Trauma Sensitive Yoga

According to neuroscience and yoga our sense of ourselves is anchored in our connection with our bodies. We don't truly know ourselves unless we can feel and interpret our physical sensations in order to act and navigate safely through life. If we are not aware or misinterpet what our body needs we can't take care of it. This is why cultivating sensory awareness is a critical aspect of trauma recovery.

In yoga we focus our attention on the breath and our sensations moment to moment. We begin to notice the connection between our emotions and our body. Perhaps how anxiety about doing a posture can throw us off balance. We can begin to experiment with the way we feel. Will taking a deep breath relieve tension in our shoulder or a movement bring balance, or a deeper out breath calmness. Noticing what we feel fosters emotional regulation. Once we start approaching our body with curiosity rather than fear everything shifts.

Body awareness also changes our sense of time. Trauma keeps us stuck in a helpless state of horror. In yoga we learn that sensations rise to a peak and fall, postures have a beginning, a middle and an end. Postures can help us to observe and tolerate physical sensations and to use this tolerance to disconnect current physical feelings from the emotional reactions to past events.

Hence the goals of Trauma Sensitive Yoga are to:

- Have and notice the body
- Befriend the body
- Be able to self regulate through the body vs despite the body

A Trauma Sensitive Yoga class begins with a safe environment using invitational language and a focus on the body. There are no physical adjustments and the teacher is committed to fostering personal exploration and experience within each practice. Students have choice as to what and how they practice unless safety is compromised.

Six key themes in a trauma sensitive yoga class that support trauma recovery are:

- A present moment experience
- Practicing making choices
- Taking effective action
- Spatial orientation
- Sensing dynamics
- Muscles engaging and releasing
- Creating rhythms- moving together

What students are saying about Trauma Sensitive Yoga classes at Yoga in Life:

"Regular practice has helped me gain a deeper body awareness which assists with healthy sleep patterns and to regulate my diet. I am better able to observe my emotions in an accepting way without judgement or reacting. I have become more aware of anxiety triggers and as a result the severity of anxiety and hyper-vigilance has lessened. Yoga is a safe space where I can be present with myself in an act of self care that helps me cope with external stresses."

"I am grateful that yoga has helped me get more embodied so I feel connected and in my body. It has helped me find my inner rest and to 'be'. Thank you Sarita for how beautiful you instruct us and your gentle, supportive, caring nature."

"I feel more grounded and connected to my physical body. I am finding that positive relationships are developing all around me and my anxiety around meeting new people is decreasing. I still get triggered but am much more aware of what I can do for myself when this happens. I am practising self care."

"This beautiful class with Sarita, Trauma Sensitive Yoga came to me with the most perfect timing. I was in need of reconnecting with my body, not just from recent trauma but from a lifetime of continuously disconnecting from my body as a coping mechanism. It was a relatively quick process for me, through the yoga, of coming to the simple realisation that I am safe in my loving and trustworthy body. Sarita has a beautiful gift combined with professional experience of being able to read how people are feeling in their bodies, and with this gently guiding us through movement to feel that connection with our bodies that was once there, but became lost. I think it is the first time in my life I have truly said and meant, I love my body, I am safe."

Helpful links

Trauma Sensitive Yoga Australia:

Compassionate Presence:
Teaching Trauma Sensitive Yoga- Linda Karl:

"Clinical Implications of Neuroscience Research in PTSD"

"Healing Life's Traumas"

"The Body Keeps the Score: Memory and the Emerging Psychobiology of Post Traumatic Stress"

"Trauma-Sensitive Yoga: Principles, Practice, and Research"b

Annabel McLisky presentation to The Australian Psychological Society- Yoga and Psychology Interest Group 2012:

Yoga as an Adjunctive Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Heroes of Peace film: