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University of Missouri

Reconnecting Through iRest

Jennifer Shearin helps survivors of intimate partner violence.

Jennifer Shearin

Jennifer Shearin practices iRest meditation in the MU Student Health Center’s Contemplative Practice Center. Photo by Nicholas Benner.

It didn’t take long for senior social work major Jennifer Shearin to connect the dots: If iRest Yoga Nidra meditation is effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder among military veterans, why wouldn’t it work for survivors of intimate partner violence who also struggle with PTSD symptoms? It seemed obvious to Shearin, a nontraditional student from Columbia, but no one has studied it yet.

iRest meditation is a practice of deep relaxation where a teacher guides participants through an exploration of their inner strengths and desires, intentions, feelings, emotions and beliefs.

“For people who have experienced traumatic situations in their life, it’s natural for them to go through this numbing phase and to disconnect from their body,” Shearin says. iRest, or Integrative Restoration, has been able to bring people calm and ease.

Shearin pitched her idea to Associate Professor Kim Anderson, who became her mentor through the McNair Scholars program. Working with MU’s Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center, Shearin recruited six students to participate in her study for eight meditation sessions. Terry Wilson, the MU Student Health Center’s director of  health promotion and wellness, was an additional consultant throughout the study and provided the use of the Contemplative Practice Center for the location of portions of the research study. Laura Hacquard, M Ed ’80, assistant director of the Women’s Center, also provided location support during the study. Within 10 weeks, the participants reported an increase in resiliency and mindfulness and a clinically significant reduction in PTSD symptoms. They also reduced their usage of prescription sleep aids and antidepressants.

“Participants said through iRest they reconnected with a part of themselves they thought no longer existed after the trauma,” Shearin says. “People have this inner strength, but many don’t realize it is there. I’m providing the tools for them to recognize their own innate abilities, but they’re doing all the work.”