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Home > Archives > Volume 14, No 2 (2016) > Article

DOI: 10.14704/nq.2016.14.2.941

The Transformation of Ashtanga Yoga: Implicit Memory, Dreams, and Consciousness for Survivors of Complex Trauma

Ida C. LaChiusa


This mixed methods study explored whether body-work such as Ashtanga yoga can lead to improved affect regulation and body awareness among survivors of complex childhood trauma. It examined the prevalence of complex trauma among Ashtanga yoga practitioners to determine qualitatively whether their perceptions of emotions, their ability to manage affective states, and their body awareness changed over the course of their practice. In addition, this study also explored relevant dreams and images which arose for participants during the course of their practice. The study is based on the hypothesis that body-work such as yoga can help survivors of complex childhood trauma integrate traumatic experiences, resulting in greater levels of affective regulation and body acceptance. A total of 31 female participants who practiced Ashtanga yoga on a regular basis were administered the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. The findings suggested that the majority of these participants had experienced some form of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, and found yoga practice to be helpful in regulating emotions and improving body awareness. Those who scored at least moderate levels in at least one of the subscales for self-reported abuse and neglect were selected for qualitative interviews. A total of 6 participants agreed to qualitative interviews. The emergent themes from the interviews revealed that participants found that practice did help them with affect regulation and body acceptance. Moreover, dreams and images which emerged spontaneously for these participants have been helpful in their psychological growth. Such findings suggest that a consistent Ashtanga yoga practice may help female survivors of complex trauma improve their ability to regulate their emotions as well as improve their body awareness, resulting in improved consciousness of various aspects of experience.


yoga; implicit memory; complex trauma; body awareness; affect regulation

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