Theory

HaRT Yoga is informed by recent advances in trauma theory and neuroscience. Simply stated, trauma is anything that overwhelms us and undermines our ability to cope and respond, leaving us feeling helplessness, hopelessness and out of control. While trauma itself is deeply embedded in the human experience and affects all of us to a certain extent, some individuals experience long-term consequences. We are increasingly learning that trauma can become stored in the body, causing a dysregulated nervous system which can leave us “stuck” in a state of hyper- or hypo- arousal and contributes to various mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress. However the body also holds promise for healing. We are gaining a deeper understanding of the many ways that body-focused interventions—including yoga—can address this nervous system imbalance and improve mental health.

 

This is the key insight that informs HaRT Yoga: the therapeutic potential of intentional movement and breathwork in a supportive environment. There are several mechanisms through which we believe HaRT Yoga promotes holistic healing and helps to safely discharge trauma that is stored in the body. For example, the practices we use can:
 

  • Address nervous system imbalances by triggering parasympathetic response (the "rest and digest" process) through vagal nerve activation and abdominal breathing.

  • Alleviate social isolation by building a supportive community that bonds over shared experiences.

  • Mitigate disrupted bio-rhythms by creating new rhythms through synchronized movement and breath.

  • Among others!

 

Structure

The program itself is implemented by trained HaRT Yoga facilitators with a group of about 10 women or girls over 12 weekly sessions. The content evolves over time, with each class building on the previous session. The Hart Yoga curriculum includes physical yoga poses (asana), guided visualizations focused on mindfulness and compassion, breath practice, and brief discussion—all organized around primary themes that provide a monthly focal point: grounding (e.g., connection & trust) in month one, understanding (e.g., root causes & acceptance) in month two, and inner-strengths (e.g., balanced effort & integration) in the final month. 

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