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Notes From The Trauma-Sensitive Yoga 10 Week Course. Week Eight: Emotion in our Bodies (Part Two)

Updated: Jun 16, 2022

(Facilitator notes from the 10-week course)

Previous Week Recap

James-Lang Theory of Emotion

1. Our bodies play a major role in producing emotions

2. Emotion and feeling are distinct- emotion is the feeling intertwined with thought

3. The emotion can be primed by unconscious or conscious cues

A lot of the work we do in a yoga practice is associated with bringing awareness to the feelings in our bodies- interoception.

Interoception can be conceptualised into components:

1. Performance / awareness- being able to notice

2. The accuracy of someone’s subjective experience (e.g., hyper or hypo sensitive)

3. Insight- is the combination of the 2, which leads to interoceptive awareness

1 and 3 are most important for trauma processing

As mentioned last week, an individual’s emotional processing style may reflect differences in interoceptive abilities, for example. Higher levels of interoceptive accuracy are associated with:

- More aware of body states associated with emotions

- We are better able to localisation body experiences associated with an emotion

- Better at distinguishing and verbalising emotional states

As soon as we can, somewhat, objectively observe our bodily emotional experiences this gives us space to verbalise our experience. In that process we simplify the feelings and, as a consequence, become better able to manage the experience.

The effect of trauma on body memories

A trauma memory, at its core, is a strong emotion/body reaction linked to mental aspects of an event. Trauma can result in a disconnect resulting in two distinct experiences:

1. I’ve spoken with individuals who can calmly describe their trauma in great detail while being disconnected from their emotional reactions. All feeling has been removed from the thought.

2. Conversely, there are also people who have strong bodily emotional reactions, triggers, without the connection to a coherent memory grounded in space and time. That is, they may experience emotional triggers without memory of what is causing the trigger. Or they may experience memories that are fragmented (e.g., discrete cues such as sounds, feelings, smells) and/or memories that feel like they are happening in that moment.

In trauma sensitive yoga we work somatically- we practice bringing awareness to body sensations. As discussed over the course this can serve a number of purposes:

1. We practice physical awareness to build interoceptive accuracy and awareness

2. We build tolerance to sensations

3. We might develop a new relationship in our body by noticing body sensations that aren’t negative

4. Being able to use body sensations as an anchor can help shift our attention from maladaptive thoughts into the present moment.

5. We can gain more detailed awareness of sensations, including emotional, which can help simplify the experience.

The therapeutic process- body resolution

It's thererised that if we can hold our attention on body sensations- they change. The act of observing has a therapeutic element. In fact, this has been observed in sciences outside of psychology. Specifically, in quantum mechanics that particle characteristics of electrons change when being viewed.

When experiencing strong emotions- it’s not uncommon for attention to shift away from the body to verbal thoughts, imagery, dissociation. In our trauma-sensitive yoga practice we are developing our capacity to hold our attention on our physical experience and in the moment.

An observation of body emotions will inherently change an emotions impact pattern. The impact pattern includes properties like:

1. Duration

2. Intensity

3. Severity

4. Qualitative valence- its emotional charge

5. Complexity

It’s been suggested that symptoms of trauma are a manifestation of unfinished events (e.g., Peter Levine). The root of the word of emotion, Emovere, means to move out. For many, the ability to sit with a physical body experience is part of the resolution process.

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