UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Stories of yoga and recovery told by survivors of interpersonal trauma : exploring body, self and relationships Brand-Cousy, Nicole Marie


A complex systems view of the mind describes self-regulation as the ability of the mind to dynamically organize itself in a way that integrates the flow of physiological, affective, cognitive and relational experience as a guide to meaning making and adaptive action. Increasing recognition of the complex effects of interpersonal trauma has challenged clinicians to expand therapeutic work to address the self-regulatory challenges of traumatized clients. In addition to disruptions in memory, survivors of interpersonal trauma experience profound disruption in their sense of body, self, and relationships. Working directly with the body through the practice of yoga is believed to address these self-regulatory disruptions, but little research has explored the meaning of this experience for participants in a real-world setting. This study uses an interview-based, narrative method to explore the stories of survivors of interpersonal trauma who participate in yoga classes as part of their recovery process. Specifically, it explores how participants describe and understand their experience of body, self and relationships within the practice of yoga, and in relation to their process of healing from trauma. Four unique narrative accounts were constructed from in-depth interviews with four participants, and analysis utilizing the Listening Guide Method (Gilligan, 2015) focused on themes related to body, self and relationships. A cross-narrative analysis identified themes of teacher as frame of trust and knowledge, reconnection to self through body, restoration of self as agent, and contact with suffering. Findings are discussed in light of existing literature on yoga, mindfulness and traumatic stress studies, and novel findings are framed within an attachment-based, developmental, and complex-systems lens.

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