If you are someone who has experienced trauma, you may have heard that yoga can be helpful in your process of healing and recovery. However, the typical public yoga classes can include unexpected hands-on assists and other elements that are not ideal for many trauma survivors. For those who want a more therapeutic approach, there’s a wonderful practice called Trauma-Sensitive Yoga. It was developed over a 15-year research period by the Trauma Center in Boston, and was later championed by Bessel van der Kolk in his book, The Body Keeps the Score.
Here are five reasons why you may want to consider participating in trauma-sensitive yoga:
- Trauma-sensitive yoga invites you to a gradually re-establish a safe relationship with your own body. Over the past few decades, therapists have learned a lot about how traumatic experiences can “live on” in our bodies, making daily life feel like a minefield. Certain physical feelings can lead us to feel profoundly unsafe, even long after the danger has passed. Learning to feel our bodies from the inside-out — just a little at a time — can be a big help for trauma survivors. (Here’s a wonderful video on the subject … and it’s filmed at Kripalu, where I did my TSY training.)
- Trauma-sensitive yoga prioritizes choice and empowerment. The experience of trauma often involves coercion, a loss of control, or a sense of powerlessness. Thus, in trauma-sensitive yoga, you are encouraged to listen to your own instincts and move (or not) in ways that feel appropriate to you. This is different from a public yoga class, where the instructor might expect everyone in the class to follow their instructions in the same way. In TSY, what you choose to do is completely up to you — and it’s your own inner guidance that matters most.
- Trauma-sensitive yoga offers powerful, simple tools to use in daily life. Feeling your feet on the ground. Inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly. The tools you’ll learn in TSY are simple, but that doesn’t mean they are easy. Engaging in a TSY class will increase the likelihood that you will remember to use your grounding tools when you need them most (like while riding the Metro, or in the midst of a difficult conversation, or trying to fall asleep at night).
- While trauma can often pull us into the past, TSY helps us practice staying in the present. When painful memories and overwhelming sensations are part of our daily reality, the well-intended advice to “just be present” is much easier said than done! TSY offers us a clear, simple pathway to the present moment by giving us something concrete to do.
- TSY is practiced with the support of a group. Many of us have aspirations to practice yoga on our own, but it’s not always easy to pause in daily life and take time for ourselves. A TSY practice group provides a container where all you have to do is show up.
This September, I’m very excited to be offering a group called Yoga for Trauma Healing, which will draw upon my training in Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TSY). If you’re looking for a supportive complement to trauma therapy, I’d love to welcome you to the group. Please click here to request more information.