The Teaching of Trauma Mindful Yoga
1. Non-harming – Kindness is the underlying intention of a yoga teacher to share a yoga
practice with students. The intention is to generate kindness with words and actions
while creating a safe environment.
2. Choice - Inviting, giving guidance and making suggestions (not instructing to copy a
particular pose). This practice encourages participants to feel comfortable and safe with
their choice of form. They are encouraged to gain more control and trust one’s own
body, breath and movements.
3. Boundaries - A trauma mindful yoga class respects the boundaries that individuals
need for safety. Physical adjustments are not offered and teachers don’t come up
behind students to assist, as these actions can be disconcerting to some people. The
teacher guides participants to recognize their own limitations and respect any body or
4. Join – The teacher positions themselves in the front of the room, modeling and
participating in the practice, so that it becomes a shared experience. The teacher
doesn’t walk around and give individual assists, commands or make physical
adjustments to anyone’s form. The teacher is less of an authority and more of a
facilitator of a safe yoga experience.
5. Awareness – The teacher is aware of the possible triggers for someone who has
experienced trauma – for example, refraining from the use of the word “corpse” as the
teacher guides students into savasana. Alternatively, savasana can be referred to as
“relaxation”, thereby lessening the chance of triggering any post-traumatic stress in the
war vet or war survivor whom may have witnessed death in the field of battle. For
some, sustaining the downward dog pose, the happy baby pose with the legs apart in a
supine position or holding arms up for a long period of time can elicit the stress
response. The aware teacher is cognizant of potential triggers of stress and offers
students other options and modifications.
6. Eyes open or closed: The teacher offers the option for relaxation and/or meditation
with eyes open or closed. A directive to close the eyes may trigger feelings of physical
or emotional tension and vulnerability. In addition, observing your students too
closely might trigger feelings of being judged or evaluated. Ambient lighting should be
soft, but not too dark.
7. Trust their own instincts – The teacher shares the value of
trusting the wisdom of one’s own experience and uses empowering language, not
acting as a sole yoga authority, but introducing a gentle process of inquiry into the
physical practice and the breath.
(from Diane Kovanda)