International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

ISTSS Online Learning Library


Promoting the advancement and exchange of knowledge about traumatic stress is a core mission of ISTSS. Our online learning library contains video and audio recordings of conference presentations and recordings of past webinars.

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Yoga, Neurobiology and Trauma

Bessel van der Kolk, MD
Recorded on December 20, 2013

WebinarAudio with synched slides

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The body is one of the theatres where the memory of trauma is re-enacted. Traditional western psychotherapy has approached the resolution of trauma as something that needs to be understood, worked through and put into the larger perspective of one’s life. In the wake of the emerging knowledge of the neurobiology of trauma, this workshop will present the theoretical underpinnings of how pranayama, asanas and meditation can change core neurobiological, trauma-related deficits, including the role that they play in changing heart rate variability, interoceptive capacities, mediated by the medial prefrontal cortex, beig able to take action, mediated in part by the anterior cingulate, orientation via changing activity of the posterior cingulate, and increase tolerance of sensory experiences mediated via the insula.

Learning Objectives

  • Review recent developments in neuroscience as they relate to the treatment of PTSD.
  • Examine the implications of neuroscience research to the ways trauma is remembered and enacted, and how subsequent experience is processed.
  • Summarize current knowledge of the effects of mindfulness meditation and yoga for PTSD.

About the Instructor

Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD, has been the Medical Director of The Trauma Center in Boston for the past 30 years. He is a professor of psychiatry at Boston University Medical School and serves as the Director of the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress Complex Trauma Network. He is past president of International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS). Though he identifies himself primarily as a clinician, he has published well over 100 peer reviewed scientific articles on various aspects of trauma. His new book, The Body Keeps Score; Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, will be published next year by Viking Press.