Photo by Miguel Guzman at the 2018 Sedona Yoga Festival’s “Yoga for PTSD Training”
By Erin Byron
To large or small degrees, each of us lives with some form of trauma. In the past week, I’ve heard people identify trauma from common (though painful) life events such as parenting sleepless children, euthanizing a pet, or the illness of a loved one.
It is traumatic to go through a shock or profound loss in life. Are there ways to lessen the impacts or prepare ourselves? Research on PTSD and trauma say YES!
It is noteworthy that, while there may be a clinical difference between PTSD and trauma, the ways to ease their impact are the same. At the SYF Yoga for PTSD Training, numerous voices offer countless strategies, and the science behind them, to support you and your loved ones in healing trauma.
While we wait for March 14-17 to arrive, pick one of the following 3 ideas and start doing it today and let us know what happens when we see you at SYF2019. Betcha there’s a difference!
Do this first one anytime, anywhere to prevent or shift this…
1. Adapt your breath.
Notice I did not say, “Take a deep breath.” While a 5-count-in, 5-count-out isan adaptation away from shallow breathing, it is not the only option.
Instead, you can see what happens if you move only the abdomen instead of only the chest. Maybe you could sound the exhale or inhale with an ujjayi breath. I sometimes breathe out a merry “Ahhhhhh”, beginning on a high note and ending low.
There are infinite combinations of breathwork. Throughout the day, simply change how you are breathing and notice what happens.
The next idea arises from a yoga for PTSD study. Yoga is continually proven to help reduce traumatic symptoms. What I love about this study is the awareness and self-reliance.
2. Listen to your body and make your own choices in yoga class.
A study by Bessel van der Kolk, Laura Stone, and other researchers (2014) showed that when yoga students were invited to have curiosity about their bodily sensations and make their own choices about how long to stay in a pose, their PTSD improved.
In fact, by the end of the study, 52% of the yoga participants no longer met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD! The yoga and their self-reliant practice had a dramatic improvement on their quality of life.
The final tool is simple. It is gentle, takes very little time, and can bring huge benefits to the mind, nervous system, and body.
“That’s me, at the Yoga for PTSD Training at the 2018 Sedona Yoga Festival.” Photo by Miguel Guzman
3.Use firm pressure to rub in foot lotion before bed.
That’s it?! Yes, it could change your life. Do this for 5 days and wait for revelations. (Bonus points for using sesame or coconut oil with a few drops of an appealing essential oil. I like orange and rosemary oils with a soupcon of ginger.)
Whichever of these 3 options you choose, I hope you have fun applying the new tool. Once it feels secure or habitual, begin to apply the next tool. You can return to this list or inspire yourself with other ideas.
For a wealth of ideas, research, and direct experience with effective practice, please join me and my friends and colleagues March 14 – 17 at the Sedona Yoga Festival, Yoga for PTSD Training. I can’t wait to learn, teach, and commune with you!
Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD; Laura Stone, MA; Jennifer West, PhD; Alison Rhodes, MWS Med; David Emerson, MA; Michale Suvak, PhD; and Joseph Spinazzola, PhD. Yoga as an Adjunctive Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2014; 75(6): e559-65.
About the Author: Erin Byron
Erin’s Master of Arts research studied the benefits of Yoga practices in coping with Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and the literary review of the study equipped her for helping people with a range of physical and mental health concerns.
Erin is grateful for the opportunity to support others on their personal growth paths.
Photo: Alan Alcid Yogi’s Vo Vera & LaMonte Goode Inverted in the Vortex
What can you expect at SYF2017…?
Photo: Alan Alcid Yogini Taylor Kurz
Well, the conference and festival itself evolves each year so there’s lots we will be unfolding in late September about the Who, What, When,and Where of it all. But the WHY remains steady. We create and nurture this platform and the relationships built within and around it for the purpose of uplifting and expanding human consciousness and providing Sedona transformations with a focus on yoga and meditation.
SYF is accessible to all, and there is truly an access point for the newest beginner as well as in depth networking, studying, practice, and continuing education opportunities for the professional. We believe this intermingling leads to authentic and powerful interactions.
Photo: Alan Alcid Taylor Kurz @ Bell Rock Vortex… Flying.
