Trauma Informed Yoga Training: 8 Factors To Look Out For When Choosing A Course

+ 5 reasons why trauma informed yoga training is essential

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In recent years, the practice of trauma informed yoga has gained significant recognition within the wellness, yoga, and movement communities.

Combining the healing power of yoga with sensitivity to trauma survivors’ needs, trauma informed yoga training offers a profound opportunity to promote healing, resilience, and empowerment.

A trauma informed training programme out in nature

5 Reasons Why Trauma Informed Yoga Training Is Essential

A trauma informed yoga certification acknowledges the prevalence of trauma in our society and recognizes the potential triggers that traditional yoga classes may inadvertently pose for trauma survivors.

Trauma can manifest in various forms, including physical, emotional, or psychological distress resulting from experiences such as abuse, neglect, violence, or natural disasters.

For trauma survivors, the body often becomes a reservoir1 Van der Kolk, B. (2014). The Body Keeps The Score. Bessel van Der Kolk, MD. of unprocessed emotions and memories. Yoga, with its focus on breath, movement, and mindfulness, can serve as a powerful tool for reconnecting with the body and promoting healing.

However, in traditional yoga settings, certain poses (asana) or verbal cues may inadvertently trigger traumatic memories or sensations, leading to re-traumatization.

This occurs due to the complex interplay between the body, mind, and emotions in the context of traumatic experiences:

1. Body Sensations and Memory

Traumatic experiences are often stored in the body as sensory memories. This means that physical sensations associated with the trauma, such as tension, pain, or discomfort, can become triggers for traumatic memories.

In yoga practice, certain poses or movements may resemble the physical sensations experienced during the traumatic event, thereby triggering a heightened stress response.

A group of four yoga students talking

2. Verbal Cues and Emotional Triggers

Verbal cues used by yoga instructors, such as directives to “relax,” “let go,” or “surrender,” can evoke emotional responses that mirror the feelings of powerlessness or loss of control associated with trauma.

For individuals who have experienced trauma, relinquishing control over their bodies or emotions may feel threatening or overwhelming, leading to increased anxiety or distress during yoga practice.

3. Hyperarousal and Hypoarousal Responses

Trauma survivors may exhibit symptoms of hyperarousal2 Cirino, E. (2017, April 20). Hyperarousal. Healthline; Healthline Media. (a heightened state of alertness) or hypoarousal3 Hypoarousal and Hyperarousal: How to Tell Which State You’re In. (n.d.). Insights of a Neurodivergent Clinician. (numbing or dissociation) in response to triggers encountered during yoga practice.

For example, fast-paced vinyasa sequences or physically demanding poses may trigger hyperarousal responses characterized by increased heart rate, shallow breathing, or feelings of agitation.

Conversely, restorative or yin yoga practices that emphasize relaxation and surrender may trigger hypoarousal responses characterized by a disconnection from bodily sensations or emotional numbing.

a yoga class sitting in meditation

4. Lack of Safety and Boundaries

Trauma survivors may have heightened sensitivity to perceived threats or violations of personal boundaries.

In traditional yoga settings where instructors may offer physical adjustments or corrections, trauma survivors may feel a loss of control or invasion of personal space, triggering feelings of vulnerability or mistrust.

Additionally, crowded or chaotic environments can exacerbate feelings of anxiety or insecurity, further compromising the sense of safety needed for trauma survivors to engage in yoga practice.

5. Re-traumatization and Disempowerment

When trauma triggers are encountered during yoga practice, individuals may experience re-traumatization, wherein the traumatic memories and sensations are reactivated, intensifying feelings of fear, shame, or helplessness.

Repeated exposure to triggering experiences without adequate support or trauma-informed guidance can further reinforce feelings of disempowerment and alienation, undermining the potential healing benefits of yoga practice.

In light of these considerations, adopting a trauma-informed approach to yoga instruction becomes imperative for creating safe, supportive, and empowering environments for all participants.

By recognizing the potential triggers of trauma and integrating trauma-sensitive modifications, adjustments, and language into yoga classes, instructors can cultivate healing, resilience, and empowerment for survivors, while promoting inclusivity and accessibility within our community.

pregnant women practicing yoga in a circle

What is A Trauma Informed Approach

At its core, trauma-informed yoga is grounded in principles of safety, trust, choice, collaboration, and empowerment. It recognizes that each individual’s experience of trauma is unique and respects their autonomy in the healing process.

Trauma-informed yoga emphasizes the following key principles:


Creating physically and emotionally safe environments where participants feel secure and supported.

Trustworthiness and Transparency

Building trust through clear communication, boundaries, and consistency.

Choice and Collaboration

Empowering participants to make choices based on their needs and preferences, while collaborating with them in co-creating the yoga experience.

Empowerment and Voice

Honoring individuals’ strengths and resilience, and encouraging self-expression and self-advocacy.

Cultural Humility and Responsiveness

Recognizing and respecting diverse cultural backgrounds and experiences, while remaining open to learning and adapting teaching approaches accordingly.

a woman in a forward fold

How To Choose A Training Program: 8 Factors To Look Out For

When considering where to train in trauma-informed yoga, it’s essential to select a course that provides comprehensive education, practical skills, and ethical guidelines for working with trauma survivors in a yoga setting.

Here are some key factors to consider when choosing a trauma-informed yoga training course:

1. Accreditation and Credentials

Look for training programs that are accredited by reputable organizations or institutions. Accreditation ensures that the curriculum meets specific standards of quality, ethics, and professionalism.

