teaching trauma sensitive yoga

Last year I wrote a three part series on trauma sensitive yoga after my training at The Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts.  I posted the series on the LinkedIn page of the International Association of Yoga Therapists  and shortly thereafter Kelly Birch, the editor of Yoga Therapy Today (IAYT’s magazine for members), asked me to write an article.  I was honored (and humbled) to be asked!

My article, Compassionate Presence: Teaching Trauma-Sensitive Yoga, has finally been published in the current issue (Summer 2012.)  And let me tell you, it is damn hard writing for someone else!  I now know the value of a good editor because Kelly was fantastic.  I am even more honored to be in a magazine that also has an article about the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram.

At this point in time only IAYT members can access the site to read the article, but you can download the .pdf from the above link.  Please share it with someone whom you think might benefit.   Kausthub Desikachar told us in one of my trainings that we must share what we have learned, otherwise we are nothing more than thieves, taking and not giving.

For me, real yoga is about personal transformation and healing.  My long time readers know that I teach at a domestic violence shelter and some of the women have started to come to me for classes.  Coincidentally, the day I received word that Yoga Therapy Today was being mailed out, I received a call from a woman suffering from PTSD because of an incident four years ago.   She had googled “trauma sensitive yoga” in the Chicago area but was concerned that maybe I would not drive almost an hour to see her.  The drive did not concern me because after I talked with her I knew yoga would help.

As I wrote a practice for her, a voice told me, “give her a mantra”, something which I’ve never done before with a private student.   Somehow I knew she would connect with a mantra.  We met, she did the practice, and I gave her pranayama and the mantra, OM JYOTI AHAM — “I am the Divine Light.”

The change was noticeable after the practice.  She looked lighter and happier and her eyes were brighter compared to when I walked in.   She smiled and said that it was the calmest she had felt in four years even though she takes medication.   I told her that all I did was give her a road map pointing the way out, now she has to drive.  I told her that she had to something from practice every day, even if it is merely sitting and watching her breath.  She wants to continue working with me once a week.

Humbled, honored to do this work — who needs to be a yoga rock star?  This is priceless.

11 thoughts on “teaching trauma sensitive yoga

  1. thank you for sharing your insight and your article with your non IAYT member readers. As always your words are unpretentiously from your heart.


  2. thank you….perfect timing as I just returned home from yoga practice where I bawled for quite some time after headstand…yoga is so good, leading me down my path.


  3. wow, it really inspires me how you are able to help other people and what it means to them. thank you for sharing.


  4. Bless you for writing that article. I know how much hard work you put into it. The reality of the true purpose of yoga is revealed when we let it be a tool for service.
    As you know, I’m a fellow survivor of trauma and yoga has been a very important part of my recovery.

    May you be blessed with more students who can afford to pay so that you can continue to do what you do for those in need. x

    And congratulations from the bottom of my heart, for getting published!


  5. Hi Linda…this is Linda also 🙂 Thanks for making your article available. I’m an occupational therapist and going down that path of using yoga/getting certified to work with vulnerable populations and the neuroscience behind it is just fascinating. Went to Dr. van der Kolk’s conference yesterday and it was amazing. Can’t wait to learn more – are you around the Chicagoland area?


  6. Thank you for allowing access to your wonderfully helpful article, Linda-Sama. I would love to know more detail – like how you use nyasam…
    We introducted a State wide Safe Start initiative with pregnant women about 18 months ago which midwives initiate. We have assessed domestic violence risk for decades but not other abuses. As a result of the new initiative we know that far, far, far more women experience childhood abuse (physicial/emotional/sexual/spiritual) than any research reports reveal. Some have never mentioned this to a soul before, some were disbelieved when they told someone they trusted, some have been through court and seen perpetrators walk free and so on. Few have resolved the experience/s in any way so many have PTSD. As a result of this knowledge I use initutive yoga when teaching all classes, encouraging participants to do what they feel is safe and right for them throughout class. I assume that each participant may have experienced trauma but do not verlalise this in class as many women have told me they do not like talking about it


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