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Mind-body healing: Find greater stabilisation of emotions and sensations.

Traditionally, therapy focuses on the role of the mind as influencing physical wellbeing; however, a mind-body approach to trauma recovery is now recognised as essential to successful treatment. We simply cannot think our way out of our innate, physiological stress and trauma responses. In other words, it is important to engage in techniques that focus on sensations and emotions in order to create greater stabilisation or access the way that trauma is held in the body. Below are a few approaches to try, starting with breathing.

Breathing with your belly

Diaphragmatic or deep breathing is a type of a breathing exercise that helps strengthen your diaphragm, an important muscle that helps you breathe. This breathing exercise is also sometimes called belly breathing or abdominal breathing. It has a number of benefits that affect your entire body. It’s the basis for almost all meditation or relaxation techniques, which can lower your stress levels, reduce your blood pressure, and regulate other important bodily processes.

Being stressed keeps your immune system from working at full capacity. This can make you more susceptible to numerous conditions. Watch the video below to see how to do diaphragmatic breathing.

What is Bilateral Stimulation?

Bilateral stimulation is stimuli (visual, auditory or tactile) which occur in a rhythmic left-right pattern. For example, visual bilateral stimulation could involve watching a hand or moving light alternating from left to right and back again. Auditory bilateral stimulation could involve listening to tones that alternate between the left and right sides of the head.

What does bilateral stimulation do?

Bilateral stimulation is a core treatment element of Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy and a process which distinguishes EMDR from any other method. While there is still a lot to learn about this amazing process, it can be said that it produces four main effects:

1. A relaxation effect including decreased physiological arousal. 2. Increased attentional flexibility (meaning that your thoughts become less ‘stuck’ on whatever was bothering you). 3. Distancing effect (meaning that the problem seems smaller and further away). 4. Decreased worry.

These effects are experienced as a ‘bottom-up’ cascade of changes meaning that they are experienced in the lower areas of the brain first, as a physiological response (i.e. decreased tension) then travel ‘up’ the brain leading to mental changes (e.g. decreased worry). Because this order works with how the brain normally processes information, the effects are often experienced more quickly and easily than with say top-down strategies such as insight and conscious introspection. Check out a simple BLS exercise below called the butterfly hug.


Negative images can have a negative effect on us, such as increasing stress, raising blood pressure and disrupting our digestion. On the flip side, positive images can have a positive effect, such as lowering blood pressure, decreasing stress and improving digestion. Therefore, we can create positive images in our mind in order to alter physical sensations and emotions within our body.

The safe place is a common imagery exercise used in trauma focused therapy. When you feel stressed or anxious you imagine being in your own safe or peaceful place. Check out the video below to find out more about it.

Trauma Sensitive Yoga

The goal of Trauma Sensitive Yoga is to befriend, reconnect with and feel empowered in your body. In a safe and predictable environment, you are invited to notice sensations, experiment with movement and breathing, and practice making choices about what is right for you. Further, by focusing on the felt sense of the body to inform choice- making, Trauma Sensitive Yoga enables participants to restore their connection of mind and body and cultivate a sense of agency that is compromised as a result of trauma. Here is a short class using trauma sensitive yoga techniques:


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