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Yoga to the rescue for those with PTSD

Trauma and stress can take a toll on more than just a person’s psychological health. They can burrow their way into the muscles and the joints.
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Kelly Heppner leads a noon hour cyclefit class in the Fitness Centre at CFB Edmonton February 11, 2019.

Trauma and stress can take a toll on more than just a person’s psychological health. They can burrow their way into the muscles and the joints.

That’s why the Military Family Resource Centre at Edmonton Garrison is inviting serving members, first responders, their families and the public in general to take in one of two upcoming trauma sensitive yoga workshops.

Jennifer Subchuk, the community recreation co-ordinator at the MFRC’s community recreation centre, said they already have a wide variety of programs and services that specifically deal with anything related to physical and mental health, but yoga is a new addition in the area of healing. Having trauma sensitive yoga teacher Cindy Hunt on board confirmed that the workshops could be offered with the proper guidance.

“It was a great opportunity for us to blend information with yoga practice,” Subchuk said.

Hunt said her training has made her acutely aware of the challenges of living with the physiological effects of PTSD. She comes from a police family herself, so her sensitivity to the issue has been in development her entire life.

“I was quite interested ... because I have some clients dealing with post-traumatic stress and it was specifically an interest to me to learn more on that side of things and to be able to offer this kind of a workshop to family members,” she said.

The workshops run from noon to 2 p.m. on both Feb. 23 and March 16. Each one will start with a presentation and discussion on how trauma affects our physical bodies and how yoga can help undo those effects. Participants will also learn more about what a trauma sensitive approach to yoga is before Hunt leads them into a gentle “all levels” yoga practice, where she says there will be more of a flowing movement “where you're encouraged to move flow in and out” while focusing on different techniques to release stress held deeply in the key areas such as the hip flexor muscles and the shoulders where most people tend to hold a lot of stress.

Yoga, Hunt continued, doesn’t only focus on the affected part of the body. It sees the whole person from the inside out, and that includes the person’s mind.

“One of the common denominators in all traumas is alienation and disconnection from the body with a reduced capacity to be present in the here and now. In trauma, the body's alarm system turns on and never quite turns back off. Mind-body activities such as yoga that focus on keeping the individual in the present moment and focusing on the internal self, including movement based therapies, have proven to be successful tools in helping individuals heal from trauma and PTSD," Hunt said.

“The more I studied yoga, the more I realized the connection between mind and body and the impact that practicing yoga was so important. Due to the nature of first responder/military work, these people are typically exposed to higher rates of traumatic events than the general public. Officers are repeatedly exposed to traumatic incidents, which can put them at a greater risk for operational stress injuries, including PTSD. This stress is often extended to the family members and friends as they deal with hearing, witnessing and processing their loved ones stories/behaviours,” she added.

People can stay just for the discussion if they like, too, just to prove that the organizers really mean it when they say that they understand your stress and how important it is to relax.

“Sometimes, people dealing with PTSD can feel trapped or stuck. It is important we give them some freedom to make decisions,” Hunt said.

The centre has other programs and facilities it offers to military and non-military members. There are lots of fitness and recreational programs including swimming and lifesaving lessons, group fitness classes, a weight room and running track, plus a rock climbing wall as examples. The facility has other yoga and meditation courses too.

Pre-registration is preferred as space is limited to 16. Call the centre at 780-973-4011 (ext. 4392) or visit to sign up. It’s free for inclusive members, $25 for corps members, and $30 for non-members. The Fitness Centre is located at Mons Avenue and R.R. 244 at the Garrison.

Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.
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