Touch is one of our five senses and arguably the most intimate and intrusive.
Our somatic sensory system is responsible for the sense of touch. It has nerve receptors that help us feel when something comes into contact with our skin. These sensory receptors are known as 'touch receptors' or 'pressure receptors'.
When our touch receptors are stimulated, they send electrical pulses to neutrons; passing an electrical pulse from neuron to neuron, until it reaches the spinal cord. The spinal cord takes this signal and sends it to the brain. Our responses to touch are dependent on our previous experiences with similar stimuli.
The use of touch in a yoga class can help support students to move into a posture safely. (I do not want to dismiss the benefits of physical adjustments during a yoga class, as it can be transformational!) However, for students with a history of trauma, touch can be triggering and even re-traumatising.
Choice is important and every student has the right to choose whether they wish to be touched, or not. Providing students with the power of permission can be unbelievably empowering.
'Choice Cards' are double-sided cards; one side says "yes please" and the other "no thanks". Students place it at the top of their mat to indicate whether they wish to receive physical adjustments throughout the class, or not.
'Choice Cards' enable students to communicate a difficult dialogue, without the need to verbalise or actively seek out the teacher to disclose their personal history of trauma. This non-verbal tool facilitates clear communication and supports student safety, without the need for the student to be singled out.
The beauty of the double-sided cards means that students’ choices can be different every day... They can be different every posture! Students can simply flip their card throughout the class, dependant on their emotional states, without having to explain. 'Choice Cards' are a simple concept, but empowering for students!
As teachers, we are not always aware of each of our students' complex backgrounds and some students are not comfortable sharing this. As class sizes are growing, 'Choice Cards' make it easier for us to obtain student consent at a glance, whilst we move around the room.
Often we ask before adjusting but, unfortunately, this is not always the case. We also know that some students, when asked, agree to adjustments because they feel uncomfortable saying "no", or unable to say "please don't touch me" during a class. Students are often uncomfortable verbalising their preference not to be touched, particularly in front of a class.
Let's be clear... Choice is important; the reason behind it is not! As teachers, we need to welcome the idea that our students are the experts and can make an informed decision as to what their bodies need at the time.
'Choice Cards' are easy for teachers to integrate into our classes and provide a standardised approach for anyone that chooses to participate. These cards are a simple tool, which help us to create an environment where the students feel safe to choose, and know that their choice will be valued. Implementing these trauma-informed cards provides a safer space for students to explore their bodies in a supported way.
'Choice Cards' empower our students by providing the power of choice.