Trauma Sensitive Yoga

Traumatic events overwhelm the ordinary systems of care that give people a sense of control, connection and meaning.

Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery

Rebecca teaches Trauma Sensitive Yoga to individuals and small groups impacted by traumatic experiences. Her classes at Dawar Center for Development and the Arts are trauma-informed and she spends one day a week teaching trauma-sensitive classes at Banat Al Ghad, a shelter for Egyptian street children. She has regular clinical supervision for this side of her work.Trauma Sensitive Yoga harnesses the yoga tools of present-moment attention to movement and breath, to help people heal their systems when they have become overwhelmed.

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A Trauma Sensitive Yoga class is led in such a way that participants can choose, from one moment to the next, how much to engage with the work; how much they can manage. The teacher–participant relationship provides a safe space in which participants can start to reconnect firstly with themselves, and then with the world around them.

Little by little, control, connection and meaning can all start to become more available.

A Trauma Sensitive Yoga Class is a way of doing yoga to become more friendly with the body:

  • It takes place in a safe, supportive, non-judgmental environment.
  • TSY emphasizes self-awareness and self-regulation through yoga practices such as coordinating breath and movement, mindful breathing, moving from one’s centre of support, finding freedom in the spine.
  • The participant’s personal exploration of the postures and breathing is what is important, with an emphasis on their developing curiosity and interest in their own body, and their subjective experience in each moment.
  • It is natural that feelings arise during this process and the TSY teacher is trained to help deal with this.
  • TSY cultivates stability and flexibility, but also encourages participants to take care of themselves and not force through pain or strain.
  • It places the initiative firmly in the hands of the participant, contradicting the myth created by many yoga practices that each pose or form has some kind of ideal to be attained.
  • No hands-on physical assistance is given in a TSY class, and the only props used are mats, foam blocks and blankets for support and cushioning.
  • TSY is non-religious and does not use Sanskrit terms or expressions. There is no chanting, no incense and no music.
  • Participants are encouraged to give feedback, both during and between classes.

Where can I do Trauma Sensitive Yoga?

Because of the sensitive nature of TSY, classes are small (maximum 8 participants) and cannot be conducted on a drop-in basis. For this reason participants have to commit to a fixed period and must wait for a new class to open before joining.

Individual sessions and sessions in groups of up to three people can be arranged separately.

All participants must be in regular therapy with a mental health professional, to be eligible to attend a TSY class.

Participants who have been hospitalized for mental health reasons must have been out of hospital for six weeks before starting TSY.

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