Transcending Trauma with Yomassage



Use of safe touch to help people with PTSD  

During a trip to Rwanda, it struck me: how we respond to trauma is the same, no matter where we live, no matter our cultural differences, no matter our individual lived experiences, or the particular trauma itself. In PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), our sympathetic nervous system—the part of us that responds automatically to danger—is stuck in the “on” position, in constant fight-flight-or-freeze mode.

Breaking free of fight-flight-or-freeze

One way to turn off the sympathetic nervous system is through safe touch. Studies conducted by Dr. Tiffany Fields have shown that only 15 minutes per day of safe touch can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels while stimulating the hippocampus (memory center) and causing the release of “happiness” hormones like oxytocin.

Another way to help people get out of fight-flight-or-freeze mode is through yoga. A review of the literature by Rhodes, et al found that “more frequent yoga practice over extended periods may augment and sustain decreases in symptoms of both PTSD and depression.”

The power of two

If you think about what’s happening to the muscle tissue during both yoga and massage, they’re really very similar: we’re increasing the circulation. Yoga does this through mindfulness and a focus on slow breathing while holding gentle stretch poses. Massage does it through physical manipulation of the muscle tissue.

By putting these together, we deliver a sort of double dose of feel-good. By repeating the experience of mindful breathing, gentle stretch, and safe touch in a secure and supportive environment, we can “re-wire” the brain to expect safe touch.

Learn more about the power of touch for our recent blog post.


“Methylation of FKBP5 and SLC6A4 in Relation to Treatment Response to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder,” Jeffrey R. Bishop, Adam M. Lee, Lauren J. Mills, Paul D. Thuras, Seenae Eum, Doris Clancy, Christopher R. Erbes, Melissa A. Polusny, Gregory J. Lamberty, and Kelvin O. Lim, 18 September 2018
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