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What is trauma-informed yoga?

Exploring the differences between trauma-informed yoga approaches and traditional yoga classes


You might have seen my recent social media post sharing that I have completed my advanced specialist 100-hour course and qualified as a trauma-informed yoga teacher. But what is trauma-informed yoga, and how does it differ to other general yoga traditions and styles? Read on if you’d like to find out more!


Explore the sections of this article:

What is trauma-informed yoga?

Trauma-informed yoga is a type of yoga that is designed to be safe and supportive to help people heal from trauma and develop their personal growth, recovery, and better physical and psychological wellbeing. Yoga teachers who have qualified as trauma-informed yoga teachers are trained to have knowledge of trauma and the symptoms of trauma so that their yoga offerings appropriately take into account the neurological, biological, and social effects of trauma (Cook-Cottone et al., 2017; Spence, 2021). Despite what the name of this approach might suggest, it is a style of yoga that can be beneficial to everyone, even those who do not identify as having trauma(s).


BAM Therapy Kayleigh Darch in seated yoga pose during yoga class in Exeter

How does trauma-informed yoga differ to traditional yoga?

Trauma-informed yoga differs from traditional yoga in a number of ways, including:

  • The pace of the class is slower and more gentle. This allows people to move at their own pace and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

  • The poses are modified to be accessible to all levels of experience. This means that people can find poses that are challenging but not too challenging.

  • The teacher uses invitational language rather than directive language. This means that the teacher invites students to participate in the poses rather than telling them what to do.

  • The teacher is aware of the signs of trauma and is able to provide support if needed. This means that the teacher can help students to stay safe and comfortable during the class.


Trauma-informed yoga supports safety, choice, and empowerment.


Safety

One of the most important principles of trauma-informed yoga is safety. The teacher creates a safe and supportive space for students to practice. This means that students are free to make choices about their practice and to modify poses as needed. The teacher also avoids using language or imagery that could be triggering for students.


Choice

Another important principle of trauma-informed yoga is choice. Students are given choices throughout the practice, such as whether to do a pose, how deeply to bend into a pose, and whether to close their eyes. This gives students a sense of control and empowerment, which can be healing for people who have experienced trauma.


Empowerment

Trauma-informed yoga is also about empowerment. Students are encouraged to listen to their bodies and to respect their limits. They are also encouraged to set goals for themselves and to celebrate their progress. This can help students to feel more in control of their lives and to build their self-esteem.


How is trauma-informed yoga helpful? What are the benefits of this approach?

Trauma-informed yoga can be a helpful way for people to connect with their bodies and minds in a safe and supportive environment. This is especially helpful if someone has experienced trauma(s) because we know that the body stores trauma patterns and memories; “the body keeps the score” (Van der Kolk, 2014). However, the benefits of trauma-informed yoga extend to everyone, not just those of us who have experienced trauma.


Here are some of the benefits of trauma-informed yoga:

  • It can help to reduce stress and anxiety.

  • It can improve sleep quality.

  • It can increase self-awareness and self-compassion.

  • It can help to improve mood and well-being.

  • It can help to reduce pain and improve physical function.

  • It can help to promote relaxation and stress relief.

  • It can help to build a positive sense of self-worth and reduce low self-esteem.


BAM Therapy: Wellbeing Yoga Exeter

How we understand progression in TIY

In trauma-informed yoga, progression is understood in terms of growth. It focuses on sustainability and recognises the ways in which progression is a process that involves both gains and achievements, and set-backs and blips. Progression through trauma-informed yoga is an individual journey where someone is encouraged to develop self-healing tools, skills, and observe successes, and also be mindful of times when the journey brings challenges. These challenges are managed together in the trauma-informed yoga sessions between the teacher and the student.

 

If you are interested in trying trauma-informed yoga, it is important to find a teacher who is trained in this type of yoga. Kayleigh has completed specialist accredited trauma-informed yoga teacher training and has experience of offering trauma-informed yoga to people in an individual 1:1 class setting and in small groups. Kayleigh has worked with charities and health services to bring trauma-informed yoga to people who are struggling with their mental health and people who have lived through trauma(s). BAM Therapy offers trauma-informed yoga classes in Exeter in person and online to people living in the UK. Contact Kayleigh to find out more.


BAM Therapy Exeter offers trauma-informed yoga for body and mind wellbeing

 

References:

  • Cook-Cotton, C., LaVigne, M., Guyker, W., Travers, L., Lemish, E., & Elenson, P. (2017). Trauma-Informed Yoga: An Embodied, Cognitive-Relational Framework. International Journal of Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 9(1).

  • Spence, J. (2021). Trauma-Informed Yoga: A Toolbox for Therapists. USA: PESI Publishing.

  • Van der Kolk, B. (2014). The Body Keeps the Score. London: Penguin Books.

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