Yoga Therapy For Trauma
When someone seeks out a Yoga Therapist because they are suffering from trauma, the role of the Yoga Therapist to facilitate this transformation with the self takes skill and knowledge. In this segment, Brandt explains the difference between and best practices for working with trauma in a group class versus a private session.
You know, working with people that have suffered trauma, it’s a very different experience to work one-on-one than in a class. So there are certain things that are the same, like how you might use invitational language, how you give people lots of options and don’t require them to do things necessarily. And then there’s a similarity in the physicality where you create a safe space, where you as the teacher are not coming at them, standing over them, etc.
But the difference I think, and where sometimes people are confused is in private sessions, this is similar but different in that, where in both cases try to encourage people that was certain kinds of experiences. And the primary one is interceptive or sensory experiences, where you’re feeling things in your body and you’ve heard probably a lot of times trauma lives in the body or in the tissues. And that’s true in that, in order to allow trauma to move and be resolved, the body has to be felt. If the body’s cut off, not always, but it can be more difficult. So, often it’s a good idea to whatever level a person can feel their body and that could be as sort of big a body experience like big asanas, and as small as feeling the breath move in and out. But being in the body can be extremely useful.
But when you’re working with somebody who really is interested in a curative solution in terms of working through their trauma and, hopefully they’re supported by a psychotherapist of some sort, or social worker, or psychotherapist, or a psychiatrist. But, you know, some sort of mental health professional as well. But in private session, there’s more of a place to allow them to explore how they feel about their trauma, or the reactions to it, or things that trigger them for themselves in a safe environment. So usually that’s not going to happen with 20 people around you. But if you can create a container where that’s possible and you can resist the urge to sort of process with them. And use yoga practices to allow them to have experiences and then maybe talk it out for themselves. So in our retreats we do a lot of active listening techniques so that we can get used to this experience of listening without judging, of not implying anything with our physical bodies, or the things that we say.
So in that way it’s different and I think the other way it’s different is that you’re working through the koshas, and in private sessions you may have a better take on where that trauma lives. I mean it’s quite likely envisioned of maya kosha because that’s where our unconscious patterning is stored but it could certainly be in other places as well. And to really help people specifically with practices for that so you’re not just generalizing like a trauma-sensitive practice that doesn’t trigger them. You’re more looking in a private session at a practice that allows them to work with their bigger stuff in a way that is actually safe for them or that they can do. And that’s all about relationship, so the questions around that we’re sort of like, well what do I do? Do I simply just teach them yoga and not trigger them? Do I talk to them about their stuff? Do I work with things? And then so the answer is, you slowly work into that those kosha techniques that we learn in the course with their consent and permission.
Once you’ve established a relationship with them that’s solid, and once you have their consent and, you know, consent in this case can be tricky, I think, because sometimes it’s hard to consent to what you don’t know is going to happen, right? So consent is when someone can say, I understand that this technique might bring up this stuff. But to be honest with you, I’m really interested in doing this work because I feel like that’s going to be beneficial to me. And then so you give them techniques that might help them let’s say, deepen their access to their vision of maya kosha which could allow some stuff to move and you would do that while explaining to them that you are a support system but they also might need other supports.