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Expanding Horizons: Trauma Informed Weight Lifting as an Adjunctive Approach to Treating Trauma

Updated: Jan 30


Bodies are storytellers. They hold histories and stories in their postures, faces, scars (seen and

unseen), movements, illnesses and shapes. Those who have survived and adapted their way

through and beyond trauma and attachment wounds can tell and show you the myriad of

stories their bodies share. Some bodies desire to be unseen, unknown, and utterly unfelt.

Others cry out for contact, support and deep care. Ultimately, what we all know as trauma

clinicians, is that our work must inherently integrate and attend to the body if we truly wish to

support and guide our clients in their journey to heal, recover and thrive.


Increasingly, we see movement practitioners and body workers adapting their approaches to

their work in an effort to attend to and accommodate the needs of clients with histories of

trauma. As a field, we desperately need to continue broadening the offerings of trauma-

informed adjunctive services that are available to our clients in order to make their healing truly

holistic and integrative.


More than two years ago, Trauma Informed Weight Lifting (TIWL) was established in an effort

to do just that. TIWL is an embodied practice and intervention that is informed by the latest in

neuroscience and trauma research. It seeks to transform weight lifting in an effort to both

promote and facilitate healing for trauma-impacted individuals and groups.


Weight lifting, when approached in a trauma-informed manner, aims to foster resilience,

increase a felt sense of agency and empowerment, cultivate healthy nervous system

functioning, and facilitate positive relational connections to self and others. TIWL posits that

using external forms of resistance can facilitate healing and recovery through engagement of

the proprioceptive and vestibular systems, while supporting individuals in developing greater

interoceptive awareness, vagal tone and parasympathetic nervous system recruitment.


Additionally, it is believed that the physical strength developed in weight lifting is a

manifestation of self-trust as one learns to bring a sense of curiosity to the process of

attempting both new and familiar movements under increased resistance. TIWL is a solitary

activity conducted in a relational environment with a coach or trainer and in some cases, with

other weightlifters - it aims to directly combat the isolating and dividing nature of trauma.


On Saturday, February 1st, 2020 we will be hosting our first ever Fundamentals of Trauma Informed

Weight Lifting training here in Minneapolis. We look forward to welcoming personal trainers,

fitness coaches, physical therapists, movement specialists and curious clinicians to learn how to

use weight training to build and foster strength and resilience — inside and out — in the

aftermath of trauma. To sign up, please go to: https://www.traumainformedweightlifting.com/workshopstraining


Trauma Informed Weight Lifting (TIWL) is a program of the Center for Trauma and Embodiment,

a leader in the field of developing and researching innovative and embodied approaches to healing from severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex trauma. This workshop is offered by the co-founders of Trauma Informed Weight Lifting: Mark Schneider is a personal trainer specializing in injury recovery and return to play, with a twenty year comprehensive background in functional medicine, nutritional counseling, bodywork, fitness training, and behavior therapy; Mariah Rooney, LICSW, RYT, is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating the complex challenges that arise as a result of traumatic stress, attachment trauma, intergenerational trauma, and dissociation in adults and children, and has ten years of experience using trauma-informed movement and embodiment practices to support individuals impacted by trauma.


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