Yoga has become a widely popular as hobby, spiritual practice, form of self-care, and exercise. There are a variety of styles such as Hatha, Iyengar, and Restorative, and each style emphasizes different aspects of yoga practice. Some focus on pose and body alignment, some focus on the breath, and others focus on rest. One style in particular, Trauma-Informed, Yoga has been developed as a combination of disciplines like neurobiology, trauma theory, and attachment with more traditional yoga poses and sequences. Trauma-Informed Yoga was developed at the Center for Trauma and Embodiment in Massachusetts and has been shown to be a rich approach to intervening with individuals who have experienced trauma.
Before taking a TI Yoga class, I had never heard of it, and was eagerly expecting more of a Vinyasa style class, so I was surprised by the slow and non-structured pace of the class. The instructor used welcoming and inviting language to shift the focus away from traditional execution of poses and towards being present with the sensations in our bodies. The phrase “isn’t that interesting” was used to describe how sensations could feel, and asking that got me in the practice of removing judgement about the sensation I was feeling. In fact, the poses aren’t actually referred to as poses, but as shapes instead. In yoga, the word pose often implies a “correct” way of executing the pose while “shape” is much more open-ended.
At first, I struggled with the lack of structure and direction of the class, but after learning more about the rationale behind such an open-ended and client-led approach, I realized how empowering it is for individuals who have felt any disempowerment about their bodies. Having full authority over how I executed the movements became much easier after I leaned into the mindfulness piece of the practice and allowed my experience of the sensation to guide my practice. Overall, I am happy that such a wonderful resource exists for members of our community, and is another testament to how our bodies have the innate abilities to facilitate healing. If you’re interested in checking out a TI Yoga class, I invite you to check out the next trauma-informed yoga class led by Krista.