The practice of yoga is said to have originated from Northern India nearly 5,000 years ago. It wasn’t until the 1980s that yoga became popular in the Western World. Yoga, a form of moving meditation, has many physical, mental, and emotional benefits for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
Recently, researchers have begun to explore the efficacy of yoga and other mindfulness interventions in healing the trauma of sexual abuse. The practice of trauma-sensitive yoga is centered on connecting the mind and the body, a connection that is often shattered by trauma such as childhood sexual abuse. Studies have shown that practicing yoga can be effective in reducing depression, anxiety, psychological distress, sleep issues, and other somatic complaints .
It is widely understood that trauma, such as childhood sexual abuse, leaves an impression on the mind and body. Survivors of abuse often battle hyperarousal, hypervigilance, and being unable to calm their thoughts . Yoga can serve as a mechanism to help regulate physical and emotional responses, which may lead to a deeper connection between the mind and body.
Practicing yoga has been associated with a reduction in several symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, particularly avoidant coping strategies . Avoidant coping strategies often include abusing substances to numb emotions, and suppressing intrusive thoughts, feelings, or memories. Sexual abuse can leave survivors feeling disconnected from their own bodies. Yoga can help mend this connection and allow survivors to regain a healthier relationship with their bodies.
Although yoga has potential in healing the scars of sexual abuse, every survivor is different, and there is no single approach to healing. Rather, yoga is an additional tool for survivors to consider within their individual paths to healing.