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What is Trauma Informed Yoga?

You may be wondering what is trauma informed yoga and do you have to be traumatized to take it? We’ll break it down for you!

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Trauma informed yoga is a lens through which a yoga instructor teaches. It’s not a type of yoga, rather it is a mindset. Trauma informed yoga recognizes that most people have experienced trauma at some point, whether it be physical, mental or emotional. When we approach yoga from a trauma informed mindset, we are treating each student with the utmost compassion and respect.

All students are treated with dignity and offered choices in their practice. The physical postures are not the goal of the class, so no one is expected to perform yoga postures. Rather, we give students invitations into movement and stillness with the knowledge that the student’s body will guide them into the appropriate shape for their body at any given time.

In a trauma informed yoga setting, instructors refrain from making physical adjustments which ensures everyone feels safe. In addition to this, we proactively work to instill a sense of safety in the body. By attuning the mind to the physical sensations, we generate a type of sensitivity within the mind body connection. We become more aware of the subtle sensations within the body, and are able to practice listening to the body’s wisdom.

For those of us who’ve experienced trauma, this can be extremely helpful in reclaiming our mental health. You see, when a person experiences trauma, the mind and body splinter and often the memory of the event is floating around with no real place to reside. The mind generally does not store the event in long term memory, and the body will typically remember the event but communication between the mind & body is severed.

Yoga has been immensely successful in helping students feel the emotions & sensations associated with the event safely and to re-open communication between the mind and body. With help from a licensed therapist, one can safely store the traumatic event in the long term memory of the brain. Which leads to reduced flashbacks, lessened anxiety and stress.

While not a type of therapy, trauma informed yoga can help those suffering with mental health issues to feel calm and safe within their bodies. Furthermore, students learn coping strategies and techniques to address the emotions that arise from a suppressed traumatic event.

It is not a requirement of a trauma informed class to actively be working through trauma. It’s simply a safe space for all bodies to arrive in the present moment and cultivate a sense of calm and safety. Most people will take a trauma informed yoga class and never experience strong emotions or memories. In fact, it is not the goal of trauma informed yoga to produce these feelings. We are simply creating a safe space so that students aren’t triggered or re-traumatized by a yoga instructor.         

Note: There is a difference between trauma informed yoga and trauma sensitive yoga. This article focuses specifically on trauma informed yoga. For more information on this topic you can watch this short YouTube video.

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