There’s a variety of the language with different meanings using the term “Trauma-informed” for various professionals.
A trauma-informed therapist is one which has training and skills to help someone through a traumatic experience or the fallout from trauma or crisis such as assault, injury, or emotional upset.
A yoga therapist is one that helps alleviate specific suffering in the realm of yoga, not beyond yoga. Anyone can call themselves a yoga therapist, even if they’ve never taken a yoga class. That being said, there are many excellent yoga therapy programs and many yoga therapists that have invested in their education and skills.
A yoga teacher who is trauma-informed is someone who, in the scope of their own work which is teaching one of the limbs of yoga, usually the physical practice, understands that certain words or behaviors might trigger a student.
For instance, a trauma-informed yoga therapist might ask permission to adjust your posture. They will not promote practices to release “inner goddesses” as this would be sexuality and gender-based activities which are not sensitive to a student who has been objectified, assaulted, or in other ways, holding a traumatic background.
Even if the yoga teacher themselves has found the practice of “goddess” work to be released that is their own journey, and a trauma-informed yoga teacher does not assume their journey is the path others should take.
Trauma-informed yoga teachers are not always trained; there is no regulation to use the term “trauma-informed” and some teachers might assume they are trauma-informed just because they also have had a trauma.
On whole, using the terms implies that they are trained to be sensitive to the fact that trauma and yoga might intersect and to protect the student.
Yoga therapy is also not a regulated term but implies that the teacher has trained and is skilled at helping the student not suffer in yoga or as the result of yoga; it implies that the teacher will not trigger the student emotionally or physically. It is usually, client-centric.
It is incredibly important to beware of a yoga instructor who attempts to present themselves as a licensed therapist or a physical therapist; both of which are regulated. It is possible that the yoga teacher might have these backgrounds and it is possible that the therapist or physical therapist in their work may adopt some yoga practices but in the realm of their licensure.
It is not appropriate for a person, licensed or not, to teach a yoga class, with students, and imply that the class is a therapy(licensed).
A rule of thumb,;
- If you want to stretch, strengthen and destress, take a yoga class.
- If you wish to work on an injury, see a physical therapist first.
- If you have emotional trauma or emotional struggles, see a therapist first.
I am incredibly supportive of yoga and yoga teachers; I myself am a yoga teacher and train yoga teachers under the national Yoga Alliance. I have owned a yoga studio in the past for over two decades (almost three), and I incorporate all limbs of yoga into my private practice. It is because of my awareness of the business of yoga and the downfalls of yoga “marketing” that I am writing this article, as I have had clients in the past who were only masking their trauma in yoga and then had relapses that were worse and required longer therapy sessions and referrals to psychiatrists to obtain meditation to support the bridge to healing.
At the same time, there are many wonderful trauma-informed yoga therapists and yoga teachers available and I am always available to help someone if you are looking for one.