Trauma-informed Yoga

“Once you start approaching your body with curiosity rather than fear, everything shifts.”
~ Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.

Trauma-informed yoga*:

~

(Please see the brochure provided in the link above which was created for  the “Salute to Women Veterans” conference I exhibited at in May, 2015 for more detail.)

Trauma-informed yoga is a somatic treatment that helps reset the nervous system, helps you reconnect with your body and regain a sense of control. This increases your capacity to be present in the here and now.

How is trauma-informed yoga different?

This class is for: Anyone looking to drop stress from their physical body and their minds to improve well-being and vitality. This type of class is especially helpful for those suffering from trauma, stress, or anxiety, such as veterans. How we practice yoga matters. How we do anything is how we do everything.

My training includes:

100-hour YogaFit® Warriors Program certification
(Designed to address the stressors and traumas that are unique to our military community).

Mind Body Solutions Opening Yoga Levels I and II
(An adaptive yoga training based upon the unique experience of Founder Matthew Sanford, an award-winning author, nationally renowned yoga teacher, and paraplegic for the last 35 years.)

*Please know that I use the techniques learned in my training for trauma-informed yoga in all of my classes, but most especially in a “trauma-informed” yoga class.

Why I teach trauma-informed yoga:

My parents were prisoners of war on German farms (forced labor) during WWII. My dad was taken from his home when he was 17, my mom was auctioned off to a German farmer. After the war, they met in a displaced persons camp in Germany—still prisoners—got married in that war camp, and had two children in that war camp. Most don’t know about this part of WWII history. Displaced persons were unwilling to return to their country of origin. The way my dad told it, there were regular attempts to trick them into signing papers saying they were willing to become communist and return to Poland.

mnm and dad with george and helen

I believe this photo of Mom and Dad with George and Helen was taken shortly after arriving in the United States.

Michael & Pauline Bronicki Wedding Pictures

Mom and Dad’s wedding photos.The dress was made from a parachute, temporarily altered for each bride in the camp.

I was the youngest of five. My two oldest siblings were born in the camp. I only knew the food supply was limited and an escape attempt could result in death, which didn’t stop my dad from leaving the camp one night to get more milk for his children—successfully unnoticed. The stories told to me were filtered through the lens of what you’d tell your child. It wasn’t until after my mom passed and dad remarried that I heard more details (told to me by my amazing step-mom) of sites seen and experiences you wouldn’t share with your children.

My parents and others like them buried their despair and their grief and moved on to a new life in the U.S. This is a common theme among WWII immigrants to the U.S. Their children learned to ask no questions. You were not to touch the sleeping dragon.They didn’t talk a lot about their time in the camp. We left it alone. Sometimes I wish I had asked more questions.

My childhood was its own battleground of short tempers, lots of shouting and periods of unbearable silence with months of my parents not speaking to each other. During these times it was our childhood burden to decide where to be as the floor you chose was construed as taking sides with its inevitable repercussions. Too much time spent on any one floor resulted in backlash from the other parent. Ours was a volatile household−enough said.

My oldest brother (born in the camp) was also a purple heart honored Viet Nam vet. I remember broaching the subject of PTSD with my dad suggesting it was perhaps something he and my brother had in common. He was in denial. They had a rough relationship.

I’ve read that childhood trauma predisposes you to PTSD. I would suspect being born in a camp with limited food supply, traveling across the ocean on a boat with stressed out parents and being raised in a PTSD household qualifies. (The women and children were separated from the men on the boat from Poland to the United States. My mom ended up being bunked with a mom who was sea-sick and my mom then took care of four children instead of two for the duration of the trip.)

“According to the new insights of behavioral epigenetics, traumatic experiences in our past, or in our recent ancestors’ past, leave molecular scars adhering to our DNA.”  Poland’s tumultuous history certainly left scars on my ancestor’s DNA predisposing THEM to PTSD to be passed down to their children. “It seems that trauma or its effects are being passed down through our genes, and it has enormous consequences for us as a species.”

