A new buzzword in yoga is trauma informed yoga, especially now that we are all in the collective trauma of the Covid 19 virus. This winter I took a four hour class on the topic of Trauma Informed Yoga, based on the concepts found in the deeply intelligent book “The Body Keeps Score”. Indeed, the body does keep score and yogis have known this for many years.
Mr. Iyengar, a modern Yoga Master of the Twentieth Century, basically said in interviews that he could not even conceive of the higher mental aspects of yoga until he first healed the effects of a childhood riddled with continuous illness in India. In a way Iyengar has taught the modern student a very specific yoga method to treat our own trauma, a trauma informed yoga long before Covid 19.
Another form of yoga that we might call trauma informed yoga is Kundalini Yoga. With its emphasis on inner experience based on having the eyes closed and continuous awareness of the breath, along with chanting techniques that touch deep inner layers of the self, Kundalini Yoga is the form that I found particularly healing to emotional trauma from childhood or situations in adulthood that were traumatic.
Yoga Nidra is a form of yoga that had been popularized by certain teachers that specialize in it as a form of yoga particularly helpful with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, commonly known as PTSD. Particularly helpful to Veterans, yoga nidra means yoga sleep. It is practiced laying in stillness listening to a voice guide the person through physical, mental and breath relaxation, resulting in release of physical, mental and emotional stress. It ha been proven that the brain goes into the theta state in Yoga Nidra, a relaxed state that indeed one might call trauma informed yoga as well.
Many of us have some type of trauma from childhood, some worse than others, Currently society is addressing trauma through movements like ME TOO and BLACK LIVES MATTER.
Various types of yoga can address trauma yet certain rules apply to a truly Trauma Informed Yoga
- There is no touching of the student, including hands on adjustment, which many students relish but is not suitable for trauma survivors.
- The student listens to their own mind and bodies as far as what they wish to do in the class.
- Trauma Informed Yoga is very gradual and slow as opposed to some forms of yoga that are fast and aggressive.
The information age has not helped us move away from trauma. People are bullied via the internet, information overload can produce anxiety or depression and the human connection is often lost to all the time we spend on our devices. The loving human interaction that occurs in a healing trauma informed yoga class can help students connect to the possibility of a safe supportive environment to get safely back into their body, mind, breath and feelings.
If you, or anyone you know, is looking for a trauma informed yoga class, they are out there. In your search do not be afraid to ask the teacher, or school, questions and sense if you think this is a place/person you can trust- very important in an relationship but especially in a trauma informed yoga student-teacher one.
Donna Amrita Davidge is the owner of Sewall House Yoga Retreat and spent years using the techniques of yoga, particularly Kundalini Yoga, to heal her own trauma.
By Donna Davidge, owner Sewall House Yoga Retreat