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Overview

“Yoga has been practiced in the East for thousands of years, and its adepts have claimed numerous benefits: physical, emotional, and spiritual. Until recently, however, these effects have not been quantified scientifically. With Bessel van der Kolk’s compelling research on the efficacy and positive physiological effects of yoga in trauma recovery, a vital new application for this ageless health-promoting method has been revealed.”

— Dr. Peter Levine, Foreword, Overcoming Trauma Through Yoga (2011)

Many trauma survivors seek out yoga, mindfulness or other meditative experiences to support them in their healing journey. However, without the proper awareness or safeguards in place, these contemplative practices can be unintentionally re-traumatizing and lead to many well-documented adverse effects. The act of becoming more mindfully present through focus on the breath, body or through certain intentional movements or positions can trigger postural or procedural memories, emotions or physical sensations that are painful or overwhelming. Some students may find themselves discouraged, upset, or coping by bottling up, overriding or dissociating, reluctant to return.

The Trauma-Informed Yoga Training and the Trauma-Informed Mindfulness Training are intended to provide a better understanding of the psychophysiology of trauma and attachment, how emotional dysregulation occurs, why certain yoga and meditative practices can backfire, and concrete ways to make them emotionally and physically safer, whether individually or in a group class. Through a combination of lecture material, case examples and experiential exercises, participants will develop a better understanding of:

  • How to incorporate trauma-informed principles in their yoga teaching or mindfulness instruction
  • Alternative practices that may be less triggering or activating for students and clients
  • How to address trauma activation if it shows up, and
  • Other considerations for increasing safety, stabilization, choice, voice and empowerment

More than just a professional development training, this program also focuses on yoga teacher and mindfulness instructor self-regulation and self-care, in order to mitigate the effects of vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue, restore resiliency and healthy boundaries, and foster therapeutic presence with students and clients.

“The experience of trauma affects the entire human organism – body, mind and spirit – and the whole organism must be engaged in the healing process. Traditional trauma therapy is talk-based and focuses on the mind, the story, tending to neglect the physical, visceral and body-based dimension of trauma. Yoga, when skillfully employed, can uniquely address the physical needs of a trauma survivor, and provide a way for a trauma survivor to cultivate a friendly relationship to his or her body through gentle breath and movement practices.”

— Emerson, Sharma, Chaudhry & Turner (2009)

Showcasing a combination of interactive lecture-style delivery, anecdotal and case examples, demos, and opportunity for large group and pairs / triad practice, these trainings offer an engaging, hands-on approach to learning that seeks to enhance yoga and meditation teachers’ existing skills. The training also aims to provide exercises therapists with yoga teacher or meditation training can incorporate into their work with clients.

The trainings are either offered in a day program format at a local yoga studio or other host facility, or in an all-inclusive retreat style format.

Continuing Education Credits

The Trauma-Informed Yoga Training and Advanced Trauma-Informed Yoga Teacher Training qualify for continuing education credits for Yoga Alliance members when these hours are submitted, along with the training certificate, to Yoga Alliance for approval.

The Trauma-Informed Mindfulness Training is pre-approved through the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association for continuing education credits.

The number of hours of continuing education credits depends on the hours we are able to obtain at each venue, and will be announced in advance.

“We believe that the sophisticated and precise theories and techniques of Somatic Experiencing offer a way of understanding the processes that occur during mindfulness meditation, both the beneficial mental, emotional and physiological effects of mindfulness meditation and the flooding or dissociation that can occur when traumatic memories surface. In addition, SE can suggest ways in which mindfulness meditation practices could be modified to enable meditators to process traumatic material, and traumatized people to use mindfulness-based techniques to help them recover.”

— Payne, Levine and Crane-Godreau (2015)

Theoretical Model

These trainings integrate the neuroscience of trauma and attachment, polyvagal theory and breath physiology with the principles of the yoga sutras, yoga therapy, and mindfulness, within the larger framework and philosophies of the field of trauma-informed care. The trainings highlight the many intersections between somatic trauma therapies, yoga therapy, and mindfulness principles where similar shared concepts exist using different language within Western neuroscience and Eastern spiritual traditions.

Nuanced, rich and diverse, the inspirations for this training are numerous:

  • Trauma Neuroscience, Somatics and Attachment: Dr. Stephen Porges (polyvagal theory), Dr. Peter Levine, Dr. Daniel Siegel, Dr. Robert Scaer, Dr. Pat Ogden, Dr. Gabor Mate, Dr. Eugene Gendlin, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, Babette Rothschild, MSW, Kathy Kain, MA, Dr. Allan Schore, Steven Hoskinson, among others.
  • Yoga and Yoga Therapy: the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Vedas; the yoga therapy traditions in the style of Śri T. Krishnamacharya and Mr. TKV Desikachar; and the works of Amy Weintraub and Richard Miller, PhD, etc.
  • Therapeutic Presence: principles taught within the context of attachment-focused and somatic therapies, inspired by the works of Kathy Kain and Dr. Shari Geller.
  • Trauma Center Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TCTSY): this is a specific form of yoga for healing trauma, developed by David Emerson, Dr. Elizabeth Hopper and others at the Trauma Center in Massachusetts. The Trauma-Informed Yoga Training shares many principles with the TCTSY, but also incorporates other theories and material not covered in the TCTSY training. For more differences between the models, please read our FAQs page.
  • Mindfulness and Self-Compassion: includes Buddhist and Sufi spiritual traditions and their Western secular adaptations within the field of psychology, such as the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dr. Ron Siegel, Dr. Kristin Neff, Dr. Tara Brach, Eckhart Tolle, Jack Kornfield, Rumi, and others.

DISCLAIMER: This training will not qualify anyone to be a yoga teacher, yoga therapist, mindfulness instructor, Somatic Experiencing™ Practitioner, Trauma-Sensitive Yoga Teacher (TCTSY model), or trauma therapist. Instead, the training seeks to provide skills to enhance the existing skills of yoga or mindfulness teachers (or yoga teachers in training), or therapists with yoga teacher or mindfulness training within their existing scope of practice. Further training and support via consultations, supervision or personal therapy is always recommended when integrating new approaches into one’s existing work. For more information about formal trainings in each of these areas, please click here.


References:

Emerson, D., Sharma, R., Chaudhry, S. & Turner, J. (2009). Trauma-sensitive yoga: Principles, practice, research. International Journal of Yoga Therapy, 19. Available online: www.traumacenter.org/products/pdf_files/IJYT_article_2009.pdf

Payne, P., Levine, P.A., & Crane-Godreau, M.A. (2015, February 4). Somatic Experiencing: Using interoception and proprioception as core elements of trauma therapy. Frontiers of Psychology, 6:93. Available online: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4316402/