I suspect it was PTSD that contributed to the end of my brother’s marriage as well. When my brother passed he was not in touch with family—not for lack of trying on my part. (Another reference: Childhood Trauma Leads to Brains Wired for Fear)

george

My Polaroid snapshot of my big brother

One of my favorite photos of my brother, George and I.

One of my favorite photos of my brother, George and I.

It wasn’t until my YogaFit Warrior training that I fully realized my parents and my brother didn’t just have short tempers. I came to a deeper understanding of exactly how trauma gets stored in the body through the central nervous system. Needless to say, I wish I knew then what I know now as my heart fills with huge compassion.

Their PTSD symptoms were perfectly normal reactions to perfectly abnormal events from their past. Knowing the stress and strain they dealt with both during and after their experiences, and their not knowing how to stop the panic attacks and short fuses, fills me with pride knowing the sheer willpower it must have taken to never give up. I am humbled by their lives. Coming to a new country with two small children, surviving and prospering as my parents did, speaks to their strength. George went on to work with autistic children. I know he was a blessing to many before he passed in 2009. As for my sister, Helen, she was like a second mom to me when I was growing up. I treasured her presence in my life and still do.

The courage and inner strength it took for all Poles to rise above their violent history—let alone my parents—and to hold onto their Polish heritage under threat of death was not something I dwelled upon as a child of Polish immigrants who had been prisoners of war. My parents shared no bitterness for having had ten years of their lives stolen with the added humility of being held prisoners on farms and in war camps, their families ripped apart. While their silence was probably more a symptom of PTSD, I’ve come to view their lack of outward bitterness as a gift—albeit unintentional.

In the summer of 2015, I had the absolute honor of completing another overwhelmingly meaningful training by an amazing human being, Matthew Sanford: Mind Body Solutions Opening Yoga Levels I and II is an adaptive yoga training based upon the unique experience of Founder Matthew Sanford, an award-winning author, nationally renowned yoga teacher, and paraplegic for the last 35 years.
matthew

In our first session, he asked us our reasons for participating in the training. Who were we trying to save? He was trying to save the 13-year old boy that awoke from the car accident which killed his father and sister, and paralyzed him from the chest down, changing his life forever. It was at that moment I knew my burgeoning passion to work with those who have experienced trauma, such as veterans, was my attempt to save the little girl being raised in a PTSD-ridden family with absolutely no understanding of what was happening.

Trauma-informed yoga is a way to get to know yourself better than anyone else by approaching your body with curiosity rather than fear. Trauma-informed yoga enables you to really listen to your body’s messages, allowing you to make choices that increase your well-being. This type of yoga resonates with me. That’s why my trauma-informed yoga training infuses all of my classes. “It helps create a safe relationship with your body. It’s the breathing. It’s becoming safe to feel what you feel and to not run away from it. You learn to befriend your internal experience.” Bessel van der Kolk.

It would be my absolute honor to work with you. Please contact me if you are interested in a trauma-informed yoga class. I would be thrilled to be a part of your journey.

Please contact sandyk@betterdayyoga.com or cell: 612 708 6900)

PTSD POSTER

Metabolic Syndrome and PTSD:

Studies show that “Metabolic syndrome is elevated among veterans, says Wolf, with an estimated 25 percent affected. That number may be as high as 40 percent among people with PTSD.” Metabolic syndrome is “a constellation of symptoms including obesity, high blood pressure, abnormal blood lipids, and high blood sugar that can contribute to Type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, and even neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.” Click here for full article.  So for those who are looking for assistance in this area, my additional training includes:

A.C.E.® certified personal trainer

Canfitpro Healthy Eating and Weight Loss Coach

I offer a 12-week YogaLean Transformation Workshop for those looking to make a change, lose weight and gain vitality, de-clutter both physically and mentally, and learn to meditate for greater serenity. The YogaLean 12-week Transformation Workshop is available as either a private residence group class or on-site corporate class. See the YogaLean 12-week Transformation page for more details.