What is trauma-informed yoga?

Trauma-informed yoga is a contemporary form of yoga focused on creating a conducive practice space for survivors who have experienced various forms of trauma in their lives. These traumas can include child abuse survivors, domestic abuse or sexual assault survivors, veterans and more.

The principle behind creating a conducive practice is to create an inviting space where practitioners can rediscover and build a relationship with their bodies, minds, and eventually process and own their narratives.

The following are a list of factors that may be considered in trauma-informed yoga.

Invitational language

Rather than short, curt and commander-like instructions where one may instruct the practitioner to do a certain pose or feel a specific thing in their limbs, invitational language can encourage practitioners by reinforcing an element of choice. For example, the teacher could use the following phrases:

  • I invite you to join me with your hands in prayer as we…
  • Notice how your body feels…

Hands-off adjustment

Some practitioners may be sensitive to and uncomfortable with hands-on adjustments, which may also be triggering. Teaching a class through demonstration or using descriptive instructions to encourage adjustments can help students feel at ease and in control of their growth through asanas.

Body positive encouragement

Sequence classes in a way to encourage practitioners. By leveraging a technique like peak pose technique, practitioners can ease into the practice and build confidence toward an apex pose. Beginner-friendly variations of giving practitioners an option to return to a restorative pose (balasana, for example) when uncomfortable can also keep them from feeling awkward or left out.

Anxiety management through yoga

By educating practitioners on how trauma lives in the body and mind, be it in the nerves or in unconscious thought patterns, practitioners can build body awareness and take conscious efforts to care for it. Additionally, guided meditation, asanas, and pranayamas can help practitioners process and own their narratives.

To make yoga a truly inclusive practice worldwide, we must be empathetic and understanding towards individuals with various backgrounds. As a yoga teacher in training, I personally believe its important to build a relationship with each student to encourage them to make the practice their own.