What is Trauma-Informed Yoga?

YOGA FOR…?

I can sometimes get annoyed by "Yoga for [insert ailment here]" classes and blogs because essentially trauma yoga is just yoga!

There aren't specific poses for someone going through a divorce or who's child is sick and the same is true of trauma victims.

However, with trauma-informed yoga, what is important is that the survivor feels like they are in charge when they face the traumas of their pasts.

The American Psychology Association defines trauma as, “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea.

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TRAUMA CYCLES

In the wild, when an animal undergoes trauma, i.e. when a lioness chases a gazelle, if the animal escapes the predator it will tremble for a while to literally shake off the fear and get out of the fight/flight/freeze response cycle.

As humans with higher brain function, we don’t do this.

We become trapped in our amygdala, the part of the brain that controls the fight/flight/freeze response and relive it over and over.

What is so wonderful about yoga and meditation (especially mindfulness meditation) is that it takes the brain out of that f/f/f response of the past and into the present moment as you focus on your breath and feeling the muscles in your body move.

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WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT TRAUMA-INFORMED YOGA?

With trauma-informed yoga, the most important thing to keep in mind, is to do what feels right for YOU in YOUR body.

Teachers who have training in trauma-informed yoga will know that some poses may make survivors of trauma feel more vulnerable, (such as downward dog for those who have been victims of sexual trauma or domestic abuse), or that survivors of trauma may have a harder time focusing on the breath while they are meditating.

With trauma-informed yoga the person doing the yoga is the one in control.

They should feel empowered by the use of their body and the freedom of their choices. Some people need to have an active, strong practice, and some need a mellow, restorative practice.

It’s important for the survivor to know that their needs come first, and whatever they need to do they have the freedom to do in a yoga studio.


Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.
— Fred Rogers

RESOURCES

You never know what someone may or may not be going through just by looking at them.

If you or someone you know Is a survivor of trauma, consider bringing trauma-informed yoga into the management of your emotions.

I offer private yoga and meditation classes for those who need the extra privacy and attention as well as group yoga and meditation classes where I am happy to make sure everyone moves at the pace they need and can manage.

From my home studio in Tampa Bay I offer yoga and meditation classes (both personal and corporate), as well as workshops for MBSR.

If you’re not in the Tampa Bay area I have several online classes available through Zoom Meeting.

Be sure to follow me @lotusheartmindfulness on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more mindfulness inspiration!