Finding Healing Through Yoga

This blog post was written by Abriel Schieffelers, Empower Project & Communications Manager

In recent blog posts, we’ve discussed the trauma of migration, poverty, and discrimination. These are all traumas we witness in the women we work with, and they show up in the day to day lives of these women.

Trauma changes our bodies, our responses to everyday stressors and stimuli, and our relationships to ourselves and others. People who have experienced trauma often view the world as a dark and evil place, where everyone is out to get them and they can’t trust anyone. If they have been living in situations of poverty and deprivation, they are constantly focused on survival. 

For women who have experienced intimate partner violence, trauma often takes root in their relationships and in their bodies. Many women are physically and emotionally numb after years of abuse, a coping mechanism they used to protect themselves from the abuse. Many women who have been abused have a negative relationship with their bodies, as it was the epicenter of the violence done against again. Indeed, survivors of trauma often develop autoimmune disorders or chronic pain as a result of their body being on “high alert,” and ready for fight or flight for so long, often even after the threat of harm is long gone. 

How do we address trauma that is rooted so deeply in the body?

Traditional talk therapy is of course helpful in addressing the damage that has been done, but many women are unable to put words to their experience and may experience cultural barriers that prevent them from being able to process their experience verbally.

There has been a lot of research done that has shown that body-based therapy, such as yoga, can be helpful for directly addressing the symptoms of PTSD and trauma that survivors experience. These symptoms can include flashbacks, dissociation, trouble sleeping, and more. 

Many of the women Oasis works with cannot access traditional talk therapy due to the the language or cultural barrier or due to their legal status. We understand that in the process of helping women access social services, apply for asylum, and provide for their children, we often risk re-traumatizing them by having them tell their stories over and over. We want to allow them to reclaim their bodies and their stories in a space where they have control, where they can be empowered to take time for themselves by breathing deeply, grounding themselves in the present moment, and gently re-learning to feel their bodies. 

We are excited to announce that we will soon be starting a project focused on yoga as a tool for dealing with post-trauma recovery in partnership with other Oasis hubs around the world!

The Empower project will work with women already served through the Welkom and Bienvenue projects with Thai and North African women. It will also focus on children with a migration background, many of which have also experienced violence in the family. 

If you’d like to support this project as it starts, please visit oasisbe.org/give and specify “Empower Project” in the description. If you are a yoga teacher in Brussels are are interested in volunteering your time and talents, please send an email to abriel.schieffelers@oasisbe.org