Additionally, consider the credentials of the instructors leading the training program.

Ideally, they should have extensive experience and specialized training in trauma-informed yoga practices, psychology, or related fields.

2. Curriculum and Content

Review the curriculum and course materials to ensure that they cover essential topics related to trauma-informed yoga, including:

  • Understanding of trauma
  • Understanding the prevalence and impact of trauma
  • Its effects on the body and mind
  • Recognizing trauma triggers and signs of trauma activation
  • Creating safe and inclusive yoga spaces
  • Offering trauma-sensitive modifications and adjustments
  • Integrating mindfulness and breathwork (pranayama) into trauma-informed practice
  • Cultivating resilience and self-care strategies for instructors

The curriculum should also emphasize principles of cultural humility, diversity, and social justice.

a chair yoga class

3. Experiential Learning and Practice

A reputable trauma-informed yoga training course should incorporate experiential learning opportunities and in-depth practical exercises to deepen participants’ understanding and application of trauma-informed principles.

Look for courses that include hands-on practice teaching, case studies, and self-reflection exercises to enhance learning and skill development.

4. Ethical Guidelines and Boundaries

Trauma-informed yoga training programs should emphasize ethical guidelines, professional boundaries, and best practices for working with trauma survivors in a yoga setting.

This includes respecting participants’ autonomy, confidentiality, and right to self-determination, as well as recognizing and addressing power dynamics inherent in the student-teacher relationship.

5. Continuing Education and Support

Consider whether the training program offers opportunities for ongoing education, mentorship, and professional support after completion of the course.

Continuing education workshops, online training forums, supervision sessions, and community networking events can provide valuable resources and guidance for integrating trauma-informed principles into your yoga teaching practice.

6. Feedback and Reviews

Research feedback and reviews from past participants or graduates of the training program to gain insights into their experiences, satisfaction levels, and overall impressions of the course.

Positive testimonials and endorsements from reputable professionals can help validate the quality and credibility of the training program.

7. Accessibility and Inclusivity

Ensure that the training program is accessible and inclusive to individuals from diverse backgrounds, abilities, and lived experiences.

Consider factors such as location, cost, language accessibility, physical accessibility, and accommodations for individuals with disabilities or special needs.

a man doing yoga with his hands in prayer

8. Alignment with Personal Values and Philosophy

Finally, reflect on how well the training program aligns with your personal values, teaching philosophy, and professional goals.

Choose a course that resonates with your commitment to social justice, equity, and trauma-informed care, and that empowers you to create positive change within yourself and your community.

Where To Find Trauma Informed Teacher Training Certifications

In-person and online training exist. There are also courses out there which offer payment plans.

  • The Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute (JRI):
    • The Trauma Center at JRI offers comprehensive trauma-informed yoga training programs designed for yoga instructors, mental health professionals, and healthcare providers.
    • Led by experts in trauma treatment and yoga therapy, these certifications cover topics such as the neurobiology and neuroscience of trauma, principles of trauma-informed care, and practical strategies for integrating trauma-sensitive yoga into clinical settings.
    • These training programs integrate evidence-based approaches to trauma treatment, somatic experiencing techniques, and mindfulness-based practices to promote healing, resilience, and empowerment for trauma survivors.
  • Yoga Alliance
    • Yoga Alliance, a globally recognized organization for yoga teacher training and education, offers trauma informed yoga certifications through registered yoga schools (RYS).
    • These programs are designed to meet the continuing education requirements for registered yoga teachers (ryt) and provide specialized training in trauma-informed principles, trauma-sensitive practices, and ethical considerations.
  • The Trauma-Sensitive Yoga Certification Program
    • The Trauma-Sensitive Yoga Certification Program, developed by the Trauma Center at JRI and David Emerson, author of “Trauma-Sensitive Yoga in Therapy,” offers specialized training in trauma-informed yoga practices.
    • This certification program emphasizes the intersection of trauma theory, yoga philosophy, and embodied mindfulness practices to create safe and empowering yoga experiences for trauma survivors.
  • Local Yoga Studios
    • Many local yoga studios, wellness centers, and community organizations offer trauma-informed yoga workshops, trainings, and continuing education programs for yoga facilitators and mental health professionals.
    • These grassroots initiatives provide opportunities for hands-on learning, collaboration, and networking within the local yoga community, while promoting trauma-informed practices and principles at the grassroots level.

By investing in high-quality trauma informed yoga certifications, individuals can enhance their skills, expand their knowledge base, and make a meaningful difference in the lives of trauma survivors and communities in need.

a woman with her hands in prayer

A Note To Trauma Informed Practitioners

It’s essential to recognize that this path can be both profoundly rewarding and emotionally taxing. The work we do is not easy; it requires us to hold space for others’ pain and suffering while maintaining our own well-being.

Working with trauma exposes us to stories of profound loss, adversity, and resilience.

It can evoke strong emotions and trigger our own unresolved wounds. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or even helpless at times.

Amidst the intensity of our work, it’s important to remember the importance of self-care. Just as we strive to offer compassion and support to others, we must extend the same care and kindness to ourselves.

Remember, we cannot pour from an empty cup!

By prioritizing self-care whilst teaching yoga, we replenish our reserves, cultivate resilience, and sustain the energy needed to continue our vital work with compassion and integrity.

more on trauma-informed yoga

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Liz is a Qigong and Yoga teacher based in Gloucestershire with a love for all things movement, nature & community. She strives to create a trauma-informed space in which everyone is empowered to be their authentic selves.

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