What is trauma-informed yoga?
It’s first important to tease apart the terms “trauma-informed yoga” and “trauma-sensitive yoga”. Trauma-sensitive yoga takes in to account that the majority of the population has experienced trauma in some way, whether it be event-related, complex trauma, and/or developmental trauma, and under these conditions, being introduced back in to a relationship with one’s body, experiencing sensation and exploring internal awareness isn’t necessarily a pleasant experience, and needs to be guided skillfully. Trauma-informed yoga includes the above as well, and typically indicates that a teacher or trainer has a more extensive background and focused training in trauma and how it affects behavior across multiple populations and settings.
List and describe three ways yoga can benefit those affected by trauma?
- Trauma tends to keep people trapped in their survival responses of fight, flight or freeze and thus, ruminating on the past or worrying about the future – and yoga is a present-focused, body-based practice, so it encourages students to continuously come back to the here and now and stay in tune with their bodies and moment-by-moment experience. Rather than working from the top down (meaning starting with the neocortex area of the brain first as utilized in cognition therapy), yoga works from the bottom up (starting with the brain stem and limbic system – where the survival responses live- and body first), to encourage a sense of integration and agency in one’s own body and resolution of traumatic experiences from the somatic level.
- Often, trauma is referred to as, “too much, too fast, too soon” and a typical, well-rounded yoga class tends to encompass cycles of stimulation and calming to facilitate regulation of the nervous system. This delicate balance of movement and dynamic stillness allows the body to naturally pendulate and find its own inherent rhythm and sense of stabilization.
- Yoga also accesses the Vagus nerve which helps bring the social engagement system back online as many who have experienced trauma may feel uncomfortable being in social situations. If a yoga teacher sets the tone of the class in a warm, open, receptive, connective, and safe way, offers a structured sequence, is skillful in their languaging, and offering of hands-on adjustments (or, equally as important, if not more so) honoring students’ preference to not receive hands-on adjustments, it helps to build trust and confidence in students’ ability to be in relationship with themselves and others.
What are the best classes for people with trauma?
The best classes embody all of the tenets mentioned above – a skilled teacher who is present before and after class to connect with students and hold space; the use of invitational language and options so students can explore what they feel the most comfortable with in their practice that day; a class that matches the advertised description as consistency is key in supporting those who have experienced trauma; and always asking if students are open to receiving hands-on assists during class.
Any particular type of trauma that is best treated with yoga?
Those who have experienced event-related trauma, complex trauma and/or developmental trauma can ALL benefit from yoga as it helps to bring the brain and body back into relationship with one another.
How does YogaSix fit in to this topic?
The Teaching Methodology and general guidelines of the YogaSix community incorporate all of the qualities listed above to help facilitate a safe and inclusive experience for all students who walk through our doors – a clean and safe space for students to practice in, teachers who are warm, welcoming, and present for pre- and post-class connection with students, announcement the class type and length of class before starting, use of invitational language, guidance of breath first, followed by supportive direction on how to move one’s body so students stay engaged in their own unique physicality and experience, balance of movement and pause no matter the class type to welcome nervous system regulation, and asking for students consent where hands-on adjustments are concerned. We endeavor to help make each studio and class feel inviting, accessible, and empowering to every student by connecting them back to their own individual power through body, breath and mind.
Master Trainer + Lead of Teacher Development, YogaSix San Diego
E-RYT-500, YACEP, Int. Year SE Student