Teaching a Trauma-Informed Yoga Class: Yogi’s Guide

Group of students taking a trauma-informed yoga class.

Trauma is a widespread concern that manifests in different ways. PTSD rates in adults show that 6% of the U.S. population will experience PTSD in their lives. Gender-wise, men face higher rates of accidents and physical assaults, whereas women are more likely to suffer from sexual assault and abuse. 

Trauma-informed yoga is all about addressing individual trauma needs with a concentration on mind-body techniques. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the proper steps you need to take as a yoga therapist to help your students heal and prosper in a non-judgemental setting. 

What is Trauma?

Trauma is defined as a response to dreadful events that elicit strong emotional and physical reactions. Such events can include physical or sexual assault, a natural disaster, childhood neglect, or any experience that results in long-term damage. As mentioned earlier, trauma presents itself in several ways. Here are some of the most common symptoms broken down into physical and emotional types: 

  • Physical: Survivors of a distressing event may experience increased heart rate, bodily pains, fatigue, poor concentration, loss of appetite, and sudden panic attacks. Keep in mind that physical reactions may come and go without any warning.
  • Emotional and Mental: Emotional responses are often the most common symptoms in survivors. Depression, anxiety, cognitive difficulties, guilt, shame, and denialism, are all psychological responses to distressing experiences.

Without proper intervention and emotional support, trauma can rob survivors of their happiness and their ability to confront their inner struggles. 

Why Trauma Needs to Be Treated

Dealing with trauma entails going through long-term challenges that make it difficult to function in our daily lives. A good coping strategy involves opening up with someone about your feelings and emotions. Without personalized treatment or care, trauma may result in long-term consequences that disrupt our relationships, hinders our health, and distorts our self-image. 

The Role of a Yoga Teacher in Healing Trauma

Your role as a trauma-informed yoga instructor is to establish a setting where trauma survivors feel supported, encouraged, and provided with an opportunity to heal. Here are some expectations of you as an instructor:

  • Create a safe space: Start by acknowledging your students and providing positive affirmations that make them feel valued and supported. Use warm remarks and express gratitude. This will alleviate uncertainties and ensure your students see you as a trusted instructor.
  • Bring sensitivity: Remain mindful of any phrases or actions that may trigger your participants. These actions include asking participants to conduct a certain physical pose or using phrases like “position” or references to the groin area.
  • Build a community: Everything is much easier when others around you understand your struggles. Establish a setting where participants can connect and rely on each other through difficult times.
  • Remain patient: Since there is no magical formula that can “cure” participants of their struggles, be patient. There is only so much you can do as an instructor to help your students, so remain persistent in the face of challenges. 

If you’re looking for guidance on trauma-sensitive yoga practices, Breathing Deeply can get you started. Our yoga training courses are designed to train students to become general practitioners, helping clients manage emotional and physiological challenges associated with life-disruptive matters.

Best Practices As a Trauma-Informed Yoga Teacher

Every setting will be different, especially when it concerns trauma. Here are practices to consider when working with vulnerable students:

  • Ask students what they want: Every student has a preference. Do they prefer sessions with the lights on or dimmed? How about the type of music played? The key is to create sessions that are safe and welcoming for survivors.
  • Treat poses as invitations: When instructing students on proper body poses and sequences, ensure that your instructions are invitations, not commands. Make it clear that your students remain in control of their bodily movements and decisions. 
  • Invite others to practice non-judgmental behavior: Every student has a unique experience with trauma. Your trauma-informed yoga class should be free of shame or self-deprecation behavior. Your participants should feel valued and supported without fear of judgment.

Things To Avoid When Guiding People Who Have Experienced Trauma 

As an instructor, refrain from physical contact or hands-on adjustments. Instead, opt for verbal directions when giving recommendations. Any form of touching may trigger students who’ve experienced physical or sexual assault.

Also, it is vital to remember that you are not a mental health therapist. Students who exhibit signs of severe emotional distress require help from licensed mental health professionals. Know your practice and refer your students to counseling services if needed. 

Get Certified As a Trauma-Informed Yoga Instructor

Once you’re ready to take that next step as a trauma-informed yoga instructor, check out our 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training program. 

Our interactive program is designed to equip you with the skills and knowledge needed to approach your teachings from a therapeutic perspective.

Help free others from their inner struggles. Contact us for more information.

Info Session

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