Anyone who wants to try yoga may feel conscious of their emotions and how the environment is affecting them. Perhaps the class is too packed, too idealistic, or they feel too self-conscious to try various poses.
For trauma survivors, a yoga class can seem particularly intimidating and even unsafe.
Trauma-informed yoga aims to provide a safe space for trauma survivors with specifically trained teachers in a more informed environment.
In this guide, we will look at what trauma-informed yoga is, a couple of the yoga poses that can be involved, and how trauma-informed yoga can help.
What Is Trauma-Informed Yoga?
Trauma-informed yoga is a particular type of yoga that aims to replace negative emotions associated with trauma with feelings of connection and safety.
The practice is designed to help sufferers recover from the impact of trauma on their brain, body, sense of self, and their emotional well-being.
Initially, trauma-informed yoga focuses on harboring a sense of safety to help an individual manage any troublesome emotions and then begin to address some trauma-related issues.
After that initial first stage, trauma-informed yoga should process the associated emotions that are held in the body, to release any unresolved emotions and discharge the survival responses.
Then there is the final stage which looks at integration, planning for the next steps, and looking back to reflect on an individual’s recovery journey.
You can perform trauma-informed yoga in a small group or with a single accredited trauma-informed yoga teacher.
In effect, trauma-informed yoga is less about a workout and more about becoming grounded.
This says more about how the yoga practice is taught rather than focusing on the poses, though some will be more beneficial than others.
For instance, conscious breathing while sitting up or lying down helps. As does synchronized breathing with movement as a vital part of a pose rather than the full expression of that posture.
The Yoga Poses That May Be Involved With Trauma-Informed Yoga
While there is an emphasis on gentle twists and standing poses, trauma-informed yoga is more of a grounding practice. There are a couple of poses that may be involved.
The Staff Pose
As a seated foundational pose, the Dandasana is ideal to set the tone for your alignment so you can use it as an ideal warm-up before your trauma-informed yoga.
Sit down with your legs out in front of you and bring your hands next to your hips with your arms straight.
Touch both of your big toes together with a small gap between your heels as you flex your ankles and draw the toes back then rotate your inner thighs.
Press forward with your big toes, extend your sternum from your navel, broaden your collarbones and soften the front of your ribs by drawing the heads of the upper arms.
The Mountain Pose
Another foundational pose is the Tadasana which can be a baseline for many more standing yoga poses.
With your feet parallel and close, lift then spread your toes with the balls of your feet and gently rock them side to side and back and forth.
Lower the swaying to balance your weight at a standstill and lift the top of your sternum without pushing forward your lower front ribs.
Allow your arms to relax and face your palms in then balance the crown of the head over the pelvis so the underside of your chin is parallel to the floor with your tongue on the floor of the mouth.
How Trauma-Informed Yoga Can Help
The practice of yoga is typically to help an individual deal with various issues or challenges they may face. Whether that be job struggles, day-to-day stress of everyday life, or mental health problems.
Yoga can also bring an individual closer to themselves and for trauma sufferers that can be triggering, especially if the trauma is complicated or even ongoing.
For anyone that has suffered from emotional trauma, trauma-informed yoga should be able to help.
Though a trauma-informed yoga practice is not therapy, the trauma-informed yoga teacher will be aware of flashbacks, triggers, and overwhelming emotions.
Anyone participating in a class will not be asked to process their memories or share their experiences. However, the trauma-informed yoga teacher should have the contact details of various reputable trauma therapists.
Yoga should be practiced regularly and can be highly beneficial for anyone going through trauma. However, it needs to be the right sort of yoga in the right sort of environment to truly help.
As the practice looks at the trauma held in the body, it can help trauma survivors to get out of a stress-based fear response.
Though the threat may have passed, the body may still be stuck in that response so trauma-informed yoga should help move that energy forward and out of the body.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Aim Of Trauma-Informed Yoga?
Unlike many yoga practices, trauma-informed yoga does not have the aim of centering on a source of physical pain or aiding your relaxation.
The main aim of trauma-informed yoga is to help an individual become more aware of what is happening in their body. If that can be tapped into successfully then releasing the tension, stress, and built-up emotion can follow.
What Is the Main Difference Between Regular Yoga And Trauma-Informed Yoga?
A lot of yoga teachers will not be trained to assist with mental health conditions yet with trauma-informed yoga there is a safe space.
The practice should allow those who attend to pay attention to those signs of distress and dissociation when they appear and then stop.
Compared to regular yoga, there is less emphasis on executing the yoga postures exactly and more on how the pose feels in the body.
Trauma-informed yoga helps an individual establish a presence and achieve a sense of grounding to connect the body to the mind.