Ask the Trainer: Kristy Manuel
YogaFit’s Master Trainer, Kristy Manuel, answers our questions about trauma-sensitive yoga.
Q: I don’t teach yoga to veterans, early responders or others who suffer from major trauma. But I do have students coming to class who have high anxiety, depression, major body issues, or other reasons for needing extra help. Should I be looking into trauma-sensitive yoga?
A: Absolutely. As yoga teachers, one of our jobs is to create a place for all of our students to feel safe and empowered. The goal of a trauma-sensitive yoga class is to create an environment that feels safe enough to fall asleep—n other words, for a trauma survivor to let his or her guard down. For people suffering from major trauma—PTSD, traumatic brain injury, or chronic stress—that’s not always easy to do. These classes were initially designed to address the unique challenges trauma survivors face and to provide specific techniques to empower them and help them find a sense of peace.
Q: Why wouldn’t a regular yoga class be appropriate for someone with trauma?
A: If you’re not trained in trauma-sensitive yoga, you could inadvertently trigger a survivor’s traumatic memory. Some of the ways TSY differs from a normal class is in the language and type of cueing we use, the choice of poses we offer, and the way the class environment is structured. TSY classes are specifically structured to encourage students to listen to their own bodies and make decisions and choices throughout the practice.
Q: How can I tell if my students need trauma-sensitive yoga?
A: I think it’s safe to say that everyone has trauma and all trauma is very subjective. We really don’t know what our students are bringing into class each day. Maybe a fight with a significant other, the death of a close friend or family member, some childhood trauma or sexual abuse, a car accident, or even job uncertainty. Any of these stressors can have powerful effects on the body and brain. Sometimes there are catastrophic things that we experience and a very obvious reason for the development of PTSD (I call these big “T” traumas). Other times, it’s the constant stress that builds up from our day-to-day lives. These little ’t’ traumas, as i call them aren’t always obvious, even to the person experiencing them and their effects go unnoticed until disease strikes.
Q. How could a workshop like Healing Emotional and Physical Trauma help me help my students?
A: I think a training like this is hugely important. It is a way for all yoga teachers to develop a better understanding of the physical, emotional, and mental aspects of trauma. The skills you learn will help you guide your students toward healing, and the compassion you cultivate will lead you to a deeper sense of connection to your students and to yourself. You will learn language, cueing, and sequencing you can use for any of your students or one-on-one clients. Click here for a more detailed description.
Q: Where do I sign up for one of these trainings?
A: We’ll be teaching a number of trauma-sensitive trainings at our Mind Body Fitness Conference coming up in September in Orlando, Florida. Teachers love to come together at these gatherings as a way to completely immerse themselves in the topic, soak up the information the Master Teachers offer, and spend time with new (and old) friends sharing ideas and enjoying the rich learning environment. Click here for details.