Trauma sensitive yoga has an awareness of power dynamics at its core.
There are different types of trauma sensitive yoga, but Trauma Center, Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TC TSY) has a specific methodology that is backed by clinical research.
By working with feelings of powerlessness, and expressing through movement rather than language, the practice aims to support you to reconnect to your sense of agency, to re-establish relational boundaries, and to strengthen the connection between your mind and body. To support you with this, the practice offers:
Invitational language: a trauma sensitive yoga facilitator is not there to tell you what to do with your body. Each shape is an offering, or a suggestion - something that you may wish to explore. The choice is always yours to try the shape offered, or choose something else that you know may benefit you. For example, you may want to lie down instead of stand with the facilitator.
There is no right or wrong way to create any given shape, and there are no more or less advanced shapes. There is only the shape that is best for you at any given time - this can change from moment to moment and day to day depending on how you're feeling.
There are regular reminders that this is a space where you are encouraged to make choices about what to do with your body.
Language is made accessible by avoiding the use of yoga terminology.
In practice, a trauma sensitive yoga class can have people doing different shapes at different times. You will always be welcome to create your own practice, or follow along with the facilitator. Some find that the more comfortable they become with the practice, the more they feel empowered to do something different to the facilitator.
The facilitator stays on their mat and will not touch you at any point. They will not be watching you, and often their eyes will be closed. The focus isn't on doing yoga "the right way" - the yoga practice is simply a vehicle to help you reconnect with your own body and mind.
How effective is trauma sensitive yoga as a method of treatment?
In 2021, a key study was published on Trauma Center, trauma sensitive yoga (TC TSY). This was a four-year Randomised Controlled Trial with female identifying veterans with PTSD related to military sexual trauma (MST). It compared Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) to Trauma Sensitive Yoga. The results demonstrated that trauma sensitive yoga yielded symptom improvement more quickly, had a higher retention rate than CPT, and had a sustained effect. The conclusions in the paper, published in 2021, stated trauma sensitive yoga "may be an effective alternative to trauma-focused therapy for women veterans with PTSD related to MST." You can find a full list of publications on the method here.