Exploring the Experiences of Women with Complex Trauma with the Practice of iRest Yoga Nidra.

Hartman, Courtney


The main purpose of this study was to investigate the experiences of women who had complex histories of trauma, with an 8-week Integrative Restoration (iRest) intervention. The secondary objective of this study was to evaluate relationships between lifelong trauma exposure and perceived therapeutic gain using a phenomenological approach. First, literature discussing the neuroendocrinological effects of trauma, as well as neurological findings that support the effectiveness of mindfulness practices is reviewed. Then the iRest practice as well as its application for trauma–exposed populations is covered. The participants for this study were recruited from a transitional housing program and community office for women who have experienced domestic violence, mean age of 45, and ethnic backgrounds including African–American, Vietnamese, Mexican, and Polish–American. The Structured Interview for Disorders of Extreme Stress NOS (SIDES) was initially used to determine inclusion in the study. However, reasons for not including this measure—as well as overall limitations of assessment of traumatized individuals in the field—are discussed. Women were instead invited to participate in an 8-week iRest Yoga Nidra class based on self–reported histories of lifelong trauma. Upon completion of the 8-week protocol, the participants were interviewed about their experience with the protocol, and the interviews were analyzed to determine common themes. The phenomenological approach was chosen in an attempt to capture the intricate experience of individuals who were coping with the effects of complex trauma, as well as responding to the exploratory nature of this study. Seven general themes emerged in the present study: The experience of the practice as positive and helpful; The use of body sensing; Difficulties linking the practice with life circumstances and trouble focusing; Differences between practice in the group versus practicing alone; Increased self-awareness and revelatory experiences; Increased selfregulation; Trouble articulating. The findings of this study contribute to the knowledge of treatment best practices for disorders related to complex trauma, as well as contributing a holistic view of the investigated phenomena to the current research literature.