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What is Trauma-Sensitive Yoga?

According to the National Center for PTSD, approximately 60% of Americans will experience some form of trauma over the course of their lifetime. Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TSY) was created to help meet the needs of those who continue to struggle with the lasting effects of trauma and PTSD.

“For real change to take place, the body needs to learn that the danger has passed and to live in the reality of the present” -Bessel van der Kolk

Why Yoga?

Because so much of trauma is held and felt within the body, TSY can act as a bridge, improving mood stability and increasing a sense of awareness, safety, and mastery over one’s body.

What Trauma-Sensitive Yoga is:

Trauma sensitive yoga uses breathing and movement to help survivors develop a more positive relationship with their body. Participants are provided with opportunities to feel, notice, and sense the world in the present moment.

TC-TSY based trauma yoga (the type of trauma yoga I use in my clinical practice) promotes empowerment and supports healing from complex trauma by inviting participants to practice making choices, have present moment experiences, and share authentic experiences in a non-coercive and open environment. The facilitator provides suggestions and options for different forms and different ways to explore each form. Each form is modifiable. TSY is an option for any adult of any age and for all body types.

“The core experiences of psychological trauma are disempowerment and disconnection from others. Recovery, therefore is based upon the empowerment of the survivor and the creation of new connections.” -Judith Herman

What Trauma-Sensitive Yoga is not:

- Mental Health Treatment - Although TSY has been proven to be a helpful and effective adjunct to traditional mental health treatment, it is not a substitute for professional mental health care. It is recommended that individuals who choose to participate in TSY outside of a counseling or therapeutic setting also engage in mental health treatment. Participants are encouraged to discuss and process their experiences from TSY with a mental health professional.

-Traditional Yoga- For our purposes, the word “yoga” is defined as “a combination of physical forms, focused breathing, and purposeful attention or mindfulness” (Emerson, 2015). Although some of the forms you’ll see in a TSY class may be familiar, you may also notice some differences in the overall structure and process of the class, including:

No physical assists - TSY is about empowering the individual and providing a safe space for personal exploration. As such, TSY classes are guided with verbal invitations and suggestions and there is no physical touch between the facilitator and participants.

No “correct” form - TSY emphasizes choice, exploration, and personal experience. The emphasis is not on the form, but rather the internal experience. Although general guidance is provided, ultimately each form is open to several individual interpretations. There is no right or wrong way to practice TSY.

Shared experience - The yoga facilitator is sharing in the experience, practicing each form with the class. There are no instructors surveying or walking around the class.

Trauma-Sensitive Yoga may be beneficial for:

Chronic or complicated PTSD

Childhood abuse

Secondary trauma

First Responders and Veterans

Victims of rape, assault, or domestic violence

Trauma-Sensitive Yoga is not appropriate for individuals with:

Active drug or alcohol abuse

Recent behavioral health hospitalization

Active Psychosis (Hallucinations/Delusions)


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