“Mark Gerow is an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher certified in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. He uses Emotional Freedom Technique, trauma-sensitive tools based on Somatic Experiencing, Trauma-Sensitive Yoga as well as Tension + Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE) and various meditation and breath techniques to help clients manage anxiety, pain relief, triggers, insomnia and other symptoms. He is the Mind Body Spirit Director at Mountainside Treatment Center in Caanan, Connecticut. Mark is also the Founder/Creator of Lunarhythms Yoga™, and draws on a diverse background including his service as a survival instructor in the U.S. Air Force to his work as an actor in New York City, in his unique blend of flowing yoga which combines various styles and incorporates elements to include chakras, ayurveda, yoga therapy, and organic movement. Mark also teaches a weekly public yoga class at Yoga Great Barrington in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.”
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Practice Location: Great Barrington, MA
About Mark Gerow
Mark has introduced many healing practices specifically designed to holistically address addiction recovery needs and underlying trauma. Clients who work with him are able to mentally and physically grow, and re-connect with their inner selves through the therapeutic group sessions and spiritual enhancement talks he leads. He also specializes and offers private sessions in Yoga Therapy, Ayurvedic Yoga consultations, Trauma-Sensitive Yoga/Meditation, Thai Yoga Massage.
Mark’s mission is to empower others to find space to explore, discover, and create an awakening to their life’s dreams and aspirations; to help others find the opportunity for truth to arise in their lives using tools of observation and awareness; to give the gift of self-healing, with the premise that we are our own healers; and to share in the journey of returning to wholeness and re-balancing through deep exploration and reflection. His vision is to assist, one person at a time, one day at a time – the shifting of awareness and perspective, creating the possibility of taking responsibility for one’s life and happiness by making active choices to live the life we have always wanted for ourselves and make our personal dream manifest.
I am the Director of the Mind, Body, Spirit Department at Mountainside Treatment Center in Connecticut. In that role, along with managerial responsibilities and say in the direction of how our department moves and grows, I am first and foremost a teacher and practitioner. I work with survivors of trauma every day, primarily through my current role. I believe that 100% of all recovering addicts are trauma survivors. Many, many of them have a history of sexual abuse, men and women alike. Talking about sexual abuse is taboo in general, and yet, more so to talk about it as a man who is a survivor. There are so many men who have not been able to come forward. Part of my strength is being open and transparent within a teaching moment about being a survivor. It is there and they can pick up on it. I keep an open door and am always available to work in real time with real needs as well as setting up one-on-one sessions. Personally, I had to courageously shine light on the dark areas and not literally or metaphorically meditate around my wounds and history. For me using spiritual practices to avoid myself became another addiction and now the only way I can work is to illuminate those areas.
My Interest in Working with Survivors
Those that have been traumatized and addicted are some of the strongest people I have ever met. Our society tends to stigmatize and label them, and many think of them as being weak. Yet, think of all of the suffering that these folks have gone through just to claw away at being “normal” per se in this culture. The day to day of life is so much harder for those who have been through trauma and addiction. To simply do “normal” things – to act normal, to seemingly be normal – requires great effort and courage. To show up on time, to get out of your bed, to put clothes on – it is like climbing mountains. When a person feels seen and heard, they begin to trust and soften to the possibiity of healing from within. One can then see how much strength is there and that they can make it – going from surviving to thriving.
In my work teaching mind/body practices and wellness at the treatment center, I realized how open clients are, and how raw and available the folks that have been wounded are in general. They were ready for it. They may begin their journey confused and timid, yet become clear and strong as they begin to see a vision for themselves. They take on the practices and it immediately has a positive effect. This is different than the folks I teach in spa yoga classes who may stay guarded for a long time. It takes time to break through the armor of entitlement and defensiveness often found with a particular lifestyle. The folks I am working with in recovery are truly starting from the ground up. The work lands and it takes hold immediately for them. This blows me away and it gives me great hope.
Going from the grossest form – the physical body and movement – is often the best way inside. In TRE, I work with the psoas and the back. Often, the physical discomfort in the body is what actually causes much of the mental triggering. Then, when the body starts to feel relief and when pain is released, I find that the more subtle work becomes available to the client. We may begin to work with open-eyed meditation, gentle chair yoga, and breath work.
