"Trauma sensitive yoga is for people with PTSD? Why do I need to learn it if I'm teaching regular classes?"
That's a good question. But who is attending your 'regular' yoga classes? Do traumatised people only show up in yoga classes designed especially for them? Do people who are affected by trauma but don't meet the clinical threshold for PTSD benefit from trauma sensitive yoga?
And what if ALL of your students benefited from trauma sensitive yoga?
65% of Australians have experienced a traumatic event and, as a result, live with a wide spectrum of symptoms. Some are virtually paralysed by the symptoms of PTSD. Others appear to function quite normally day-to-day and show few outward signs of the psychological and physical symptoms they are experiencing.
The fact is, people affected by trauma can and will attend your regular classes. Research shows that trauma sensitive yoga can actually help people heal from trauma. We also know that certain environments, words and actions can re-trigger trauma. So why would you not want to teach yoga in a way that honours and supports those living with the symptoms of trauma - especially if all of your students stand to benefit from a trauma sensitive approach?
How your students benefit from trauma sensitive yoga
To understand how your students benefit from this approach, let's take a look at what makes trauma sensitive yoga different. Here are the key features:
- The teacher is there to support the student to explore their own experience of the practice.
- The teacher never assumes or indicates that they know better than the student how or what they should be feeling.
- Students are 'invited' to try the practices, rather than instructed what to do.
- Aggressive or triggering words are avoided such as 'push', 'force', 'grip', 'grab'.
- Teachers consistently invite students to notice what they are feeling.
- Students are always given several options and never taught that they should be pushing towards do a pose 'correctly'.
- Alignment is determined by the students internal experience, not the teacher's preferences. No hands-on physical adjustments.
It isn't only trauma-affected students who benefit from this approach to yoga. Most students thrive when they practice in the inclusive, gentle and respectful environment created in trauma-sensitive yoga classes. No striving, pushing, manual adjustments, competition, mirrors or focus on achieving external alignment. Just mindful movement that invites students to be aware of their present moment experience. To notice the sensations in their feet, the movement of their neck muscles, the ebb and flow of the breath.
When the teacher acknowledges they are not the expert in the room, every students will benefit from a practice that teaches them how to become experts in their own bodies.
Trauma sensitive yoga for healing
We often think of PTSD as something that happens when a person has been in a terrible accident, or assaulted in some way. But trauma can show up in your yoga class when you're not expecting it.
A regular student of mine recently received a cancer diagnosis - something that 1 in 2 Australians experience. As the days passed, it became clear she was struggling with her emotions, physical tension and overwhelm. It wasn't a side effect of her cancer treatment causing her symptoms - according to a US study, up to 35% of women diagnosed with breast cancer experience symptoms of PTSD.
From serious illness to surgery to events that affect our loved ones, trauma is more prevalent than we may think. That's why we take a trauma informed approach to our yoga therapy training at Adore Yoga. While we don't expect every graduating yoga therapist to only teach trauma sensitive yoga, we do train all our student therapists in trauma sensitive practice.
It makes sense - students experiencing health issues are vulnerable. A trauma sensitive approach honours that vulnerability without seeking to rescue, direct or assume expert status. It offers students the time, space and freedom to explore their own experience and make sense of it.
If you are working with students affected by pain, injury or illness, a trauma sensitive approach can make a big difference in their capacity to manage their health issues and make a good recovery. Using a trauma sensitive approach honours the first principle of ahimsa - non harming.
Want to learn more about trauma sensitive yoga? Get your FREE PREVIEW of our trauma sensitive yoga online course. Just click the link below:
Nikola Ellis is the founder of Adore Yoga, yoga therapist, counsellor and teacher trainer. She conducts regular trainings that help people of all ages, shapes and abilities enjoy the benefits of yoga and meditation, including Meditation Facilitator Certificate Trainings; Level 1 200hr Teacher Training and Post Graduate Yoga Teacher Training in Mental Health, Adaptive Asana and the Foundations of Yoga Therapy and a highly regarded professional 650hr Graduate Certificate of Yoga Therapy.