This is great question to consider. Chances are there is a person contemplating a visit to your class or studio because he or she was recommended to try yoga by his or her therapist. What potential clients and even some therapists or doctors don’t know is that there are so many different yoga styles out there and not all yoga is good for a trauma-sensitive person.
I say again… NOT ALL YOGA STYLES ARE GOOD FOR THE TRAUMATIZED PERSON. In fact, some yoga experiences can cause more harm than good.
As an owner and instructor at Eighteenth Element Yoga in Colorado Springs, I am extremely sensitive towards this topic.
To set any potential client’s mind at ease, below is a list of what we at Eighteenth Element Yoga define as a trauma-sensitive yoga class.
1. Any client who would like to meet the instructor in advance of the class, can do so. We will accommodate meetings and explore any questions a person might have.
2. There is predictability with our instructors and our classes. No surprises! All can take comfort in the safety and security of this. Instructors will always inform of what is coming before it happens.
3. Instructors stay on their mats. Our clients will always know where the instructor is at all times. Instructors will never approach a person from behind or catch someone off guard.
4. Our classes promote choices. We understand that you didn’t have a choice concerning the trauma that happened to you. Take comfort that no one will be forced to do anything. You don’t want to close your eyes, you don’t have to. You will always have choices offered.
5. Our classes have grounding practices. It is important to have a sense of support. In yoga, it is the earth and our Bandhas. It can also be the community of the yoga class who have empathy.
6. Classes have a structure. You will always know what comes after what. For instance, we will always have a breathing exercise at the beginning of class so you can count on that.
7. Touching is a NO GO! We will never touch anyone without their permission. This goes without saying in a trauma-sensitive class. Also, take comfort that even when you are in any of our classes (even if they aren’t identified as a trauma-sensitive class) that we won’t touch you without your permission. The studio has flip chips that students have total control of. Don’t want to be touched, flip the chip to indicate as such. There is no need to draw attention to yourself by having to say anything in front of the class.
8. All of our trauma-sensitive classes encourage “present moment” practices and mindsets. Trauma is a past event that likes to keep you in the past with things like flashbacks and nightmares. The future can be stressful to think about. The present moment is a stress free zone and that is where we encourage you to explore.
9. Our trauma-sensitive classes encourage and allow “effective action” practices. These are choices we encourage our clients to make that might make them feel better. For instance, being set up in a certain part of the room, to use or not use blocks, to ask for the lights to stay on verses off… Things like that.
10. Our classes have rhythms. Our trauma-sensitive classes move at a slower and limbic-centric pace. Class won’t be to slow or to fast but at the pace where one can feel the body move and relieve tension.
11. Our trauma-sensitive classes reinforce “Mindfulness.” This is knowing what happens and feeling when you move your body a certain way. This is listening to your bodies and hearing the whispers it says and honoring those whispers so the body doesn’t scream at you later. Learning to concentrate on what your are doing for instance in a pose. Using breathing practices to energize and fuel your yoga practice but also to sooth and calm whenever you need. You can take your breath where ever you go and let it channel anger and anxiety as you are out and about in your world.
12. We took a lot of care in finding the perfect studio. You won’t be startled by loud exterior noises like booming car stereos or people walking by and looking at you through the window. There aren’t excessive doors or windows. Our trauma-sensitive class are room temperature verses heat that reminds you Afghanistan or Iraq. We don’t burn weird incense or have weird exotic music. We get that “bells and smells” can be trauma triggers. We also speak in everyday language.
13. We understand that yoga maybe a totally new experience and maybe even overwhelming at times. We encourage our clients to work with a therapist so the yoga can be an adjunctive treatment. Additionally, we understand that some instructors can fire hose people with a ton of information that you’ll stress over trying to remember everything. To counter that, we offer redundancy meaning we will repeat the things you learn. We reinforce what is taught with support material and homework practices to reinforce what you are learning. We call everything we do “tools” that you can put in your “toolbox.”
14. You don’t have to guess which class to go to. All of our trauma-sensitive classes are identified by an * symbol and a course description. When you check us out, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out actually how many of our classes are trauma-sensitive.
15. Our classes are for everyone! Trauma doesn’t discriminate and neither do we. Classes are affordable, donation-based, and some are even free. We keep our costs low and transfer that to you. We are also backed by non-profits and their supporting organizations.
There are a lot of yoga choices out there. All in all, I hope this provides some insight that not all yoga is right for a traumatized or trauma-sensitive person. The above is Eighteenth Element Yoga’s perspective.