Have a look at the SYF2016 pages to get a taste of what’s to come in March 2017. We hope you will join us in Sedona, where the magic happens…
UPDATED: 8/26/16 – wow! we have gotten HUGE response from this post! Thank you SO MUCH!!! Over the last few days, this article has received 1000’s of views from all over the world… We are so grateful to be seen as one of the top yoga festivals in the world. Please, leave a comment… like, tweet, share. SYF is here for you… are you ready to continue your evolution?
Sedona, Arizona… The undisputed spiritual mecca of the American Southwest, red rock canyons, spires to inspire, the water element of Oak Creek Canyon, and of course, the ENERGY. No matter your beliefs or background, Sedona is sure to make you feel something. And it has been known since time immemorial to support human transformation. Indigenous tribes frequented the area for ceremony and gathering, yet lived in the distant canyons. It is palpable.
People have been coming here, to this small enclave in Northern Arizona for decades now to enjoy its intrinsic stillness and beauty. Some are called, others hear about the healing and transformational energies, regardless those who find themselves here have an experience. Transformational. Growth. Expansion. Letting Go. Manifesting Dreams. Creating New Habits & Experiences… And more are possible! These are just some reasons SFY is ranked as one of the top yoga festivals in the world!
We have seen now 1000’s in attendance at the SYF, a consciousness evolution conference, bearing witness to the extraordinary experiences attendees are having. It never ceases to amaze me the ear to ear grins on everyone’s faces, as they move gracefully between classes, or the light in someone’s eyes as they tell me about talking to their favorite teacher for the first time, and best of all, when someone shares that they mark their current evolution as beginning at SYF. I have heard product designers stories of getting their big break while networking in our heart center vendor villages and teachers who connected with a new tribe… Really, anything is possible here. All that’s needed is you.
Coffee Pot Rock • Sedona • AZ • Home of one of the top Yoga Festivals in the World.
SYF was created to support you in your transformation! You see, I had been practicing for over a decade when I moved to Sedona, AZ to deepen my practice and become a yoga teacher. To make a long story short, I Love YOGA (it has saved me from myself over and over) and I Love Sedona. Yoga in Sedona is an absolutely mind-blowing combination. Since we both know just how important it is to be held and nurtured during these breakthroughs, Heather and I decided to hold a vision for SYF to be a safe place for sharing, where someone like me could come and be exposed to something very powerful AND be sheltered in a womb of safety, security, compassion and serenity. Our fifth annual Sedona Yoga Festival a consciousness evolution conference is next March and all feedback has shown this event is a place where anyone can come and have an experience of Yoga… Young, Old, Weak, Strong, Firm, Infirm, Stable, Unstable, Happy, Sad… There is something for everyone regardless of being a beginner or advanced student and Heather always says, “you can go all weekend without doing a lick of asana…” There is nothing to fear here. It’s safe.
It’s what we share… Authentic Yoga from Authentic Yogis.
Every year, we are asked numerous times by the 100’s of applicants who apply to share an offering with you at SYF, “what do you need me to teach…?” Our reply has always been… “Whatever LIGHTS you up… whatever has inspired you the most… whatever your PASSION is.” And that is what you will receive at SYF, a teacher’s deepest experience, something that has transformed their lives for the better. Something, whose profound effect on themselves has been distilled into a workshop or class. This is authenticity at it’s finest (imho), and that’s what you are getting at SYF.
Past SYF Presenters
Master Teachers, too! Every year, SYF’s Vanguard Master Teachers are chosen with you in mind. These teachers all have decades of practice, experience and teaching under their belts and they are here just for YOU! (some don’t do many yoga festivals and you may only be able to see them here…) Imagine that. When I began my practice, Yoga Festivals weren’t happening yet, save for the Yoga Journal Conferences, and all these master teachers I was reading about seemed so FAR AWAY… Out of reach, for me, the mere mortal practicing to Inhale with Steve Ross on TV. It wasn’t until many years later that I began to interact with these living links to the ancient masters and I realized just how special it was to share a live class, or even better a conversation with a Master Teacher!
