Therapeutic Yoga Artwork
Season 2 - Episode 3

Softening for Trauma and Anxiety

40 min - Practice


Cheri, with the help of Tina, guides us into and calming practice to help soften and relieve anxiety and trauma. She invites us to slow down and drop in with Constructive Rest Pose, before inviting us to explore some gentle movement through the body. You will feel held, grounded, and peaceful.
What You'll Need: Mat, Eye PIllow, Blanket (2)

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(waves crash) Namaste and thank you for joining us. This is Tina and, my friend Tina, and Tina and I are going to be sharing with you a practice today for anxiety and trauma. It's a very gentle practice, a few things to remember is to gather your props and you'll need just a couple of blankets and an eye pillow. If you'd like to use some aromatherapy, that can be nice and you'll set that eye pillow and aromatherapy close to where your head will be. And then make sure that you're in a safe practice space, that you put a note on the door, or lock the door, just be in a place where you can really go deep and feel very safe to relax.

So now we're gonna start with constructive rest pose. So you'll come onto your mat and you'll bring your blanket with you. You can come onto your back so your knees, feet are on the floor, you'll position one blanket up by your head so that will become your head and neck support, and then using your stomach muscles and turning your chin, or drawing your chin towards your chest, slowly recline back all the way. Once you come back, you can create a small roll to go right under you neck which often feels really nice, especially if you've had any neck injuries, or you may enjoy a flat blanket, or even fold it another fold if your head tends to tilt back, you'll fold it higher, as high as you need to so that your forehead is higher than your Adam's apple. And then go ahead and bend your knees and walk the feet in a little closer towards your sits bones to where they feel comfortable and then you'll step your feet apart wide and you'll turn the toes in, and this sort of helps to keep your feet from sliding.

And then just take a moment to really feel your legs resting together, the bones of the legs, and you'll take your second blanket at this point in time and just wrap it gently over your pelvis and over your legs and this creates a sort of feeling or protection, wrapping around, cocooning into this position. So once you're cocooned, you can take your eye pillow and place it over your eyes. And if by any chance you're not comfortable with the eye pillow over your eyes or closing your eyes in practice, that's fine. Another thing you can do is bring it up to your forehead, and especially for those of you that the trauma, your trauma gets triggered when your eyes are closed, this will still effect a pos, give a positive effect to the Vegas nerve which is directly connected to our parasympathetic nervous system response, turning off the stress response, so a little bit of weight can be good across the eyes, or over the eyes if you're comfortable with that. And then take a few moments here to tune inside, noticing how you feel.

And allowing your weight to sink down into the support beneath you. Imagining that you're in a cocoon of energy and within this cocoon, you're safe. It's protecting you and holding you, supporting you. And then as you feel into your inner body, notice the place for you, wherever that may be that tends to get triggered when you're feeling anxiety or stress, or panic. And take a moment to bring your hands to that area.

Feel the comfort in the self soothing that placing your hands brings. And begin to gently breathe into these areas the essence of peace and relaxation. And as you exhale, let the body soften, let these areas relax. Now sometimes when we're experiencing anxiety, the mind can be looped into a fearful thought or a concern or worry. There's a saying that when we're experiencing anxiety, we're often ahead of ourselves, we're in the future, and to things that maybe won't even happen, or we can be stuck in the past of a trauma that gets re-triggered.

So as you're breathing this way, you can take the visualization that as you're inhaling, you're filling these areas with peace and calm, with support, and as you exhale, you're breathing out that worry or fear. You're breathing out that traumatic experience, letting it go and even visualize it going down into the Earth. The Earth absorbs it and recycles it. And breathing in fresh oxygen, breathing in positive energy, and feeling your consciousness coming fully into this moment, which is all that exists. So letting go now of the past, releasing the future, and feeling that you're safe right now, right here, and resting in that feeling of peace.

And notice as you let go of the feeling of the Earth rising up to meet you as if holding you in a gentle embrace, sinking deeper and deeper into that soft support. As you feel the breath gently flowing in and flowing out. (breaths deeply) And still feeling the cocoon of protection, of safety encircling your whole physical form, the supportive energy, and begin to gently deepen your breath. And the deep breathing, especially focusing on a long exhalation can calm the nervous system and so taking a nice slow deep inhalation and then taking your time as you exhale, taking several these deep belly breaths, it can allow your belly to rise and expand as you inhale and to soften and relax as you exhale. And this is something I recommend doing a few times a day, just putting your hands on your body, checking in, noticing how you're feeling, and then taking this nice long deep belly breaths and slow soft exhalations and mentally reminding yourself that everything's all right, resting in that peaceful essence that always resides within.

