In recent years the understanding of how the body plays a crucial role in trauma recovery has become more widely understood and known. The American Psychological Association defines trauma as Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster”. Trauma is also understood to be both interpersonal, systemic, and has the potential to become complex.
When we experience a trauma it is stored in multiple areas of the brain, fragmented, like a puzzle whose pieces are scattered about. It is stored in the muscles and connective tissue of the body in the form of body memory, tension and/or pain. Making traditional talk therapy techniques limited in how they can alleviate the distress from the trauma.
With this understanding and knowledge has come an increased demand for body based practices to help facilitate healing and recovery. Through yoga’s somatic (physical movements), breath work, and philosophy yoga has the potential to access and address trauma as an adjunct to more traditional therapy approaches.
Not all yoga is considered trauma informed but all yoga does have the potential to be trauma informed. What does that mean? The number one thing that indicates the practice will be trauma informed is if the teacher/facilitator is trauma aware and trauma informed.
Being trauma aware means the yoga teacher has some awareness of the prevalence of trauma and how their classes and sessions will have students present who have experienced trauma and understands how that may impact a student’s experience in the class. Trauma informed adds on to this awareness and includes knowledge of the nervous system, and incorporates the practice of choice.
By taking trauma awareness and applying it to the session a teacher has created a space that can be empowering to a person to make choices and attune to their own needs which can grant them agency. Something that many survivors have not experienced.
Trauma Informed yoga facilitators create this space with invitational language fostering choice, using language that brings awareness to the body, breathwork and specific body shapes that enhance the brain’s ability to process trauma, a space with a focus on safety, and a emphasis on the unique needs of a trauma survivor. A trauma informed practice will also usually leave out hands on assists.