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What is trauma sensitive yoga?

What is trauma sensitive yoga?

And how does it differ from regular yoga classes?

These are two questions I am regularly asked from therapists who are considering referring clients to my programs and from clients who want to know what to expect. So, I wanted to delve into this practice and share with you a little about the work I do and why I believe it is so important and valuable.

Firstly, it’s important to mention that I facilitate a specific type of trauma sensitive yoga called TCTSY (Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga). We use this acronym to highlight that we are working with an approach that has a strong evidence base and has been studied and evaluated for over 15 years at The Center for Trauma and Embodiment (formerly, The Trauma Center) in Boston, USA. So this is why we use this particular term - TCTSY. You can find links to the research here and read more here.

Now what exactly is it?

TCTSY was developed for survivors of trauma - particularly people who experienced trauma in childhood, often within the context of a relationship or those who suffer from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). TCTSY programs are offered in a number of countries around the world to war veterans, survivors of sexual and gender-based violence and survivors of childhood abuse and neglect.

Trauma sensitive yoga can also be helpful for anyone who experiences a disconnect from their bodies. I am very interested in working with people who are living with eating disorders or body dysmorphia. I also believe that trauma sensitive yoga has a lot to offer people suffering from anxiety (more to come on this in a future blog - get in touch if you have any questions). And here is why…

  1. We work directly and solely with the body and bodily sensations. In a trauma sensitive yoga session you are invited to notice that you have a body and perhaps build your awareness of what you feel in your body. We are mindful that noticing your body can be hard, it can be challenging and it can be confronting.

  2. You always have choices. We use yoga forms and shapes as an opportunity to make decisions about what we want to do with our bodies - Do you want to lift your arm or not? Do you want to turn your head to the left or the right? Do you want to be seated or standing? During a session you are welcome to spend your time on your mat, you might like to stand at some points or you might lie down for the whole session. This is your choice.

  3. We practice remaining in the present moment. We use yoga forms with a focus on bodily sensations to explore the possibility of remaining in the present moment. Trauma often takes us back to the past. Anxiety takes us into the future. With trauma sensitive yoga we explore this moment, right now.

And there are a few more important things to mention that make this approach different to other yoga classes…

I practice at the same time as the participants. So firstly, I often have my eyes closed. This means that I am always on my mat during the sessions. I don’t move around the room. And finally, I will not, for any reason, place my hands on a participant’s body. There are no physical assists in these sessions. You are in charge of your own body. There is no “right” or “perfect” form in trauma sensitive yoga. You are welcome to explore different shapes with your body without the need to “get it right”.

During a trauma sensitive yoga session, we share a moment together. We practice together. And we do not need to use words to share our experiences.

Trauma sensitive yoga is not religious and is open and accessible to anyone of any faith or cultural background. It is available to anyone without exception - this includes gender, physical ability, age and ethnicity.

Trauma sensitive yoga is for you. You are very welcome in this space.

I offer individual TCTSY sessions in Berlin as well as online from anywhere in the world. I also run group programs for survivors of trauma and women living with eating disorders. I also run half-day workshops introducing yoga teachers and mental health practitioners to TCTSY. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions, queries or concerns.