As a physical practice, yoga can encourage neurogenesis and is an opportunity to exercise and engage the body, whilst providing an opportunity for cognitive challenge. Now, there is a growing body of research which supports the use of yoga as a tool for healing from trauma.
Trauma Sensitive Yoga involves specifically selected physical postures (or asanas), breathing techniques and mindfulness strategies. Trauma-informed yoga teachers have an understanding of the effects of trauma and are able to identify triggers and modify the environment appropriately so as to avoid re-traumatisation.
Trauma Sensitive Yoga is a body-based method of healing. Yoga can be used as a therapeutic tool to help participants increase their body awareness; to become aware of what is happening inside their bodies. Yoga can provide an opportunity to experiment with tension and release, and to control levels of arousal.
Practicing this modified style of yoga in a safe and non-judgemental space can allow students to experience their bodies in new ways. We know that individuals with a history of trauma often do not feel safe in their bodies. Experiences of trauma often create feelings of distrust, dislike and disconnect from the physical body. Through a Trauma Sensitive Yoga class, participants can begin to experience their bodies in new ways; and ultimately develop a more compassionate and trusting relationship with their body.
Yoga provides an opportunity to experience, explore and examine the sensations and therefore enable individuals to befriend their bodies. This supported exploration can reduce fear associated with feeling, allows participants to learn to tolerate sensations within the body, and ultimately improves sensory processing. The practice can support participants to acknowledge and accept their bodies with compassion, whilst improving individual capacity for self-regulation.
Yoga provides participants with coping strategies useful when managing difficult emotions. The provision of such self-regulation tools is empowering for individuals with a history of trauma.
Yoga also allows participants to connect with the present moment. Often individuals with a trauma history are living in the past and reliving traumatic experiences, or living in the future and constantly perceiving threat. Trauma Sensitive Yoga helps to create a meaningful experience in a sensitive, supportive way.
Trauma Sensitive Yoga can be used as a clinical therapeutic intervention. However, I believe it is necessary for all yoga teachers to have an understanding of trauma and ways in which we can avoid re-traumatising participants, and integrate aspects of trauma-sensitive yoga into our “regular” classes.
Feel free to stay in touch and I would be happy to share ways in which we can incorporate trauma-informed yoga principles and practices into our classes.