What We Need to Know About Trauma as a Yoga Instructor
The word trauma in the Greek is translated as a wound, hurt, or defeat. It is nearly impossible to live in this world and not suffer a trauma of some sort, be it an illness, loss, accident, humiliation, abandonment, or abuse. Have you ever known grief, betrayal, or disappointment? Then you have known traumatic experience. Trauma comes in many ways, and in a multitude of experiences. In our work as yoga instructors, it’s important to be knowledgable about the impact of trauma, how yoga can help or hurt, and what the teacher can do to offer a healing practice.
My trauma narrative is spread out over the course of my life, from neglect, sexual violence, depression, and so on. Like many survivors of trauma, I dealt with it the best I knew how; self- blame, contempt, anger, and fear paralysis. Every person handles their traumatic experience differently, whatever the response, trauma inevitably shatters and shocks the mind, body, and soul of a person.
I was brought to yoga in the midst of dealing with a horrible loss. The depression had shaken my body and my belief horribly; I needed to pause, remember God, and see goodness. Yoga calls for stillness and reflection with kindness. The feedback in my head was so loud when I first came to child’s pose, but as I let my breath slow down and paid attention to how my body felt safe and vulnerable, healing began. The extended root form of the word trauma means to rub, twist, and pierce. The work that happens on our mat is surgical, and the Spirit of God is our physician. [TWEET THIS] In Isaiah 53:5, we’re told that our physician is also a trauma survivor; he relates, he understands, he empathizes. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us piece was upon him, and be his wounds we are healed.”
As yoga instructors, we should be mindful of trauma existing in the lives of students we teach, exhibiting the passion and empathy of Jesus through listening, witness, and safety. As teachers, we listen to our student’s body language, energy, and narrative. How are they holding their posture? Is it bent in weariness or fatigue? By listening to the body narrative of your students, you’re being a witness to their suffering. [TWEET THIS] In Hebrews 4:16, we are told that, “we have a priest who is not out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experiencing it all.” When we come to yoga, we come to grace, mercy, and healing through stillness, reflection, and the witness of a teacher that sees us as we are and were intended to be.