“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it”. –Helen Keller

When I first started teaching Trauma-Informed Yoga trainings I would hear, “That sounds interesting but I do not teach that population.” After years of teaching drop-in classes, I can say that I rarely know each person’s unique history.

During a Trauma-Informed Yoga Training, participants were asked to write on a slip of paper one thing that a Yoga teacher would not know about them if they came to a drop-in class. As the slips were read out loud, a silence filled the room. This exercise reminded me that traumatic experiences do not discriminate and can touch all of us regardless of our race, gender, sexual orientation or socio-economic status. This room full of professionals was also a room full of humans who had experienced traumatic events.

At the same training, Bessel van der kolk, a world-renowned psychiatrist, shared his belief that between 70-80% of the population has experienced or will experience a traumatic event at some point in their lives. We are all that population. As the pool of research articles grows, more and more people are drawn to somatic practices, such as Yoga. People are seeking healing modalities, which address the “issues in our tissues” (samskaras in Yoga philosophy). Many now see a combination of traditional talk therapy and somatic practices as a potent combination towards wholeness.

Given the prevalence of trauma in our society, it is our ethical responsibility to teach in a way that is trauma-informed. This starts with knowing what trauma is and how traumatic experiences can affect students who come to our classes. As Yoga teachers and therapists we can do a lot to ensure that our classes are a safe place for students that may not always feel safe in their bodies, the very place where the trauma took place. Yoga classes can be part of peoples’ healing journey and it is important to acknowledge that they can also be triggering environments. It takes a lot of courage for students to give Yoga a try and it is our responsibility to create an environment that honours each students’ use of choice, voice, and control. As this article points out, we can do a lot from the language we chose to how we set up the physical environment.

Our intention as trauma-informed Yoga teachers can be summed up in the first yama: Ahimsa (Non-Violence). It is paramount that we learn how to create an environment that honours students’ safety, not just of their ankles but of their whole being remembering there are seven billion ways to practice Yoga.

I believe in a few years, all Yoga Teacher Trainings will have Trauma-Informed Yoga as part of the core curriculum, as we come to acknowledge not only the suffering that is part of the human condition but also the inherent therapeutic qualities of Yoga.

May all beings be free from inner and outer harm

May all beings be at ease

May all beings be peaceful


For more information see:

http://www.traumacenter.org/products/Amazon_staff_books.php http://www.traumacenter.org/products/pdf_files/IJYT_article_2009.pdf http://www.traumainformedyoga.net/ http://traumainformedyoga.ca/


Sarah Kinsley (BA, BE.d, ME.d (Coun. Psych.)

Sarah has completed four Yoga Teacher Training courses and has studied with various schools in North America and Asia, such as Yoga Vidya Gurukul: Institute for Research and Education in Yoga, The Sanada Devi School of Yoga, and Yoga in Your School. She has most recently studied Trauma Sensitive Yoga with David Emerson and Bessel van der Kolk.

Sarah teaches in the Applied Mindfulness Certificate Program at Royal Roads University and provides Mindfulness-based facilitation for The Centre for Mindfulness Studies in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Mindful Movement. She has been a primary school teacher and a Special Education Resource Teacher. Sarah is the author of Yoga Therapy: Ancient Therapy for Today’s Body, Mind and Spirit, a textbook chapter used in counselling programs throughout North America.

Join us at Union Yoga on May 7th, 2016 for Trauma-Informed Yoga Training for Yoga teachers and therapists and other health care professionals. This is a module of Union Yoga’s 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) program, but enrolment is open.

To learn more about Union Yoga’s YTT, click here.

Please note: This workshop is for Professional Development and is not intended as an intervention for those who have experienced trauma. Enroll now.