Yoga for Trauma is a beautiful practice of healing, breathing, and moving together in community.
— Kim Eisendrath
To understand what a Yoga for Trauma class is, first, it is important to understand what trauma is. Trauma is defined as any event you experience that leaves you feeling helpless, hopeless, out of control, in despair, or unable to respond or defend yourself. Each person responds to trauma differently, depending on the severity of the event, and one’s own ability to process that experience based on their own unique nervous system.
No matter what the event, trauma and stress live in our body until it is given the opportunity to work itself out. The nervous system does not discern the trauma; it only knows that a stressful situation happened.
I have had several clients tell me over and over that their trauma wasn’t so bad, at least it wasn’t….. I help them understand that their trauma is just as impactful as anyone else’s trauma. I support them in understanding that their experience is their own unique experience. Validation is essential in moving through trauma recovery, whether it is in a yoga class, in therapy, or from a support system.
A qualified yoga teacher should be able to make every class a trauma-informed yoga class at a minimum; that being said, every class is not specifically designed to be trauma informed. The most important aspect of a Yoga for Trauma class is creating a space of feeling seen and safe for anyone who makes the brave decision to show up. Walking into a room for a class may be enough for someone, and they can choose how they proceed from there. Knowing that there are no expectations other than to be present.
In this special class, the teacher, or guide, as I like to call myself, sets up the room with placement of students in mind to make them feel as safe as possible in their surroundings. I allow students to become very familiar with the space they are in, with special detail to make sure that the student knows exactly where they are in the room as well as all of the sounds, sights, smells, and unique aspects of the space they are in. Additionally, my intentions for this class are to create a healing community, a sangha, during our time together, which is also in the detail of the set up.
Our human compassion binds us to one another, not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future
Creating sensation in the body is a key point of Yoga for Trauma, we are often so dissociated with our bodies that we are not aware of sensations that are happening inside of them. I give lots of cues to be aware of internal sensations to bring the body back to the present.
Breathwork is another part of Yoga for Trauma, first by becoming aware of one’s breath and then getting techniques that can support bringing the nervous system into a space of homeostasis. Through breathwork, we are also creating sensations in the body, becoming aware of how one breathes, without judgment, creates another layer of self awareness. We are trying to become in tune with what is happening in our bodies, with incredible compassion, so we can use that awareness to see how emotions sit in our body. Yoga for Trauma is a full circle experience to create awakenings in the mind, body and spirit.
One additional and critical aspect of this class is the use of language. As noted earlier, there are no expectations, no “have to’s”, no “just try this”…. The language is filled with possibilities of opportunities and of course endless choices so participants are given the opportunity to have much needed autonomy over their bodies.
My classes include students of all abilities in their practice, from those with no yoga experience, to those who need to practice in a chair to those who have practiced regularly for years. Within the abilities, specific poses are chosen throughout the practice to allow for emotional release. Certain parts of the body hold different emotions, I take my students through a majority of these poses, within their own version of a practice, often with explanations of why we are doing them. It is important for students to develop trust with their teachers, I create a commonality that we can all build that trust upon, then it is reinforced that the yoga pose is in how it feels rather than how it looks.
What is Polyvagal Theory? Dr. Stephen Porges
A significant understanding of the nervous system is crucial for leading this type of class, and I have extensively studied the Polyvagal Theory by Dr. Stephen Porges. Using this methodology has allowed my students to tap into the full spectrum of their nervous system, being able to move through it in a way that allows for the ease of transitions within the nervous system. All of this is explained during the class, not needed for a science lesson, just some digestible information.
When someone tells me that they are not “good” at yoga, my response is that when you show up, you are a yogi. The concept of being “good” at yoga is a misnomer. There is no “good” at yoga; it truly is the willingness to attempt to be present and put in the right effort for your body at this moment in time. Somedays, a person, myself included, needs a heart pumping, muscle intensive practice, and on other days, gentle movement and meditation are what is best. Becoming aware of what is needed in one’s own body and then using that awareness to take what you need in an adaptive form is an incredible and empowering growth experience. Yoga for Trauma teaches us this process. With regular practice, it is profound how one’s psyche can change. It all starts with showing up!
This Tuesday, August 30, I am guiding the Yoga for Trauma class at Yoga Among Friends. If you are struggling with trauma, join me by registering here. Or, if someone you know is suffering from trauma and could benefit from this special yoga class, kindly encourage them to check out this blog post and come to class. You’ll walk away with the knowledge and resources you need to…
Yoga for Trauma is a monthly class that will transition back to Sundays starting with the September 18th class. You can view the schedule on Yoga Among Friends’ workshops page.
About the Author
You can find Kim teaching at Yoga Among Friends:
Comments or Questions? Reach out to Kim.
Kim Eisendrath, RYT 200, has been practicing yoga for almost 20 years and finds it a source of strength and inspiration to come into her body while expanding her mind. She has studied under Laura Jane Mellencamp and Julie Pate completing her 200-hour training certification in September 2020.
Kim wants to help people discover their gifts to recover from emotional and physical stressors through the practice of yoga and TRE. She is finally living her soul’s calling by giving back to others through these practices.
Her credentials include:
Yoga Alliance RYT 200 hour
Yoga Alliance 25 hour Yoga for Trauma Training
Tension/Trauma Release Exercise (TRE) provider
M.A.T. Special Education
Questions about Yoga for Trauma, TRE or other yoga classes? Reach out to Kim.