In his recent book, The Body Keeps the Score Bessel Van Der Kolk (2014) discusses how and why body/mind work is essential in living with the effects of trauma. We learn that we all have a sort of command post in the center of our brain and that it serves two major functions in managing situations that threaten our survival:
- The Sympathetic Nervous System, or, if you will, the ground crew, whose role is to fuel the body and brain to take action by producing chemicals like Adrenalin.
- The Parasympathetic Nervous System. Think of this system as the Logistics Center that directs body muscles and functions, such as digestion, when placed on full alert, working with its battle buddy to ensure survival.
When we are at our best these two systems work together to maintain an optimal state of interaction with our surroundings and ourselves. We are able to distinguish real threat from perceived threat. There is executive internal leadership.
For individuals with Complex Trauma or Posttraumatic Stress, triggers throw the two systems out of whack, mentally and physically. What happens is that when aroused a disparity between heart rate and breathing, a condition that leaves us vulnerable to trauma, depression, or anxiety which, in turn sets up the body to develop heart disease, cancer, or autoimmune disorders such as Chronic Fatigue or Fibromyalgia.
Many affected by Trauma are simply out of touch with what is going on within themselves and when in a near constant state of arousal are not aware of physical sensations, their breath, and the other senses of the body. When the mind is always on alert, its ability to assess the situation is impaired.
The practice of Yoga continues to demonstrate powerful, long-term benefits through the development of mind and body interactions. Other mind body practices are shown to be effective; Tai Chi and/or qi gong, for example.
Attached here is a link to a great read about how Yoga is benefitting our Veterans as they continue to work through and around their Traumas.