Exploring Trauma Informed Yoga 

We met with Christine, our Trauma Informed Yoga Teacher, to ask a few questions regarding Trauma Informed Yoga. As a psychotherapist, she brings a multitude of experience to this intentional practice. 

What is trauma informed yoga? 

Trauma-informed yoga begins with an understanding of how past trauma may manifest in the reactions, behaviours, nervous systems and bodies of our students. This knowledge is the basis for the compassion and skills required to teach asana and pranayama in ways that are inclusive, safe, and connecting. Being trauma informed also includes an understanding of how different kinds of trauma, including systemic, racial, or historical trauma plays a role in each of our lives. With a trauma informed lens, our own unconscious patterns and biases become apparent which then informs and activates a new way to move forward as individuals, as teachers and as healers.

Who is trauma informed yoga for? 

Being trauma informed is foundational for any teacher seeking to create compassionate, inclusive spaces. Statistically, the prevalence of trauma in the general population is high and we can assume there will be students in our classes that carry the effects of trauma in their nervous systems. It is rare that a student will share how and why cues or language triggered them and instead a student will simply not return, or worse, move through their practice by reinforcing a disconnection from their bodies. As yoga teachers, our role is to facilitate healing and growth and without a trauma informed lens and skilled engagement, we may simply be unequipped to offer the safe container that some of our students need.

What are ways you can bring trauma informed yoga into your classes? 

A trauma-informed yoga teacher holds an awareness and compassionate understanding of what our students may be bringing with them onto the yoga mat. We see how using conscious, invitational cueing can enliven the spirit of a class and help students access an embodied, non-judgemental practice. Understanding how pranayama can activate the parasympathetic nervous system allows us to use it skillfully in a class setting in ways that encourage regulation and containment. And being aware of our own inherent biases, assumptions and blind spots brings a spirit of inquiry to our own role as teachers. We recognize and can shift unhelpful power dynamics in new and important ways that support our own growth as well as the growth of our students.

Do you offer hands on assists in trauma informed yoga? 

Hands-on assists have taken a back seat during the pandemic and some would argue they don’t necessarily belong in a trauma informed environment. But when they’re delivered properly, they can play an important role in the practice of your students. Knowing how and when touch can be administered safely means your students stay present and engaged in their healing journey. Without this understanding, touch can create unease or disconnection for our students and we run the risk of causing harm and/or undermining the therapeutic goal of a yoga practice. Trauma informed education clarifies how and when touch can support our students and when its best left alone.

What is your background and how did you find trauma informed yoga? 

I’ve been a yoga teacher for over twenty years and have seen how yoga in the west has evolved, thankfully, to reflect a deeper understanding of the diverse and sometimes complex needs of our students. When I began practicing yoga, there was no questioning of a teachers unsolicited touch or unwavering instructions. If a student didn’t feel safe, it was assumed that something was wrong with them, or even worse, that they weren’t ‘spiritual’ enough to understand how yoga could help them. As a psychotherapist, I have learned how trauma endures in the body and mind and how the mechanisms for healing trauma must begin from a place of safety and choice. My own journey began with becoming more conscious about my own teaching patterns, my language, and my assumptions about healing. I began to explore and prioritize ways of teaching that were increasingly safe, conscious and inclusive. My increased awareness has benefited those I teach, but it’s also helped me discover and dismantle my own subtle biases and layers of self-judgment.

Upcoming online dates with the Christine LIVE: JUNE 3 – 5 10am – 3pm PST Friday – Sunday

Meet Christine

Based in Victoria, BC Christine is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and yoga teacher who has been studying and teaching nationally and internationally for more than 20 years. Her teaching style is compassionate, inclusive and informative and reflects her belief that we have an innate capacity to heal but learn best in a supportive community. In both her clinical practice and on the mat, Christine uses mindful yoga practices and psychotherapy to help her clients meet discomfort with clarity, compassion and courage. A strong believer of nature’s ability to help regulate our nervous system, Christine also uses eco-therapy to encourage connection and deepen self-awareness in the lives of her clients.

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