It's one of the things that we touch into when we practice yoga, one of the gifts, is that beyond the trials and challenges and tribulations that arise in our life, as we go within, there's always a place of peace, calm, and healing that we can touch into. And we can experience those moments of stillness and sometimes in those moments of active and strong practice too. And so on your exhalation, you'll take it slow, you'll gently remove your blanket and you can draw your knees towards your chest, holding both knees with your hands. And this can be nice to gently rock form side to side here massaging across the low back and the hips. And one of the things that can be very helpful if you've experienced trauma is bilateral stimulation, the right and left stimulation, almost like a self EMDR or EFT tapping technique.

This happens in yoga naturally, even in a pose like this, so as you draw your knees to the right, turn your head to the left and then just let your rocking motion, that's it, from side to side to stimulate those two sides of the body. And we're gonna do another movement as well in just a moment that's a great bilateral stimulation through touch and movement. And noticing how this feels to your back, breathing those wonderful deep soothing breaths. And just a few more at your own pace. And it's often good if you have anxiety or a lot of stress in your life to slow down, to do everything a little slower than you normally do, bring in that quality of mindfulness which is very calming.

And then you'll gently roll onto your right side and once you roll onto your right side, you're gonna fold your blanket under your head and you'll maybe scoot towards the center of the mat a little bit. That's great. And then find for you, I'm gonna fold that one more notch, yeah. Find for you just the right position for your legs, so in this pose, you'll bend your knees so that they're about at a right angle and you can bring your feet out a little bit, almost like you're sitting in a chair, but you're lying on your side. And then you'll stretch your right arm straight out in front of you and you'll place your left hand on top.

And then as you're ready, you'll start to gently slide the left hand forward and then back making contact to actually massaging very lightly, very gently, but the fingers are making contact with the body, you'll slide the left hand all the way back and down the whole arm all the way back and rolling the shoulder back and then across the chest and heart, and then all the way forward again. So this is called the ocean wave, it's like a wave movement that you go as slow as an ocean wave, just nice and easy, the elbow can come up as you start to draw your left shoulder back and then you'll go back down. What's important is to keep the contact with your body, this also a self-soothing movement and we wanna create a really nice touch here to the heart, to the left and the right side of the body so as you cross all the way over to the left here, good you're getting that wonderful, now a stimulation of the right and left hemisphere of the brain. Good. Moving with your breath, feel the texture of your skin.

Let your awareness fully rest in the experience of the yoga here. And one more time all the way down massaging, and this is very good for the chest, the breast health, also the lymphatic system, and then once you come back, you're gonna roll back all the way into your twist. And we've got you a little far over, you might wanna scoot just a bit. Good. And then allowing the left shoulder to soften towards the Earth, the head can turn to the left.

You wanna make sure that the blanket isn't under your shoulder, so the shoulders can soften down here and really receive that wonderful opening through the chest. And then feel the pull of gravity softly opening the heart center. You might take a few deep breaths into any areas where you feel the body is tight or holding on the exhalation soften, let those areas let go and release. And sometimes in my own practice, I almost imagine it's like a piece of twine or yarn that's wrapped up tight and as I breathe into the area, it starts to unwind and unravel it and release it. But whatever image comes to you as you breathe into certain areas, it's not that we're actually breathing into that area, but we're focusing the prana and we're using imagery to help massage, to help unlock, to help bring awareness to that area, meeting it with our breath.

And then when you're ready, you'll just slowly roll onto your back, and you'll scootch your hips a little bit towards center and then a little bit as you are ready, you can come onto your left side, yeah and just centering yourself on your mat the best that you can, the blanket under your head, your legs at an angle. And now you'll take your left hand directly out from your heart center, and your right hand rests on top, and then you'll slide the right hand forward, so you wanna open the shoulder blades as you begin the movement and then as you come back you let that right shoulder start go back towards the floor. The hand comes across the breast all the way to the right side and all the way back down again following the path like an ocean wave flowing to the sea and then returning back to the shore and so finding your rhythm, moving slowly with your breath, allowing your full awareness to rest on your body, on the sensations you're experiencing, the touch. And noticing how you feel here, how this movement makes you feel. And the head will naturally rock, so it also creates a nice massage right across the base of the skull.

And just a few more here, keeping your contact the whole way. We're bringing in some self-massage and self-soothing that's so powerful we forget that we can massage our own body. The yoga definitely creates an internal massage, internal lubrication movement, but then the outer skin that has many nerves, and this is very soothing. And then the next time you come back you can let your arm unfold into a spinal twist and again, just making sure the blanket isn't too close to the shoulders, that your shoulder has space to soften and relaxing the right shoulder towards the Earth, even imagining sometimes, I imagine a root growing down through the back of the shoulder and helping to anchor it down and feel the twisting movement helping to wring out anything that you're ready to release, to cleanse. It's like a wringing out of a washcloth and that all just (exhales) flows out of you with the exhalation.

