trauma occurs when our ability to cope and respond is overwhelmed. trauma exists across a spectrum and is defined by how events are experienced and internalized, rather than by the event itself. when something overwhelms our ability to cope, our nervous system provides the cues to the physical body to mount a response to the danger--fight, flight, or freeze. when our system restores to a sense of safety (regulation) after the threat has ended, trauma can be experienced without long-term or debilitating effects. it is when our nervous system does not return to a sense of safety and we are unable to return to a place of healthy regulation that we remain stuck in survival response even though the actual threat no longer exists. examples of traumatic events include child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, war and terrorism, the death of a loved one, divorce, abandonment, rape, events that cause injury and/or pain (such as a car accident), natural disasters and all forms of oppression.
the practice of yoga is uniquely suited to people who have experienced trauma, allowing them to experience safety and learn and practice very effective self-regulation techniques. yoga brings our awareness to what is happening in the body (over and over again), this act of focusing on sensation grounds our experience in the here and now, rather than in the past. when we practice regulating the body in this present state using sensation, grounding, orientation, breath and other resources, the door is opened for our brains to step out of the stuckness and construct more hopeful possibilities in the face of perceived threat. this is the process of cultivating resilience.
in a trauma-informed yoga class, participants are encouraged and supported in using personal power and personal agency, two things that are diminished with trauma. trauma-informed yoga is presented in a deliberate and empathetic manner that is mindful of inclusivity, language, physical and emotional safety.