Past SYF Presenters
Intimate setting… You will be able to bump into Master Teacher Mark Whitwell in the halls of our Event Venue (he’s really tall!…) Or share an intimate meditation with Steve Ross, of Maha Yoga in a classroom that holds 30. Ask Rama Vernon what it was like showing Mr. Iyengar around shortly after his arrival to the United States. You see, SYF is held in a single event venue and we will all be together on this AUMazing journey… Whether you get to hang out after class or sit with someone for tea or go for a hike on the Red Rocks, it will all be rooted at the Collective Sedona & Hilton Resort Sedona Bell Rock in the southern outskirts of Sedona. Indoors or out, you will find somewhere special to just be!
Sedona: Destination Transformation
Prayer Wheel by Dexx
Sedona has been nurturing transformation since time immemorial; Native American tribes came to this valley for ceremony long before anyone else showed up! The energy of the land here is very conducive to support you through whatever transformation is on your horizon. Our team and Angel Support staff are also dedicated to fostering an environment that supports you in your experience of transformation; along with myself and Heather, we have created an experience for you… check out our new yoga retreat center, Aumbase Sedona.
Bonus – Optional integrated 20-hour training for Yoga teachers “Traumatic Stress: Resiliency and Healing with Yoga” is designed to provide teachers with the skills to share yoga with First Responders, Veterans, trauma survivors, PTSD and TBI sufferers and many more. This 20 hour track is integrated into the SYF experience with full access to the conference outside of the intensive held on Thursday all day, and on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings, allowing plenty of time for integration and reflection be it on the land or in other classes and workshops, among all festival attendees. (a first amongst yoga festivals, we aim to assist in transformations and providing these trainings insure we are creating a positive impact in peoples lives who suffer from oft-debilitating effects of PTSD and other stress-related mental illness or those who choose to serve this population. It is our way of creating a positive impact in the world with the SYF platform. Click here to see last years training.
You are going to have the most amazing, auspicious, synchronistic, wholistic, healing, fun AND transformative experience at SYF. One that, like many before you, will likely not be your last, nor something you ever forget. Past SYF Attendees all made the choice to come the first time and now we see them every year! The experience was just too powerful not to return and now better than 80% come back year after year. Whether yoga festivals are your thing or not, consider Sedona as your next Yoga Destination by attending the Sedona Yoga Festival or check out the other cool things the team behind this consciousness evolution conference is up to. All things Yoga in Sedona.
They now know just how powerful the experience is, how supported they are and how much better their lives become after … and you will too!
Click HERE for the latest blog – “Magic Portal, Winter Solstice”
My shoes hiking in Sedona Nov 2014.
This is where I live, and all I see is grey… My body pulses with electricity like current that activates every fiber of my being. My mind begins to panic, yet it, receiving stimulus from my senses, should be reporting to me that everything is ok; there is no threat.
Then why do I just want to explode out of my body, so tense… ready for action, taut as a wire and pulsed to manage… something.
Iron 44 Crash Site (Aug 2008)
But, there is no threat. No something… just the grey, foggy, unreal reflection of what my eyes are seeing at that moment. Today, the tears came again finally when talking to a former colleague about the worst aviation fatality incident in wildland fire history. Iron 44. To me, it matters, yet the story is not necessary to tell. It was traumatic, stressful and life threatening. It involved fellow firefighters (9) perishing in the line of duty, in a horrible way. There was chaos and confusion. It all happened in an instant and the aftermath begins. Hundreds of people counting on me, depending on me to keep my shit together… So, I did.
And so does each and every First Responder, Police Officer, Wildland Firefighter, EMT, Paramedic, and all the likes… Volunteer or paid, these men and woman are the front lines of this countries community safety and well-being, risking life and limb, placing themselves in harms way, so that others may come through, whatever the threat may be. These people give all of themselves in selfless service; putting mind, body and spirit through enormous amounts of stress, trauma, fatigue, and physical and emotional extremes. These are our countries unsung heroes; veterans in service of managing domestic incidents.
In the line of duty, each and every service has it’s own very unique and distinctive threats and situations that personnel must deal with, along with the things that they will see and experience. Most people not in these lines of work, will likely have no idea what these men and woman face each day and the things they must do in order to do the work and keep their shit together. But, that will only matter if you choose to serve them and you begin to see the anguish and pain in their eyes. Then, empathy will be your friend and allow you to guide these fragmented beings into a place of peace.