And take a few deep breaths here. And noticing how you feel, the sensation of the breath flowing in and out. And enjoying the deep release of being on the Earth, being on the Earth is so good for anxiety and trauma because when we are experiencing anxiety or stress, there's a tendency for our energy to go up and what we need to do is ground, so it can be helpful to feel your feet if you're standing or sitting, to sit, or to even get down on the ground when those experience arise. Take another deep breath here and then as you're ready, you'll roll gently onto your back. And you'll take your feet a little wider than hip width and this blanket folded can be quite nice for this next movement.

And this is windshield wiper, so we're taking that bilateral stimulation now down to the legs a bit and the head is still also going to move opposite to the movement of the legs. So you'll inhale with the knees facing the ceiling and the hands can be out to the sides in a T shape, they can be on your body, whatever feels the best to you. And then as you exhale, you'll relax the knees to the right, you'll turn head slowly to the left, relaxing them, not pushing them or forcing them, but just letting them go as far as they naturally go and then deep inhalation floating up to center, exhale as the head turns to the right and the knees relax to the left, and then moving with the rhythm of your own breath, so find that rhythm that feels connected to your inhalation coming to center, exhale moving into the twist. And feel the sensation of the right and left hip massaged, of the head turning opposite to the movement of the knees. You can even add another step here and you can turn your hands and especially if you have a lot mental anxiety, sometimes working with additional movements that really keep you focused.

You can turn one palm down as the other palm turns up and kind of go into a little more mindful movement. When we're moving mindlessly and quickly through poses, we're not as focused, so as you're moving slowly with your breath and you're turning the palms, one up, one down, and turning the head, takes a little more focus. And or if you're preferring to just let the hands rest and then upward or downward position, you're welcome to stay like that. These gentle practices have the ability to calm the nervous system and you know, we live in such a time of so much stimulation and the nervous system gets overwrought with too much stimuli, so this quiets the mind, these are meditative movements, meditative postures that help to quiet and to calm. Let the face soften.

Another very helpful technique is to take the tongue to the top of the pallet, just beneath the front teeth or above the front teeth and this is used in chi gong and tai chi in many practices effects the glands in the head, pituitary penial but it also's really helpful for anxiety. It softens the jaw and the eyes as well and that's something you can do when you're out and about and you start to feel challenged, you can breath that deep long exhalation, lightly touch the tongue to the pallet to the roof of the mouth and let the jaw go, and that's also really helpful. This practice is a little difficult to do the movement of the head with your eye pillow on. You can always put it on your belly or other places too if you like. And then as you're completing here, you can slowly return back to center.

And we're gonna do a wall free waterfall now. So you'll take your blanket and you'll take your knees towards your chest and then you're gonna hold the blanket with both hands and put it right around the bottoms of your feet and you'll extend your legs straight. So you can do this with a strap too but I wanted to show how you can use it with a blanket. Now this can also be a nice pose to put an eye pillow either on your forehead or over the eyes if you like, and hat I like to do here is straighten the arms and walk the hands up the (mumbles) blanket or the strap so that you can then draw the shoulders down and get a little release in the joints, the wrists, and the elbows. And then she'll start to just draw the legs towards her for stretching the hamstrings a bit more and this can be nice if you sit a lot.

This area can get very tight and congested so feeling the spaciousness in the back of the legs and you can let the secrum start to draw down, the triangular bone at the very base of the spine, just let that anchor down into the Earth and then feel free to wag or move a little bit here, jiggle, or whatever feels good. You can play with and explore in this particular pose, the movements that feel good to your back and to your legs. And some people like to just rest in this stillness. You can also feel free to use a wall or if you have a wall nearby, you wanted to scoot towards instead of the wall free waterfall, but you don't have a wall easy access, this can be a nice alternative. And then you'll just let your legs straighten and let them come right over your hips for a few moments, we're gonna rest here in this variation.

That's it, and that will help to draw the hips down, to really ground through the hips and pelvis, let the shoulders stay relaxed and the breath deep and you can hold however feels comfortable, however you can relax here with the legs extended. And noticing the sensation of circulation moving from the legs towards the belly, soothing the belly, flowing up towards the heart, nourishing the heart. Inverting the body is great for bringing clarity to the mind, blood flow oxygenation to the brain. And because we, our backs tend to get very tired from being upright, this is a really nice release for the back if your back's tight or tender, it can be a great pose to do. And relaxing even more deeply, taking a few more moments here.

And then as you're done, you can draw your knees towards your chest and you'll take your blanket now length wise to go over your legs and then you're gonna bring your feet to the floor and then slide your legs all the way in front of you. So we're coming now into the deep relaxation, the end of the practice and a time for a very nice grounding, talk about a perfect pose for grounding, getting your whole body on the Earth and enhancing that feeling of feeling safe as you cocoon with your blanket over you and this can be a nice time if you're using aromatherapy to take your aromatherapy, put a drop on your hand. So one of the, a few of the oils that are really good for anxiety are rose, lavender, and ylang ylang. They tend to be good choices. Sandalwood's also really nice for meditation.

