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 challenges 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.
Restore self agency and self esteem through direct experiences of making informed choices and being valued.
In 2020 we carried out a mixed method evaluation during the COVID-19 lockdown in Kampala, Uganda. Results are promising! Women and girls who participated in HaRT Yoga experienced meaningful reductions in symptoms of PTSD, depression, and anxiety (compared to a group that did not participate in the program). Interviews highlighted additional shifts linked to HaRT, such as feeling a sense of belonging and connection to peers, greater self-compassion, and increased ease and relaxation in the body. Stay tuned for more findings!
[From HaRT yoga] I have learned that having a good relationship with other people starts with loving myself. I cannot love other people if I do not love myself.
I think HaRT yoga is a therapy, it takes your body through an adventure and discovery . . . so in the long run you find that it may lead to healing of heart, body and soul.