What is trauma?
According to Maggie Kline, LMFT, and Peter Levine, Ph.D., “Trauma is in the nervous system, not in the event.” Traumatic events can push the nervous system outside its ability to regulate itself. For some individuals, the system can get stuck in the “on” position, and individuals can become overstimulated and have difficulty self-regulating.
Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. stated that individuals who have experienced trauma are still suffering from the “pain, horror, and fear” living inside them, which can lead to them feeling stuck in a state of helplessness and horror as well as change how they perceive danger.
In addition, Judith Herman, M.D. provides this definition of trauma.
“Psychological trauma is an affliction of the powerless. At the moment of trauma, the victim is rendered helpless by overwhelming force. When the force is that of nature, we speak of disasters. When the force is that of other human beings, we speak of atrocities. Traumatic events overwhelm the ordinary systems of care that give people a sense of control, connection, and meaning.”
Looking at these definitions, we see that trauma can impact our nervous system, relationships, emotional and psychological well-being, physical health, spirituality, cognitive function, academic performance, and so forth.
Some people who have experienced trauma can struggle with being in their bodies or noticing bodily sensations or emotions (interoception) for various reasons. One possible reason is that being in their body or noticing bodily sensations or emotions might be too triggering for them since it can remind them of the traumatic event(s) they have experienced.
With Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TSY), participants learn how to befriend their bodies again in a gentle, safe way while still noticing any bodily sensations or emotions that might arise.
What is Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TSY) or Trauma Center Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TCTSY)?
Trauma Center Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TCTSY) was developed by cofounders Jennifer Turner and David Emerson at the Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts. It is an empirically validated clinical intervention for complex trauma or chronic, treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The TCTSY program is in the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) database published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). It has facilitators in over 30 nations, territories, and First Nations communities.
TCTSY has foundations in yoga, trauma theory, attachment theory, and neuroscience. The methodology is based on central components of the hatha style of yoga, where participants engage in a series of physical movements and forms that are modified to help participants feel empowered and cultivate a positive relationship with their bodies.
Five components act as the foundations of TCTSY, which are invitational language, non-coercion, interoception, choice-making, and shared authentic experience.
- Invitational language creates an opportunity for participants to practice different forms and breathing practices, building awareness of bodily sensations and emotions in their bodies.
- Non-coercion looks like in TCTSY by shifting or balancing the power dynamic in favor of the participant.
- A Trauma Center Trauma-Sensitive Yoga Facilitator (TCTSY-F) can use interoceptive language to help participants gain an awareness of their breath, bodily sensations, and emotions that they might be experiencing while they are in a form.
- A TCTSY-F can help participants make different choices throughout their yoga practice to help lead to empowerment.
- Shared authentic experience involves a TCTSY-F participating along with their participants and having empathetic attunement with them, which will hopefully allow for participants to feel relationally safe in their yoga practice.
What are the benefits of TCTSY?
Participants would be able to:
- Practice choice-making
- Remain in the present moment
- Connect with their bodily sensations and breath
- Cultivate self-efficacy and a sense of empowerment
- Regulate physical responses and emotions
- Reduce symptoms of mental illness
- Increase self-regulation and sense of control
- Improve sleep quality
- Strengthen the mind-body connection
- Reduce tension and physical pain
- Increase energy and concentration
- Improve interoceptive awareness
- Build mental and emotional resiliency and stability
- And more…
What should I expect in TCTSY?
- No physical assists are offered.
- The focus is on what you feel in your body (interoception) and practicing making choices (choice-making) about what to do with your body based on what you feel. You would never be told what forms you must take but rather invited to engage with the forms, as you like. For example, you might choose your own version of a form I might offer you or you might choose to pause in stillness.
- I will practice with you and remain on my mat during the practice.
- You will not be asked to talk about your trauma history as part of TCTSY.
- You do not have to focus on doing forms “perfectly.”
- I can offer grounding or orienting techniques if you become dysregulated during the practice.
- TCTSY is a non-judgmental and safe environment.
- Mats, chairs, and/or a standing practice are welcome.
- Invitational language rather than directive language, I will never tell you what to do with your body.
- No Sanskrit is offered.
Note: Since TCTSY is an adjunctive treatment to talk-based therapy, an existing supportive therapeutic relationship is highly encouraged for participants since verbal processing does not occur during this practice. Participants may benefit from talking to a therapist, religious leader, supportive person, or another trusted individual about their memories or emotions that came up after their practices.
What should I wear?
No special yoga attire is required. You can wear comfortable clothing.
What do I need to bring to class?
Nothing is required. You might choose to have any of the following available:
- A yoga mat*
- A blanket*
- A non-rolling chair without armrests — you can use a chair to support you in balancing forms*
- Two yoga blocks*
- Water bottle
*If we are meeting in person, I can provide these supplies.
Is TCTSY a good fit for me?
- TCTSY was developed for participants with a history of complex trauma or PTSD. However, participants do not need an official diagnosis to participate.
- It is for anyone who has experienced accumulated stress or trauma, which might be developmental trauma, physical abuse, sexual abuse or assault, emotional abuse, transgenerational trauma, military trauma, racial trauma, prenatal trauma, medical trauma, and so forth.
- TCTSY might help participants feel connected to their bodies and live in the present moment.
- No prior yoga experience is needed.
- It is accessible to everyone, regardless of age, gender identity and expression, race, ethnicity, body type, physical body, religion, sexual orientation, and other diverse backgrounds.
- If you have a preexisting health condition, please consult your physician first before starting TCTSY.
- You can choose to participate in TCTSY in adjunct to psychotherapy, which we can discuss more in a brief consultation. However, your insurance will not cover TCTSY sessions.
- Private sessions are offered: 30- or 60-minute (in-person or Zoom).
- Group yoga classes will be offered soon!
- If you are uncertain whether this practice might benefit you, please contact me today!
Limited Time Offer
2 30-minute Private TCTSY Sessions for only $60!
2 60-minute Private TCTSY Sessions for only $100!
Please contact me to schedule!
Herman, J. (1992). Trauma and recovery: The aftermath of violence – from domestic abuse to political terror. Basic Books.
Kline, M., & Levine, P.A. (2007). Trauma through a child’s eyes: Awakening the ordinary miracle of healing. North Atlantic Books.
van der Kolk, B. A. (2014). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. Viking.