If you don't have any essential oil, you're welcome to rub your hands together and take some deep breaths, massage your jaw, or bring your hands to your body, anything that feels good here, soothing is good to do right before you move into your deep relaxation. And sometimes, I'll even tuck in a little bit in deep relaxation cause it can really give a feeling of being held and so you can do this yourself, or get the blanket with your legs and just kinda kick it in. So once you're all tucked in and you've anointed yourself and breathed in the oil, or massaged yourself, you'll take a few moments to feel where your body wants to be, so it may want to be open, which is the traditional position for savsana, for deep relaxation. Or you may wanna return to the places that you had your hands, reconnecting, reaffirming that peace and calm that you've been cultivating in your practice and take a moment to also reconnect with the, with that light that you cocooned into at the beginning of practice, that place where you're held in safety, in warmth, in healing energy. And as you visualize this beautiful radiant light encompassing your whole body, feel the essence it holds for you, whatever it is that you most need.

And feel it flowing in as if coming in through the pores of your skin, drawing it in with each breath, feeling the light illuminating any places of tenderness, any areas that have been wounded. Feel the power this light has to support you, to nurture you. And as you feel the groundedness of the Earth, you also feel the weightlessness, the lightness of this energy that is holding you. And allowing yourself to rest and rejuvenate in the light. As you feel ready, you can begin to slowly deepen your breath.

Feeling the light supporting you now and reawakening and coming back with each breath a little more fully present, feeling rested and relaxed. And you can begin to turn your head slowly from side to side, reawakening movement, wiggling your fingers and toes, and feel free to stretch in whatever way feels good to you. And you can eventually draw your knees back in towards your chest. You can, either keep the blanket on, or you can remove it if you like. And then rocking again from side to side just for a few moments here.

And then keeping your eyes closed as you're ready, you'll roll onto your side and you'll give yourself a warm embrace taking your arms around yourself. Another nice choice, if your eye pillows come off is you can always take your top hand or bottom hand to your forehead. This is very good for trauma, and one hand to the heart can be nice, but see what feels the best to you. And feeling the peacefulness that you've cultivated, the quietness, and noticing the gifts of your practice. And then when you're feeling ready to come back up to seated, you'll roll forward a little bit and press your top hand down into the floor and come up with a heavy head, your neck is relaxed.

Go ahead. Take your time as you come up, you'll return slowly to your seated position and you can come, sit on your blanket or whatever you have handy. And I'd like to close with an ohm, in sending that vibration of the ohm into your being, the sacred sound of ohm. Now take a deep breath. â?« Ohm â?« Namaste.


Kit S
1 person likes this.
Loved this. The gentle movements and self soothing with touch were wonderful. And much as I love restorative yoga, it was nice to not have so many props to move around. Thank you Cheri!
Cheri Clampett C-IAYT
Thanks Kit, I so appreciate your feedback! I'm glad you liked the practice having minimal props and self soothing touch. It's wonderful be with you on the mat! With love xoxo
Katelyn C
Thank you so much for this beautiful practice! I have been struggling with PTSD and this has helped soothe my soul! xox
Cheri Clampett C-IAYT
Dear Katelyn, I know healing from PTSD can take patience and compassion. I'm so glad to hear you this practice helped soothe your soul! Sending my best wishes for your continued healing. Much love xoxo
Cyndi R
1 person likes this.
Thank you so very much for this sequence Cheri! It's absolutely amazing for me to be guided by you again and my heart is overflowing with joy and appreciation. (I'm not sure if you remember me but I did your therapeutic yoga teacher training in West Hartford CT in 2011.) I can't wait to practice your other sequences! I hope you are well. Much gratitude, love and peace xoxo
Cheri Clampett C-IAYT
Hello Cyndi, It's so good to hear from you! Thank you for your sweet note. It's so wonderful to know that I am with you on the mat through Yoga Anytime. I hope your teaching is going well. I trust you are continuing to transform many lives through your inspirational story! Sending my love your way xoxo
Sonia G
Thank you very much for this gentle intention and sweetly powerful cocoon.
Cheri Clampett C-IAYT
Dear Sonia,
I'm sorry of the delay in getting back to you. Thank you for sharing your experience of the practice for Trauma and Anxiety. I hope you will continue to put yourself in a beautiful cocoon that will make you feel safe and peaceful. Sending my heartfelt best wishes...
Kate L
Wow--what a beautiful yoga session. So calming and relaxing. Loved it!
Cheri Clampett C-IAYT
Dear Kate, I'm so glad you enjoyed and appreciated this yoga session. Thank you so much for posting your comment, it's great to hear from you! Sending my love...
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