How Yoga Fusion understands Trauma & Healing

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Framing Concepts

Yoga Fusion aims at exploring healing methodologies to address individual and social trauma in post-conflict contexts.

It is therefore fundamental to contextualize trauma and healing processes.

Trauma

Trauma is a very complex concept that evolved significantly over time, and it is evolving still together with new forms of violence and warfare.

Yoga Fusion considers mainly man-made traumas. Hence, the contextualization of trauma for Yoga Fusion starts from Bettelheim’s definition of ‘extreme traumatization’ in 1943 that for the first time refers to ‘traumatization from a man-made disaster’ (Becker, 2001) in relation to the Holocaust.

Overall, trauma can be dissected in three components: a traumatic situation, the trauma, and the symptoms (Becker, 2001).

A traumatic situation is ‘an event or several events of extreme violence that occur within a social context’. As a social context is the framework of the event, each trauma involves a multiplicity of actors: perpetrators, victims, observers, relatives of victims and perpetrators, etc. Considering the social context as framework of traumatic situations Yoga Fusion suggests looking at all the actors that constitute the social context while addressing healing processes. It suggests looking at what they have in common, deconstructing the assumptions about their differences built in the specific categories they belong to according to their role in the situation to ensure a proper healing process.

However, as highlighted by Becker (2001), ‘such a traumatic situation is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for trauma to occur’. He explains how ‘while trauma implies the destruction of individual and/or collective structures, it does not always follow that such destruction causes immediate symptoms’. This observation explains how development work, psychological aid, and other types of humanitarian and reconciliation interventions fail sometimes to tackle trauma in all its aspects – individual and social -: trauma has visible and invisible components. Each intervention aiming at healing tackles a specific definition of trauma, a specific visible symptom. And this is why a methodology that is capable of addressing what is not always visible, what is not always measurable, is crucial to ensure sustainable interventions of reintegration and reconciliation.

What Yoga Fusion advocates for is a methodology that is capable of anticipating upcoming challenges that may not be clearly identifiable in the early stage of post-conflict interventions, but that may jeopardize the effectiveness of costly and complex reintegration and reconciliation processes – as it often occurs mainly within the current framework of protracted conflicts -.

As of now, ‘PTSD is the best known classification of symptoms that persist with the victim of a traumatic situation’ (Becker, 2001). This is why PTSD, and effective alternative therapies to tackle it are a core component of this analysis. This research aims at identifying effective and affordable remedies to tackle what is visible, while starting to address what isn’t.

Healing

The policy and legal framework of reference that informs the definition of healing adopted by Yoga Fusion is the World Health Organization “Declaration of Cooperation: Mental Health of Refugees, Displaced and Other Populations Affected by Conflict and Post- Conflict Situations, endorsed at the International Consultation on Mental Health of Refugees and Displaced Populations in Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations”, 23–25 October 2000, Geneva.

This declaration clearly identifies a universally recognized need to consider health and healing in post-conflict contexts as ‘not merely the absence of disease and infirmity but [as] a positive state of physical, emotional and social well-being’ (Bloomfield et al., 2003).

Proper healing is understood by Yoga Fusion according to the definition provided by the WHO, that sees psychological health as a state that encapsulates ‘subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, competence, inter-generational dependence, and self-actualization of one’s intellectual and emotional potential’ (Bloomfield et al., 2003).

Last but not least the WHO highlights how ‘psychological, emotional, physical and social health are not only interlinked but interdependent’ (Bloomfield et al., 2003).

It is within this framework of a recognized need to look at social and individual health as strictly interdependent that Yoga Fusion is developing an innovative methodology that looks at society and individuals deconstructing categories of victims and perpetrators, and considering the universal values behind healthy individual and societies using an ancient practice such as yoga as  lens through which considering the uniqueness and universality of social and individual bodies, and the related traumas and healing processes.

The Author

A Participatory Action Research on Yoga in Action for Post-Conflict Reconciliation

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