Colleen

Student with PTSD- need advice!

11 posts in this topic

Okay, Goddesses- I need your advice. I have a student who is dealing with some serious PTSD that has attended two of my classes. The first time she came to class I was unaware of her PTSD. She began crying uncontrollably during savasana and I was fine with that. She was the only one there so I let her have her moment. She began wailing and repeating, "I don't want to do this anymore..." It was clear that she was not talking to me. I asked her to open her eyes and look around to the room to bring her back to present moment. After class, she was asking me a lot of questions about how to deal with the sadness that keeps coming up. I made it very clear that I am not a therapist or psychologist. 
The second time she attended my class, she began having the same episode during one of the restorative poses. This time there was another student in class and it was very obvious that she was uncomfortable with the situation and couldn't get out of class fast enough. Again, she began asking questions about how to cope and revealed to me that her therapist had dropped her as a client because she was "too reactive". 
SO... I'm doing my best to find a way to lovingly, but firmly say to her, "Yoga needs to come second to therapy and you are disturbing the other students." Any advice on how to approach this?
I'm doing my best to keep a calm center, but her energy is very strong. I find myself very tense and scattered with her around. I can't continue to let her run my class with her outbursts. Help!

YogaByCandace likes this

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I dont know if this will help but whenever i feel overwhelmed (i dont have ptsd but i haved sobbed in savasana and other poses before due to stressful situations that recently happened in my life.  i try to take a deep breathe in and just focus back on my breathing. Can she think of a mantra? Like let on inhale and go on exhale. That was suggested my teachers. It has helped me alot  dealing with sadness during a certain poses. Yoga is about healing. This  lady apparently is going through some heavy stuff. 

yogafire and YogaByCandace like this

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On 8/9/2016 at 9:16 PM, happyvibes said:

I dont know if this will help but whenever i feel overwhelmed (i dont have ptsd but i haved sobbed in savasana and other poses before due to stressful situations that recently happened in my life.  i try to take a deep breathe in and just focus back on my breathing. Can she think of a mantra? Like let on inhale and go on exhale. That was suggested my teachers. It has helped me alot  dealing with sadness during a certain poses. Yoga is about healing. This  lady apparently is going through some heavy stuff. 

I really agree - yoga has helped me develop new coping skills. Breathing and learning how to observe and endure sensations and emotions that come up.  Then she can be more comfortable sitting with her own emotions and not feel out of control.   A lot of things I learned in yoga helped me understand things better that I was working on in therapy, so I really hope you can work out something such that she can keep coming to yoga.

Maybe she might be interested in private yoga sessions?  I think she's already aware about disturbing the other students - that's why she's asking about coping methods. Honestly, I would have hoped others would be more understanding and realize that yoga can release pent up emotions.  Can you have a separate healing focused class or workshop so that participants that come know what they're signing up for, and understand working out emotions may be part of the class, therefore not being disturbed by it?

On a different note, It really saddens me to hear that her therapist judged her like that. Finding the right therapist can take time, and she shouldn't give up.  

Edited by yogafire
Softened some language
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I'm not a teacher, but here's my thoughts. I don't suffer from PTSD, but I do suffer from some trauma (and bad anxiety) that comes up. I do yoga at home because sometimes the anxiety from a trauma can come up and I need a moment to recalibrate, to come back. I have to sometimes come out of a pose and just breathe for a few minutes or even take a moment to write it down.

@yogafire's idea is really great! With private lessons, she won't be disturbing people, but you can ask her if a pose really bothers her or slowly pull her out if you see her go into a flashback. Those are some of the worst things I've had to see my dad go through and I've had to learn how to help him through them (he has very few of them now.)

Also, I get very angry at therapists who say that and it's probably why it took me so long to seek treatment. The ones that make me angrier are the ones that don't listen!

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I'm not yet a therapist, (one day!) but I think maybe helping her return to the present moment. I agree private lessons may work because you can help engage her in meditation and centering individually.

Obviously it would be best for her to find another therapist so she could supplement her therapy with the yoga practice. That's what I do myself. I would encourage her to do that! But I also think you can be helpful if you feel up to it! Yoga is such a healing practice, it makes sense that this trauma keeps coming up for her in the release of savasana. 

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Thank you for all your responses! What an incredible and supportive community. <3

I am not trained in trauma yoga nor am I a therapist, so I feel like it would be unethical on my part to do any private training with her. I don't have the tools or knowledge to guide someone with severe PTSD. The studio is part of a physical therapy clinic so her episodes are not contained to just the classroom. It's not the right environment for someone dealing with PTSD on her level. Her episodes are not quiet. She yells and cries loudly. As much as I wish others could be understanding and supportive of her situation, that is just not the case. The other woman who was in class works with patients who are facing death, so yoga is her escape from trauma. That's why she left so quickly after class.

I agree that yoga can be therapeutic and offer deep emotional release, but in no way do I believe that it replaces professional therapy. I spoke with the owners of the studio I teach for and they found some great places in the area that offer private yoga for folks who have experienced severe trauma. She was very understanding and grateful for the referral. She acknowledged that a public class was not the right place for her to heal.

Again, thank you so much for your suggestions and support!

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@Colleen That's great that the owners knew a few places she could go! It's hard when you know that something is working for you, but you're in the wrong venue but don't know where to go. Like @afriske, I did trauma therapy for a while alongside yoga and therapeutic horse riding lessons. I'm now down to regular therapy, stepped out of therapeutic riding into horse lessons but yoga remains a constant. 

It's very distressing when you are the teacher and you know a client is in the wrong environment but have no idea how to help, I'm sure.

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Well here is the kind of situation we are not trained to face  to during the teacher training lol

It happens to me a lot of time that students begin to cry in heart openers or balasana or savasana. When it happens, the students naturally leave the room to calm themselves and they come back when they feel better. Maybe you can just say to her that if she feels overwhelmed by an emotion she can take her time out of the room and comes back when she feels ready so she has her own space and she doesn't disturb the rest of the class.

You can also take a moment with her to explain her how the breath works on the nervous system. When someone has a huge anxiety or a crisis, the best way to calm themselves is to breath deeply. Explain her how the breath works, what happens in her body when she controls her breath so if she understands and visualises the reaction of her body thanks to the breath she may be able to calm herself with time.

I hope it helps. This kind of situation is hard to deal with. I hope you will find a solution for her, for you and your students.

Namaste 💙

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