ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are common across all populations. Almost two-thirds of study participants reported at least one ACE, and more than one in five reported three or more ACEs. Some populations are more vulnerable to experiencing ACEs because of the social and economic conditions in which they live, learn, work and play, but no one is immune to life challenges. The ACEs score is the total sum of the different categories of ACEs reported by participants. Study findings show that as the number of ACEs increases, so does the risk for negative outcomes.
Felitti, Vincent J, Anda, Robert F, Nordenberg, Dale, Edward, Valerie, Koss, Mary P, Marks, James S. Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults American Journal of Preventative Medicine Volume 14, Issue 4, P245-258, May 1, 1998.
POSITIVE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES
Fortunately, research is showing that positive childhood experiences can be a buffer against ACEs. “Parents may not be able to prevent adverse childhood experiences, but they can help kids become resilient,” said Dr. Angelica Robles, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Novant Health in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Parents can accomplish this by simply talking about feelings with their children, standing by their children during difficult times, and showing interest in their daily lives,” Robles explained. “The child will then feel safe, and it is in this sense of security in the face of stress that the child learns to flourish.”
Bethell C, Jones J, Gombojav N, Linkenbach J, Sege R. Positive Childhood Experiences and Adult Mental and Relational Health in a Statewide Sample: Associations Across Adverse Childhood Experiences Levels JAMA Pediatrics, September 9, 2019.
Rapaport, Lisa. Positive childhood experiences tied to better adult mental health Reuters Healthcare and Pharma, September 9, 2019.
At Yoga Learning Adventures, we teach a style of meditation called iRest Yoga Nidra which was created by Richard Miller, PhD, who is a clinical psychologist, researcher, and yogic scholar. Richard serves as a research consultant studying the iRest Yoga Nidra protocol that he has developed researching its efficacy on health, healing and well-being with diverse populations including active-duty soldiers, veterans, college students, children, seniors, the homeless, the incarcerated, and people experiencing issues such as sleep disorders, PTSD, chemical dependency, chronic pain, and related disorders. Yoga Nidra means yogic sleep or sense withdrawal. It is generally practiced lying down and needs to be practiced consistently to be effective. Yoga Nidra teaches the self that “I feel this, but I am not this” so we can separate ourselves from our experiences and emotions to feel whole despite our circumstances. Find the latest research from the iRest Institute below:
YOGA AND MEDITATION FOR STRESS AND TRAUMA
A great deal of research has demonstrated how meditation positively affects gene expression. A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology in 2013 revealed that meditators, after only eight hours of meditation, experienced clear genetic and molecular changes which has been proven through brain scans, including decreased levels of proinflammatory genes which would enable them to physically recover from stressful situations more quickly.
Kaliman, Perla, et al. Rapid changes in histone deacetylases and inflammatory gene expression in expert meditators Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2013
The research shows that both chronic stress and trauma dramatically affect brain function and neurological development. In highly stressful or threatening situations, the sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight, or freeze) takes over. The amygdala grows and the hippocampus shrinks, causing emotionally reactivity. Anxiety and fear are helpful when we need to move out of the way of an oncoming bus, remember not to touch a hot stove, or stay away from dangerous places. But when fear and anxiety take over, quality of life suffers. Yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises can help people switch over to the parasympathetic nervous system, or relaxation response, where the hippocampus has been shown to grow in long-term yoga and meditation practitioners. This helps students to remain in the present and be less reactive, allowing them to focus and meet academic expectations. By laying the foundation of emotional self-regulation skills during childhood, we have the chance to greatly impact our students’ future success.
Gotink, Rinske A., Vernooij, Meike W., M. Ikram, Arfan, Niessen, Wiro J., Krestin, Gabriel P., Hofman, Albert, Tiemeier, Henning, and Hunink, M. G. Myriam Meditation and yoga practice are associated with smaller right amygdala volume: the Rotterdam study Brain Imaging and Behavior, February 7, 2018.
Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. is a clinician, researcher, and teacher in the area of posttraumatic stress. His work integrates developmental, neurobiological, psychodynamic and interpersonal aspects of the impact of trauma and its treatment. He explains trauma as causing people to be stuck in heartache and gut-wrench. He warns, traumatized people “don’t want to feel what they feel or know what they know so starting to do yoga, feeling your body may bring up feelings of helplessness, terror, etc. Part of what yoga can do for you is to help you get the courage to begin to face your sensations.” Van der Kolk’s study on yoga and PTSD found that a steady yoga practice for a traumatized person is more effective than any medication that has been studied for PTSD.
Van Der Kolk, Bessel. The Body Keeps the Score. The Penguin Group, 2014.
In a review of developmental psychology and cognitive neuroscience on the effects of mindfulness training in children and adolescents, there is evidence that mindfulness practices can be integrated into all classroom levels from preschool to high school, and that doing so has the potential to improve students’ brain functioning and lead to changes in brain structure that facilitate academic success. In particular, it is argued that mindfulness practice improves various aspects of self-regulation that are central to academic achievement.
Lyons K.E., DeLange J. Mindfulness Matters in the Classroom: The Effects of Mindfulness Training on Brain Development and Behavior in Children and Adolescents. In K. A. Schonert-Reichl & R. W. Roeser (Eds.), Handbook of mindfulness in education: Integrating theory and research into practice (pp. 271–283). Springer-Verlag Publishing, 2016.
Psychiatrist Norman Doidge revolutionized our understanding of how human brains operate by identifying a paradigm shift away from viewing the brain as fixed and unchanging to seeing it as flexible and capable of change. His work demonstrates how new experiences create new neural pathways these new neural pathways become strengthened through repetition and deepened through focused attention essentially the more we practice something, the more we train our brain to change. Doidge tells us that we can change our brains by simply imagining because our minds have a deep capacity for healing through visualization, which can be accomplished through guided meditation. Brain scans demonstrate that many of the same neurons in regions of the brain become activated whether we’re imagining an event or actually living it.
Doidge, Norman. The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: The Penguin Group. 2007.