3 Ways to Make Every Yoga Class More Trauma-Sensitive
By Aysha Ames
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, “experiencing trauma is not rare. About 60% of men and 50% of women experience at least one traumatic event in their lives.” Psychological trauma can come from a single dangerous event, such as an accident, or a series of events such as exposure to violence or abuse. Trauma-sensitive yoga has been shown to significantly reduce symptoms for people with complex trauma and can significantly improve their quality of life. And with such large portion of the population experiencing trauma, there is a good chance one of your clients is turning to yoga to help heal.
Because trauma impacts so many people, and many people who experience trauma turn to yoga, it’s so very important to incorporate trauma consciousness into every yoga class—regardless of what style of yoga you teach.
Here are three strategies you can use to make every yoga class you teach more trauma-sensitive.
1. Learn more about trauma
Whether you or the yoga instructors at your studio enroll in a teacher training program that deals specifically with people with trauma; read books or articles; attend a trauma-sensitive class; research available resources for people with trauma in your area; or chat with other teachers about how they are being trauma-sensitive, it is imperative that you educate yourself on the topic. Remember that teaching always requires a surrendering of what we think we know and an openness to allow students to have their own experiences—through educating yourself about trauma, you can create a safe and open space for all of your students.
2. Be mindful of your teaching practices
Do you or your yoga instructors ask students to close their eyes and breathe? Offer physical assists? Play loud music? Turn out the lights and draw the blinds during savasana? These actions can be potential triggers for people with trauma. Reflect on your teaching and think of alternative ways you can be inclusive and allow students to choose how they ‘show up’ in class. This can be as simple as instructing students that it is perfectly fine to always keep their eyes open, to discreetly opt out of physical assists at any time, or to request some light during savasana.
3. Know your limits
Healing after trauma can be a lifelong journey. Your primary role as a yoga studio owner and teacher is to create a safe and nurturing space for all students to participate in the classes you offer. Part of cultivating that safe space is knowing when you are not qualified to give guidance and support. If a student approaches you and needs support for her trauma, always remind her that yoga is not a substitute for professional help and that she should seek professional guidance to get the proper support she needs.