Trauma-Informed Yoga TherapyJan 02, 2019 04:55PM ● By Genevieve Yellin
Trauma-Informed Yoga Therapy (TIYT) is a specialized training developed for yoga professionals who intend to work with people who have a trauma history. The training serves mental health professionals, allied health partners, public health or substance abuse counselors who have a working knowledge of yoga and wish to incorporate yoga practices into their clinical practice or service model.
The field of yoga therapy has been “recognized” since the 1920s, but it is still not fully understood in the U.S. Yoga therapy is intended to empower individuals to find their own path of self-healing. A yoga therapist does not diagnose or “treat” specific conditions, but rather, they are guides through a healing journey. They recommend practices which address the physical, psychological and spiritual aspects of the student’s being, and create a safe environment where a student accesses their ability to self-regulate.
Yoga therapy is first and foremost a methodology based in ancient practices to awaken the spirit, as our essential nature. The spiritual facet of a human being is not typically acknowledged in many conventional approaches to health and well-being, yet many conventional practitioners have long recognized the necessity to address the whole person; for this reason, yoga therapy is seen in more hospitals, wellness centers and progressive healthcare systems.
In yoga therapy, we see an individual as a make-up of five layers, or Koshas: physical, energetic, psycho-emotional, wisdom and bliss/spirit. A yoga therapist works with all five Koshas. Another key aspect that informs a yoga therapist is Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science; the two cannot be divorced in the practice of yoga therapy. Looking at a student through a Koshic and Ayurvedic lens allows us to see each person as a unique being and therefore tailor practices that are suited to the individual’s needs. Yoga therapy is the marriage of the traditional eight-limbed path of yoga, Ayurveda and modern health sciences. A yoga therapy protocol is evidence informed, yet adheres to the traditional yoga and Ayurveda tenet that each person must be viewed as an individual with a unique set of strengths and challenges.
Yoga therapy can be a very powerful modality when working with clients who seek methods to overcome chronic anxiety and/or trauma-related issues. TIYT programs are not only rooted in the ancient techniques of yoga, but also in modern research in the fields of neurobiology, stress physiology and medical biophysics. The Polyvagal Nerve theory and Somatic Experiencing through the practice of evidence informed protocols provides us with the knowledge and skills to amplify a human’s innate ability to self-soothe, self-heal and eventually revive a natural self-regulation system.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Association (SAMHSA), a trauma-informed approach to care curriculum adheres core principles of: safety; trustworthiness/transparency; peer support/collaboration/mutuality; empowerment, voice and choice; and cultural, historical and gender issue recognition.
The implementation of a trauma-informed approach into a yoga therapy model is done with ease. What is created by this union is a safe space where self-healing is possible. Holding this space for someone who is suffering, and guiding them through practices that help them find their feet, their breath and their way, is a beautiful experience. The wandering and often arduous path that marks each individual’s unique journey to wholeness is an incredible honor to witness.
Trauma-Informed Yoga Therapy will be offered at Pima Community College and taught by founder Genevieve Yellin, an Integrative Yoga Therapist who lives and practices in Austin, Texas. She offers TIYT protocols and programs in hospitals, addiction rehabilitation centers, prisons, Alzheimer’s respite centers and battered women’s shelters. For more information, visit Pima.edu. Call 520-206-6468 to register. See ad, page 18.