What is Trauma Sensitive Yoga

Written by: Sara Sisty, LCSW, RYT

In today’s culture, yoga is everywhere. Its common to hear about all the benefits of yoga, as well as a wide variety of yoga classes. Today, I would like to share more about trauma sensitive yoga, and how it differs from mainstream yoga classes.

Similar to most yoga classes, trauma sensitive yoga (TSY) is about noticing, observing, and connecting to sensations in your body. TSY differs, in that the aim is to empower choice making, and interoceptive experiences in your body. A general rule of thumb for TSY classes, that may differ from other yoga classes are:

  • No hands on assists made by the instructor, ever

  • No experience needed, classes are made accessible for everyone

  • No music is played during the practice

  • Classes are slow in pace, and forms are typically held for 5-10 breaths minimum.

Experiencing TSY can also be incorporated into individual sessions.

So, what exactly is an “interoceptive experience”? Interoception is defined as “The physiological condition of the entire body and the ability of visceral afferent information to reach awareness and effect behavior, either directly or indirectly. The system of interoception as a whole constitutes “the material me” and relates to how we perceive feelings from our bodies” (Fowler, 2002). Interoception is any type of present moment experience between mind and body.

For example, as you are reading this blog, you may be sitting down. Notice where your body is making connection on a surface behind you, or underneath you. Perhaps, observe if you can feel sensations to which areas of your body are grounded down to either of those spaces. This is an interoceptive experience!

The goal of TSY, whether in a group, or individual setting is to empower choice making within your own body, along with interoceptive experience. As the facilitator, I am sharing in each experience of a form with you, and allowing choice making decisions by offering different aspects of each yoga form.

We all have experienced trauma to some degree. Whether big or small, traumatic experiences take away choice and power from our body. We go into fight or flight mode, and often are unaware that our bodies may be stuck in a constant state of hyper or hypo arousal. TSY aims to give power and choice back into your body, by inviting in choice making and authentic experiencing.

TSY can be a powerful way of reconnecting to your mind and body, and feeling empowered. If you are interested in learning more about these practices, I would love to connect! sara@bravecounseling.com

Kimberly Ottinger