A group of people in a yoga class, eyes closed, doing trauma sensitive yoga.

What is Trauma Sensitive Yoga?

The Nystrom & Associates provider consulted for this article on Trauma Sensitive Yoga was Rachel Slough Johnson, LMFT, TCTSY-F, SAC, Outpatient Therapist.  

If you’ve experienced trauma, then you know how powerless it can make you feel.  

That aching feeling of powerlessness can get lodged into your brain and your body and linger for months, years, or even decades. You can feel stuck. Frozen in time. 

So, how can yoga help? 

In this article, we’ll explore how Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TCTSY) can help you recover from trauma by helping you feel safe in your body through the power of mindful choice.  

Related: Trauma & PTSD 

What is Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga? 

There are many kinds of yoga, but not all of them were made to heal trauma. In fact, TCTSY is the very first evidence-based yoga practice proven to reduce symptoms of trauma and PTSD.  

According to The Center for Trauma and Embodiment at Justice Resource Institute, Trauma Center Sensitive Yoga (TCTSY) is 

the first yoga-based empirically validated clinical intervention for complex trauma or chronic, treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

In other words, it’s the first yoga practice scientifically proven to work as well as traditional talk therapy. 

The research even suggests that it has faster symptom reduction, higher participation retention, and equally sustained relief as cognitive process therapy (the “gold standard” of talk therapy for trauma)! 

Why Would Someone Do TCTSY Instead of Talk Therapy? 

You may be wondering, “If talk therapy works, why would someone do TCTSY?”  

Rachel Slough-Johnson, a TCTSY-certified instructor, mentor, and therapist, says one of the main reasons people choose yoga over talk therapy is that they don’t have to retell their traumatic story over and over again.  

And part of what can be lovely about this model is that we don't talk about our stories. It's a shared understanding that something happened that overwhelmed your nervous system at some point. But we don't need to go any further than that.

I look for folks who want a group experience but don't necessarily want to tell their whole story or, frankly, to talk at all if they don't want to. 

To start TCTSY, you don’t need to share what happened to you. All the instructor needs to know is that something happened that hurt your mind and body, and it lives with you to this day. 

Of course, you can do both talk therapy and TCTSY. It’s not about one being better or worse, but about what works for you and your body.  

Related: 5 Reasons to Go to Therapy 

Yoga, Your Body, and Trauma  

A phrase we hear a lot today is “the body keeps the score,” and that’s true. Trauma lingers in the body long after the event or situation is over. Many traumatized folks often feel completely disconnected from their bodies.  

Rachel says, “Our folks with trauma have learned to turn off their bodies to not hurt.”  

This disconnection from your body protected you during the traumatic event or situation, but now it may be limiting you from feeling your emotions, having meaningful relationships, or taking proper care of yourself.

How do you get your body back? 

That’s where yoga comes in. It gives you a chance to start understanding what’s going on inside of you. The instructor encourages you to explore those feelings gently and always gives you the choice to take a break if your feelings are too overwhelming.  

The Power of Choice 

And that choice is just one of the many choices you get in TCTSY. Every instruction or prompt begins with a phrase like, “If you choose to…” or “If you would like…” A TCTSY instructor will never touch you, and they will never require you to do anything you don’t want to do. In this model, choice is paramount. 

TCTSY is all about asking the question, “How do we give the choice back to the traumatized person?” 

Rachel explains it like this: 

There's an emphasis on choice or preference because that's certainly what a lot of traumatized folks lack. What's it like to make a choice for yourself, knowing that the stakes aren't high? Like moving your left arm versus your right arm first isn't going to be life-changing. But we’re offering that practice of choice. 

A Word from Nystrom & Associates 

If you’re trying to recover from trauma, please know you don’t have to do it on your own. Trauma Sensitive Yoga is just one of the many options available to you.  

Here at Nystrom & Associates, we offer many trauma treatments, including TCTSY, as well as EMDR, talk therapy, and much more.  Call 1-844-NYSTROM or request an appointment online, and we’ll find you a match with a person who can help you become the best version of yourself.  

Related: PTSD & EMDR 

Share this post

More From Our Blog