If you are wondering what trauma informed yoga or yoga therapy are, you are definitely not alone. While yoga and using body movements for healing have been around for centuries, a more formal use of this is an up-and-coming idea that is currently growing in the trauma and healing fields. Yoga therapy is the use of yoga as a mind-body unifier to promote physical and emotional healing. More and more research findings support the notion that trauma, stress, and negative experiences are stored in the body. Therefore, using yoga as a form of somatic experiencing or body awareness allows for this energy to be moved through the body and released rather than remaining stored and stagnant.
Trauma informed yoga is beneficial for yoga teachers and students alike, as it highlights the importance of trauma education so that yoga can be a more positive experience for everyone. Unfortunately, many current yoga teachers are not trauma informed, and have violated student's personal space, triggering traumatic memories or stress responses while completely unaware of the repercussions, even with only the best of intentions. That is where the educational piece comes in.
Details such as language, personal space, and potential triggers must be considered when leading a trauma informed yoga class. This includes understanding more about your students including whether or not they are comfortable with physical assists or posture correction. Some uninformed but well-meaning teachers have a tendency to come up behind a student to offer a physical pose correction or a deeper stretch without asking permission. And when it comes to asking permission, it is best to do so before class starts so that the student doesn't feel put on-the-spot or uncomfortable with saying no. We want to create a truly safe space for the body to process emotions and let them flow naturally, releasing tension and welcoming healing.
Other important considerations are the use of straps, commenting on an individual student's alignment rather than focusing on the class as a whole, and offering extras like essential oils for meditation without being clear that it is an option not a necessity. It is best to speak to your students ahead of time and communicate openly about class options. It is equally as important to have these discussions with open, non-judgmental language. So for example, rather than asking directly if you can assist them physically during a pose, it is more beneficial to say ahead of time that you may offer things in class such as adjustments or meditation stones, noting that you wanted to know if that is something they would like to incorporate into their practice today. The goal is to be clear that there is absolutely nothing wrong with opting-out and emphasizing that each day they may want to nurture themselves differently.
While going to a yoga class with a trauma informed teacher is ideal, this conversation also provides opportunity for you to be empowered as a student. Regardless of your previous experiences, you are able to verbalize your needs now and this is a positive way to practice doing so. You can let your teacher know ahead of time that you prefer they not provide you with physical adjustments for example. You do not need to divulge any details, but by being clear about your boundaries you are validating your own needs and growing into your own advocate.
In my practice as a psychotherapist, I utilize yoga therapy to weave yoga poses, breath work, and the foundational essence of yoga into a more typical talk therapy session. This option is available to my clients if they are interested, and is one of the many ways we can work together. My favorite part about using yoga in therapy is that my clients do not need to have had any prior yoga experience to benefit from incorporating yoga into psychotherapy.
I help my clients practice breathing techniques to decrease stress, relieve anxiety, promote relaxation, and allow for a more connected body awareness. We then process where in their body trauma may be held and use simple poses and movement along with intention-setting to release any energy that no longer suits them.
Often my clients will share with me that when in a specific pose such as a heart or hip opener, they become filled with emotion. This is very useful in our work together because it indicates where energy is stored and can be released. In a group yoga class it may be uncomfortable to let out any feelings publicly. However a one-on-one therapeutic setting allows emotions to flow more freely in support of individual healing.
I encourage everyone reading this to begin a conversation about trauma informed yoga next time you go to a yoga class or spend time with a yoga teacher. This information may be the key to making a difference in someone's life. If you are interested in benefiting from this powerful modality of therapeutic healing, contact me to schedule your first session. I am excited to currently be accepting new clients and would love to share this amazing method of healing with you. You can call me at (561) 251-9754. If you are more comfortable with email, you are welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking forward! Namaste