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Trauma Sensitive Yoga

DAIS Intersections: Trauma Sensitive Yoga

Many domestic abuse survivors suffer from complex traumas at the hand of their abusers. In the past, many people who suffered complex trauma had a treatment plan that consisted of talk therapy and medication.

This method of treatment is certainly effective, but to the people at the Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute in Brookline, Massachusetts, it left something to be desired.

In 2003, the practice of Trauma Sensitive Yoga was created. Hinging on the idea that movement is a key element to healing from trauma suffered by survivors, it focuses on using the body to help survivors reclaim their autonomy. 

Christie Renick, in “Healing Warriors: How Yoga Can Help Families Facing Trauma", states that trauma sensitive yoga is “the only yoga program listed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration as an evidence-based practice for the treatment of psychological trauma.”

In one study that was conducted, women who had struggled with traditional therapy were enrolled in a trauma sensitive yoga class. After 10 weeks, women in this course showed decreases in depressive symptoms and negative tension. They were also more likely to no longer qualify for post treatment of PTSD. After 1-3 years of keeping up with trauma sensitive yoga, these women were more likely to no longer meet the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis or reductions in their PSTD and/or depressive symptoms. 

So how is Trauma Sensitive Yoga different from what you do in might do in a regular yoga class or follow on YouTube? 


The focus is on being connected to your body, not on perfecting a stance or form

Trauma Sensitive Yoga instructors will not correct anyone’s form, as might happen in a regular yoga class. They will never touch any of the participants to correct their form. Instead, they do the practice with participants and invite them to join in.


They won’t use the term “pose”

The term “pose” can be triggering for survivors. Some may have been forced to pose for their abuser in a suggestive or shameful manner. “Pose” can also make it sound like the focus is on how one’s body looks rather than how it feels. Trauma Sensitive Yoga uses the term form instead.


There are no commands

No one is told to move into a certain position, instead, they are invited to raise their arms, etc. This gives the survivors control, allowing them to decide if they are comfortable doing what the instructor suggests. It puts the survivor in control of how they decide to move their own body.


There is no special breathing technique

Some yoga practices focus on breathing a certain way as a way to be more mindful. Trauma Sensitive Yoga participants are not asked to breathe in a certain way, as it can be triggering for them as well. 

The focus of Trauma Sensitive Yoga is on giving survivors back their bodily autonomy.

They are empowered through being allowed to make choices about their own bodies and learning to connect with their bodies in a non-judgemental way.

Many survivors who suffer from complex trauma learn how to dissociate from their bodies, which is a way of surviving. Trauma Sensitive Yoga allows survivors to reconnect to their bodies in a safe environment. 

Where Can You Go to Attend a Trauma Sensitive Yoga Class? 

Visit for a list of licensed facilitators and classes in your area.

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