What is Trauma-Responsive Yoga?
Trauma-Responsive Yoga is derived from Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TSY), which is an emerging evidenced-based practice developed by the Justice Resources Institute in Boston, MA. TSY uses a modified approach to the traditional Hatha Yoga (or studio yoga) that emphasizes practices that promote safety, the minimization of triggers, and mind-body awareness. For example, instructors may use language that gives participants autonomy and choice such as when to engage in a specific movement or activity (e.g., “when you feel ready, and as much as you are able, try shifting your weight to your left leg”). To minimize the potential for hyper-arousal, dissociation, and/or re-traumatization, instructor corrections, which often require touch—a common practice in many yoga studios—is discouraged as it may be triggering for those who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or histories of trauma. In addition, TSY classes are typically single gendered and class attendance is recommended to be 10 participants or less, all of which helps to promote a sense of safety and a more personal and intimate experience. The movements, breath work, and overall aim of TSY primarily center on becoming more aware and accepting of one’s body. This contrasts with other types of yoga, where the primary aim may be reaching specific levels of flexibility or obtaining an optimal workout (see https://www.traumasensitiveyoga.com/)
Trauma-Responsive Yoga is based on the TSY framework and approach, and included additional concepts and practices based on:
The latest research regarding the effects of trauma and stress on the brain and body, along with cognitive, emotional, and somatic effects and behaviors.
The latest research regarding the impact of social engagement in activity and movement-based practices on physical and mental health functioning.
Clinically-informed best practice approaches for working with highly traumatized and maltreated populations.