The following interview with Luci Davis, Yoga Therapist, shares why Living Well utilizes yoga in our holistic approach.
Q. Why does the body matter when healing from trauma?
Luci: The body remembers what the mind tries to forget. Trauma can show up in the body as muscle tension, fatigue, racing heartbeat, chest tightness, trouble sleeping, digestive distress, headaches, and a host of other symptoms. Trauma can be one big thing that happened to you or the accumulation of lots of smaller things that shrink your window of tolerance, or your ability to respond appropriately to stress.
Trauma can create a roadblock and cause us to either get stuck in overdrive (hyperarousal, hypervigilance, being constantly on edge) or find ourselves feeling lethargic, unmotivated, and unable to get out of bed. When we engage the body through movement, breathwork, and other self-regulation practices, we begin to remove the roadblock and train our nervous system to find balance.
Q. How do you work with counselors who refer their clients for individual yoga sessions?
Luci: Sometimes the client needs tools for nervous system regulation. Sometimes they are preparing to do EMDR and need resources. Sometimes the client is feeling “stuck” and needs to engage their body in the process in order to move forward. Sometimes they just need to learn ways to tend to their body in a loving, nurturing manner. With the clients permission, the counselor and I take a collaborative approach to develop a customized plan which I hold very loosely. It’s a collective effort between me, the client, the counselor, and the Holy Spirit.
I introduce breath practices and self-regulation tools and ask the client to notice how a particular practice lands in their own body and nervous system. I’m interested in helping YOU figure out what is helpful for YOUR anxiety. One of the most important things I can do is meet you where you are. I make notes and provide the counselor with feedback which allows us to support the client throughout the healing process.
Q. What do you offer clients who have felt little help with talk therapy bringing ease to their anxiety/ stress?
Luci: There is a difference between intellectually knowing you’re safe and feeling safe in your body. For people who are dissociated or “living in their head”, it can be frightening to explore what’s going on in their body. I like to use an emotion/sensation wheel to help clients understand where and how emotions might show up in their body. I’m a big fan of using simple, practical tools that clients can integrate into their daily lives to move toward nervous system regulation.
Q. What would you tell someone who is hesitant, but curious that movement/ yoga might help relieve some their stress?
Luci: People are often intimidated by yoga, and I can understand why. We see images in the media of people with “perfect” bodies doing crazy circus contortions and think we have to look a certain way to do yoga.
I’ve always said that yoga is like Baskin-Robbins; there are lots of flavors. If you try a yoga class and don’t like it, don’t give up on yoga. Try a different instructor or different style of class.
If you have a history of trauma, look for a trauma-informed studio or instructor. We have been very intentional about this at Living Well. There are no mirrors in the studio and we encourage students to “practice with the body you have today.” We also respect your personal boundaries by having consent to receive an assist cards so you can decide whether or not you want to receive physical touch from our instructors.
It was our intent to create a safe, nurturing environment where everyone feels welcome, regardless of body shape or yoga experience.
Luci Davis is a trauma informed Yoga Therapist with over 1,000 hours of training. She sees clients one-on-one at Living Well.