Elaine breathes slowly, in and out, for a few rounds of simple pranayama before she has to stop. Images too scary for her to describe race in and overwhelm her. After a few moments, with Jocelyn Jenkins, her therapist, sitting next to her, Elaine tries again. Several sessions later they move on to very basic, very slow sun salutations; she becomes aware of her muscles, noticing any resistance in her body, stopping when she gets too agitated.
Although these postures and breathing exercises sound easy and soothing for most of us, they represent enormous progress for Elaine (not her real name), who cut herself off from any connection with her body or her emotions years ago. Jenkins remembers the first time she met her. Elaine was very agitated, in a constant state of hyper-arousal, “alert to every movement in the room, every sound, even the rise of my eyebrow,” Jenkins says. But when it came to talking about her emotions, Elaine shut down.
Here’s why. As a young girl, Elaine was brutally raped. Unbelievably, no one in her family noticed—not even when she came to the dinner table covered from head to toe in bruises.
Initial study results revealed that participation in trauma-informed gentle yoga leads to a significant reduction in symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
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