What is Trauma Sensitive Yoga?

Kathe Irvine, L.I.S.W., Certified Yoga Instructor, and Yoga Coordinator at the Center.

By Kathe Irvine, L.I.S.W., trained Trauma Sensitive Yoga provider at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TSY) is an evidence based treatment for complex trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. It is used with children, youth and adults in Iowa and throughout the world. Some participants engage with Trauma Sensitive Yoga as part of a holistic approach to healing from trauma, a complement to their ongoing counseling. And others participate as an extension of their yoga practice. Anyone can participate, regardless of their level of physical abilities and experience. The goal is healing.

Although Trauma Sensitive Yoga employs physical forms and movements, the emphasis is not on the external expression or appearance (i.e. doing it “right”), or receiving the approval of an external authority. Rather, the focus is on the internal experience of the participant. This shift in orientation, from the external to the internal, is a key attribute of Trauma Sensitive Yoga as a complementary treatment for complex trauma, and has been empirically validated. With this approach, the power resides within the individual, not the facilitator. (Although it is important to practice with a qualified facilitator.)

Elements of Trauma Sensitive Yoga include:

  • Evidence-Based Practice: Trauma Sensitive Yoga is an empirically validated, adjunctive clinical treatment for complex trauma or chronic treatment-resistant Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. TSY has foundations in both Trauma Theory and Hatha Yoga with an emphasis on body-based yoga forms and breathing practices.
  • Sensitive Techniques: Trauma Sensitive Yoga participants are invited to notice and feel sensations within their body throughout the practice. Participants are then encouraged to make choices about what they do and how they move with their body based on what they sense. This supports participants to investigate what choice feels supportive for them, taking cues from their own individual experience.
  • Inquiry-Based Exploration: The approach applies choice and body-centered self-awareness to support a recovery process, a gentle intervention that initiates healing through people regaining a relationship with the present moment and their body. The language used throughout a yoga session is invitational and encourages curiosity to explore what one might feel in different parts of their body based on the form they are choosing to take.

The goal of Trauma Sensitive Yoga is to befriend, reconnect with and feel empowered in your body. In a safe and predictable environment, you are invited to notice sensations, experiment with movement and breathing, and practice making choices about what is right for you. Further, by focusing on the felt sense of the body to inform choice- making, Trauma Sensitive Yoga enables participants to restore their connection of mind and body and cultivate a sense of agency that is compromised as a result of trauma.

“Is Trauma Senstive Yoga right for me?” If you’re asking the question, you may be a good candidate for this treatment method. Consult with your counselor, or register for one of our classes at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. More information here: https://dmpcc.org/classes-events/

Kathe Irvine, L.I.S.W., is a licensed independent social worker. She earned her undergraduate degree in sociology and women’s studies from the University of Northern Iowa and her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Iowa. Kathe provides counseling and psychotherapy to individuals as well as couples and families. She is trained trauma sensitive yoga provider. Kathe has a special interest in providing holistic care to resolve issues of grief, trauma, life transitions, divorce, anxiety and depression. Kathe is a member of  the National Association of Social Workers.

More health tips from the Center: www.dmpcc.org/healthtips

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *