Imagine, you are getting ready to attend your first yoga class - you have no idea what to expect. You have been dealing with some stress lately and are hoping that you will be able to relax. You log on to the online room and are instantly met with a soothing safe space. You get comfortable, turn your camera off, and begin immersing yourself in the sounds around you and the sensations in your body. *inhale*….*exhale*
Much like the scenario above, I did not know what to expect the first time I attended a trauma-informed yoga class. I knew it was held via zoom, and that there would be an instructor, but I did not have a large background on this form of yoga (or yoga in general). Going into the class, I was a bit nervous. I had my yoga mat laid out with my computer in front of me, anticipating that I would not be able to keep up with the intricate poses. This could not have been further from the truth! For those who do not know what trauma-informed yoga is, let me give a bit of background.
You may be familiar with the term yoga already; yoga is a practice involving movement, breathing, and meditation to promote both physical and mental health (Nichols, 2021). A typical yoga class may include an instructor directing participants to hold different poses, practice breathing exercises, and concentrate. There are many different types of yoga to participate in, all of which may emphasize a specific focus. The class that I participated in was a trauma-informed type of yoga. You may be wondering, what does a trauma-informed class entail? Before this question can be answered, it is important to have an idea of what trauma is.
Trauma is an emotional response to an overwhelming event or crisis such as experiencing natural disasters, assault, violence, and more (American Psychological Association). Traumatic events may inhibit our ability to respond and cope as we normally would. Individuals may re-experience the trauma through flashbacks or triggers if left untreated. Due to the nature of traumatic events, the emotional effects can be long lasting. When we face a traumatic event, our bodies must build up enough energy to help us perform the fight, flight, or freeze response – if this energy is not released, our body will keep the trauma stored (Bond, 2020). Releasing this energy is important for keeping our nervous system regulated. Therefore, in a trauma-informed class, the instructor will be educated on trauma, its effects on the body, and ways to make participants feel safe.
Back to the original question – what does trauma-informed yoga entail? Trauma-informed yoga supports individuals in different ways. In a trauma-informed class, you may notice the instructor using invitational language. For example, in the class that I attended, the instructor Krista would say “I invite you to join in on the next pose.” Invitational language is important in a trauma-informed class, because commanding a person to do something with their body in a specific way may be triggering for trauma survivors (Yoga Outreach, 2021). Invitational language can support individuals in re-building self-esteem and autonomy. Some other examples of invitational language that is used during a trauma-informed class would be, “eyes can be open or closed”, “feel free to join in with this breathing exercise”, “you may also choose to do this pose” Essentially, all language used will ensure participants that everything in the class is optional. The language and movements of a trauma-informed yoga class remain repetitive and safe, so that participants know what to expect. In the class that I attended with Krista, she also made sure to build a safe space by letting the class know that her eyes would remain open throughout the class.
Trauma-informed yoga is a great option for trauma survivors, at-risk individuals, and individuals who would just like a safe space to explore their mind and body connection. After I was finished with my trauma-informed yoga class, I could not believe how relaxed I felt. This class allowed me to take a step back from my hectic life, and just connect to my own senses for an hour. Whether you are a yoga beginner or an expert, this class is appropriate for everyone.
We invite you to check out our next trauma-informed yoga class led by Krista. Check out our events & forms page to sign up: https://www.peaceoftime.org/events
Bond, J. (2020). What is Trauma-Informed Yoga? Yoga Ed. https://yogaed.com/resource/trauma-informed-yoga.
Nichols, H. (2021). Yoga: Methods, types, philosophy, and risks. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/286745.
Trauma and Shock. American Psychological Association. (n.d.). https://www.apa.org/topics/trauma.
Why use invitational language in trauma-informed yoga? Yoga Outreach. (2021). https://www.yogaoutreach.com/why-use-invitational-language-in-trauma-informed-yoga.