Trauma-Sensitive Yoga Introduction
Updated: Jun 3
In the circle of yogis, I did not hear about (Trauma-Sensitive Yoga) TSY until shortly after I completed a 200 hour yoga training in 2016. TSY was already part of various therapist offices and yoga studios (as well as treatment facilities, etc.) but it’s widespread practice had not reached many. I attended TSY at a studio as an already seasoned yogi not expecting I would personally gain much from the practice – my personal awareness and openness to new healings was low. In that first time I noticed sensations and physical places in my body I had not in other yoga practices. TSY wasn’t just about going slowly, it was an exploration in being present in what was happening inside here and now.
It’s of no surprise one can harken it to caving or diving – this journey takes the yogi below the surface into the unknown. We can go with a group, in a safe place, at a comfortable temperature and with plenty of props to support us. There is security in TSY. The facilitator doesn’t assist or touch, one can come and go and, unlike most yoga forums, you are not just allowed but encouraged to go off script in your postures. And let’s explore longevity, there’s security in a structure that dates back several thousand years. As Emerson and Hopper state so well in Overcoming Trauma Through Yoga, “We can modify the yoga to suit out needs and still call it yoga because the practice has survived by being so expansive and adaptable….our emphasis on yoga as a practice of self-inquiry and self-care above all may actually be closer to the intentions of the first yoga practitioners than are some modern interpretations.”
TSY empowers yogis to experience the present, make their own choices in postures, change, modify, and allow shifts, movements and even bodily flows to take place. Regular TSY participants gain knowledge of their mind-body connection as well as gain or regain agency to feel sensation and determine what they want to do in response to that sensation. In our current TSY groups at NuPower in Nashville, TN, we practice exploring, noticing, responding and then repeat the process to see what other options we have – expanding our self-regulation skills. It makes sense when I hear therapists call TSY a “bottom-up approach” to healing.
This is only a short introduction into TSY and my experience and study of it. However, the proof is abundant. With quantitative studies by Bessel A Van der Kolk (The Body Keeps the Score) to the more qualitative findings of David Emerson (Trauma-Senstive Yoga in Therapy and Overcoming Trauma Through Yoga) we are seeing more support for somatic healing methods. A study by Allison Rhodes in 2014 that was later supported by David Emerson, notes the positive outcomes. In her study of yoga’s effects on trauma survivors she concluded that collectively they had a “symptom reduction, improved quality of life and personal empowerment.” My hope is that each yogi who participates with some degree of consistency and openness to TSY will gain healing mentioned above – or create a healing story all their own.
By Brooke Lovelace, 500 HYI, TSY & Yin certified