Breath work is interesting because it can go either way. It can be triggering. This is why I often start from the grossest and move towards the subtle. The deep releasing of TRE creates a feeling of physical relief for most people, although it can seem a little scary at first. TRE can be a bit strenuous and challenging. But, I am there with them coaching them. I find that with the right kind of support and presence, TRE is immediately accessible. It seems to work very well for helping people to simply become comfortable in their body. Now once the body is open, we may go inward and explore some meditation, some of the more subtle work. TRE is really effective for back issues, sleep deprivation and hyperarousal. I find that the TRE work sounds a lot more dramatic than it really is in practice. Once people get into it, I find that it is so blissful once they are shaking and tremoring. It can be a great release and people feel so relaxed by the end of it.
Integrating tools from Somatic Experiencing is extremely useful, too. We may hold “objects of safety” or “objects of peace” that are grounding for the person. From there we may swing towards an anxious moment in your life and then we will come back to that object of safety and peace. We will be there noticing. Then we will go back out to an anxious moment in your life – maybe further, still through, something’s that very mild in intensity. On a scale of 1 to 10, it may be a 2. You’ll describe those feelings and start to articulate the sensation in the body. When the person feels safe, we will go a little deeper into some more anxious or traumatic experiences. You can gently begin to go into them, to dip your toe into the experience and you are simultaneously building those inner resources. You might have this peaceful place you used to go to as a kid on a vacation and you can make that your inner resource to return to at any time. Or, maybe the stone in your hand, or a crystal is something you relate to your mother and a feeling of childhood nurturing – you will go there to that place and feeling as an inner resource. So, you start to incrementally build trust, inner resources and capacity to tolerate past trauma.
My Approach to Trauma-Informed Care
Trauma is often the problem beneath the problems of addiction. It is what we are concealing, what we feel sensitive to and what we feel triggered by. It may be childhood and/or adult trauma. When I personally realized how trauma was hurting me physically, I felt the need to start addressing it that way. As soon as we can admit our addictions, then we can begin to address the deeper shadow beneath the addiction – that which was the trauma. We can go in there, shine a light on it, and become less afraid to lean into it. When I began to do some physical work around my trauma – my back pain went away. I realized that this was a key for many of us, working on a deeper level. Addiction is not just trying to soften the edges of a stressful workday, it is way deeper than that. It may go way back to our childhood and it may just have been watching the towers go down, and yet, it is all trauma. It is stored within us as trauma. It is so common to mask and suppress it and try to tell a different story about it which adds to our suffering.
When I work with my clients I start from where they are. I get a sense where they are at in the moment and how the relationship feels. I work to develop trust. I use a variety of tools from yogic philosophy and trauma-sensitive yoga. I use meditation and breath work. I use the tools of Somatic Experiencing from Dr. Peter Levine. I can incorporate breath work, TRE, EFT, iRest and Yoga Nidra. It is important to have a variety of different tools for healing trauma.
How Yoga and TRE Holistically Address the Impacts of Sexual Violence
Sometimes when you get into cognitive behavioral therapy, it is a lot of talking. People can get really good at telling their trauma story. They tell it as if it happened to someone else. They become detached from it. Or, people find that telling their story triggers them again. If they are triggered, they begin to dissociate and they are not present in their body. This is like re-experiencing trauma again. When they are dissociated like this, they are not ready to do the work. I can see it in their eyes that they are starting to disappear again.
With these modalities, you never have to tell your trauma story. You never have to speak about it. You can simply go into where it still lives in your body. You can go to where the charge is held in the body. That is a safe and more accessible place to be when you realize: “I never have to talk about it? I just get to let my body get to do what it would like to do?” Yes, you can let your body do exactly what it would like to do.
There is a recipe for how we heal trauma and addiction and it is a recipe that is necessarily unique for each individual. It is not simply “Go to the 12 Steps. Get some trauma work done. Take a yoga class. Meditate 10 minutes a day” for everyone. It truly is different for each person. You’ve got to find it. What works? Someone who doesn’t feel comfortable with breath work because it makes them feel anxious? Well, then that is not the doorway through to healing right now. Someone who is nervous and anxious may instead need to work with mala beads and move their hands. Folks who have been traumatized might not be able to do the traditional savasana. They cannot sit around with other people, close their eyes with an eye pillow over their eyes – they may go straight into a panic attack. So, instead I might encourage them to position themselves differently. To keep their eyes open. I might stay by their side. We can go to different places beyond the breath. While I don’t know what everyone has been through, I can see panic or anxiety beginning to manifest. I am always ready to go over to them and support them. I will guide them through the discomfort with my words, and help to bring them out of that state. One can often work their way out with intentional languaging. We take this journey together, and then, in time, they start to slowly trust the work.
Ayurveda, Veterans, Addiction