and your vagus nerve connects your eyes to your heart.

Eye movements have been integrated into many healing practices such as in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy and Yoga. This post shares more about the Vagus Nerve and eye movements, how they can facilitate health through natural vagus nerve stimulation, and how they help with trauma recovery. The video at the end guides you into a simple practice for self-care.

While this post offers the science behind eye movements, I invite you to remember that your eyes are a direct connection to your inner most self. Softening your vigilance can allow you to connect deeply to your felt sense. This is the place where your joy and your pain may reside. Therefore, I invite you to explore the practices offered in this post with gentleness and self-compassion. Allow your gaze to soften as if greeting a long-lost friend with a warm smile. This long-lost friend might just be you.

Dr. Arielle Schwartz
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Coping with Climate Grief

A Backpacking Travelogue

Coping with Climate Grief Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Alongside the ongoing weight of the global pandemic, another area of distress that is increasingly coming up for people is climate grief as we face fires, hurricanes with greater intensity or frequency or intensity, as well as rising waters and flooding. It is easy to feel helpless and a looming existential fear now referred to as “eco-anxiety.” 

Even if you haven’t been directly impacted by one of these events, you have likely been exposed to images and stories through the media leading to a form of anticipatory fears or about the potential for additional disasters or the extinction of species and ecosystems such as coral reefs or glaciers. Or maybe, you too have had eerie orange skies at sunset from fires far away. Just like any ongoing stressor, it is important to have strategies to cope with climate grief.

Recently, I had an opportunity to go backpacking on one of my favorite trails here in Colorado. For the second summer in a row, my trips to the hills have been colored by a backdrop of haze and smoke. However, I found some tools that helped me work through my feelings while walking on the trail that I’ll share in this post. My hope is that my own feelings about climate grief might help you know that you are not alone and that my sharing of coping strategies might help you find a path forward. 

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Applied Polyvagal Theory in Yoga

A Sacred Pilgrimage

The Post Traumatic Growth Guidebook Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Healing from trauma invites you to befriend your body; and this needs to occur at a pace that honors your unique needs. Initially, this involves developing the resources to handle challenging emotions, disturbing symptoms, and distressing memories.

The goal is help you find your ground through a felt sense of stability and safety. Within applied polyvagal theory in yoga, you learn to trust the predictability of the support that your yoga mat provides. 

Therapeutic yoga for trauma recovery is best supported when you have a calm, peaceful, and safe environment for your practice. You might find this within a class; however, if you are choosing to begin a home-based practice, I encourage you to take some time to create a space that feels nourishing to your body and mind.

I invite you to think of your yoga space as a sacred ground…and each time you return is a pilgrimage to your body, mind, heart, and soul.

Dr. Arielle Schwartz
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Trauma Recovery: A Mind Body Approach to Becoming Whole

A Podcast with Sounds True

Trauma Recovery and Post Traumatic Growth Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Recently, I had the honor to have a heartfelt conversation with Tami Simon with Sounds True, host of Insights at the Edge Podcast. Within this podcast, I share aspects of my personal journey through trauma recovery. You will learn some of my favorite healing resources and tools to help you find your own sense of being at home in your body. Discover the healing power of choice, movement, imagination, and how grounding can be a relational experience.

We deepen into a conversation about my passion for resilience and The Post-Traumatic Growth Guidebook which explores some of the key ingredients to transform trauma into the gold of self-awareness by walking your own Hero or Heroine’s journey.

Listen to this enriching podcast with Sounds True

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Fascia and the Vagus Nerve | Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Healing from the Inside Out

Fascia and your Vagus Nerve Dr. Arielle Schwartz
Connective Tissue tendon, Berkshire Bioscience Library

Have you ever had a morning in which you wake up with a painful knot in your neck? What happened? Did you sleep in a funny position or was it the wild dream that had you tossing and turning? Maybe it was due to the stressful work meeting you had the day before or because you feel worried about something in the future. While this may sound strange, your tight neck could even be related to what you ate the night before or an event that happened many years ago.

Intuitively, we all know that stress shows up in our bodies as muscular tension. But, when we look more closely at the body-mind connection we recognize that fascia plays a key role in how we physically experience stress and heal from traumatic events. Furthermore, since the vagus nerve plays an important role in communicating changes in fascia to your brain, we explore how attending to vagal tone helps you to heal. 

Fascia also plays a key role in your resilience. You can nourish fascia and the vagus nerve by attending to your body and mind through sensory awareness, conscious breathing, and mindful movement. These tools help you to recover more quickly from stressful experiences and heal traumatic events from your past. 

Understanding Fascia

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The Complex PTSD Treatment Manual | Dr. Arielle Schwartz

An Integrative, Mind-Body Approach to Trauma Treatment

The Complex PTSD Treatment Manual Dr. Arielle Schwartz

I am thrilled to announce the publication of The Complex PTSD Treatment Manual: An Integrative, Mind-Body Approach to Trauma Treatment. This book is written for clinicians who are helping clients navigate the consequences of repeated or chronic traumatization. This is a roadmap for therapy with clients who have experienced prolonged and chronic exposure to traumatic events.

This book offers a deep dive into the ways in which therapy is a combination of head and heart, of science and art. A mind-body approach to trauma recovery is now recognized as essential to successful treatment for we simply cannot think our way out of these innate, physiological responses to trauma. Successful treatment requires a compassionate therapeutic relationship and effective, research-based interventions. This integrative model brings together relational therapy, mindful body awareness, parts work therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), somatic psychology, and practices drawn from complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). 

“Our brains are malleable and have the capacity to develop new neural connections throughout our lifespan. That means that the effects of trauma, which are known to adversely impact the brain, are not immutable. With therapy, the brain can rewire itself and heal from the emotional injuries of the past. An integrative approach to treatment allows us to adapt the focus of our work to meet the needs of each specific client by recognizing that there is no single therapeutic method that is appropriate or effective for all clients. A compassionate approach to care asks us to nonjudgmentally accept each client within the context of their unique social and cultural challenges.”

High Praise for The Complex PTSD Treatment Manual

“Arielle Schwartz has written THE guidebook for clinicians seeking to understand Complex PTSD and how to treat it!   On every page, she interweaves up-to-date theoretical ideas with practical clinical wisdom.  Every word of this book can easily be implemented by therapists regardless of their training or approach.” ~Janina Fisher, PhD author of The Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors and Transforming the Living Legacy of Trauma

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