I can now officially say, I have suffered from PTSD. It has had a debilitating effect on my life, relationships, work… absolutely every aspect of life. I have experienced anxiety and panic attacks that have put me to my knees. I have had suicidal thoughts and put away sharp objects. It is very, veryreal. And, at the same time, it isn’t. I haven’t been on an incident in over 2 years and it has been 6 years since Iron 44. Every day stresses can put me over the edge and I have come to find out, that when that happens, something occurs in my neurophysiology that makes me believe I am back there, where the real stress and trauma happened. In that instant, now and then becomes a reality that at times, I can witness and talk myself through. Others, I can’t and then it is freak out city…
No human being should have to experience this… No One should have to wonder each day if today’s the day I lose it… Hurt my family, my friends… Loved ones.
Will today be a good day or a bad day… Will something trigger me and I lose track to where I am… That there is no danger right now… Yet all my physiology is reporting to my messed up mind is DANGER… And my body knows no different.
I can’t tell you how disturbing it is… How powerless and lost it makes me feel. And how enormous the climb out of this pit of despair looks…
That is the conundrum… Life goes on… Passing me by.
So, here’s the thing: the efficacy of Yoga, Meditation and other mindfulness practices as treatment and prevention has been beyond proven in our scientific community, as well as described in the ancient texts of this thousands of years old science. Whether known, diagnosed or not, our community service men and woman are, will or have a strong likelihood to experience some form of Post-Traumatic Stress and its related illnesses and mood disorders. Having experienced first hand the devastating effects this issue can have on peoples lives, on families and communities, I strongly believe that no one should have to suffer from these cumulative stresses that have such profound effects on the human body, mind and spirit.
Program Director, Olivia Kvitne
We have the ability to manage this; there are many tools available, most rooted in Yoga, Meditation & Mindfulness. We have the infinite ability to heal. Our bodies, minds and spirit ,life itself, imbibed through form known as I… This is an energetic fact. As the sky is Blue, Mark Whitwell would say. Undeniable. So, how do we get there? “This training bridges the gap between the yoga community and a population that may not have considered yoga as an effective and accessible tool to address their needs,” says Olivia Kvitne, Program Director of this year’s SYF Gives Back training. “I am proud to bring together top authorities in psychology, neuroscience and trauma-sensitive yoga to create a down-to-earth and science-based yoga system that can benefit our nation’s everyday heroes.”
But, how weird is that? There can be resistance from this population, so used to suppressing and muscling through.
Exec. Dir. GBYF, Rob Schware
Rob Schware, Executive Director of Give Back Yoga Foundation says, “No one should feel weird about doing yoga, especially first responders who experience injury, trauma, and death. This is the first intensive training to mobilize hundreds of yoga teachers and yoga therapists to come out of their studios and offices and bring their knowledge and skills into police and fire departments.
So, again, here’s the thing: there is no “my trauma is better/worse than your trauma…” or “just power through it…” or “it can’t happen to me…” or “I’m Fine…” Cause matters not. Trauma and stress-inducing incidents, that often involve actual life threat create the same physiological response. And, therein, lies the solution.
One faculty member, Bhava Ram aka Brad Willis, is a former award winning network news war correspondent. A broken back ended his career. After a subsequent diagnosis of terminal cancer he embraced mind/body/spirit medicine and the deeper sciences of Yoga and Ayurveda, through which he ultimately healed against all odds. As a yoga teacher he now shares the message that we all have the inner power to heal. “As one who was on the front lines of conflicts and crises in Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa and Central America, I can attest to the fact that yoga gave me the strength to lift myself out of an abyss of profound physical and mental anguish and ultimately find new meaning and purpose in life.”
Me… back in the day, Mt Rainier NP, WA. (hiking in because 10 minutes earlier we almost crashed at the helispot…)
I am getting better. Over the years in service there were perhaps 100’s of close calls, life threats, death, trauma and stress, I just buried it all, apparently. I have sought help and receive enormous support from my family, friends and community. I have personally experienced the wisdom and guidance of Bhava Ram and with his, and many others assistance am making progress. There is a solution… and I invite you to please share, comment, post, repost, talk about in your community and in general send out the blessings to these men and woman who put it on the line for us… May we never forget.
Marc Titus, Founder & Director
Sedona Yoga Festival Former Wildland Firefighter & Aviation Manager on a SW Area Type 1 Incident Management Team