The standard run-of-the-mill yoga class is structured in a way that is not always comfortable or accessible for people with trauma in their systems.
To better understand this, let’s look at some of the most common symptoms of trauma, how they can show up in a yoga class, and how you can make simple adjustments to better accommodate your students when teaching a trauma-informed yoga class, private lesson, or workshop.
Hypervigilance is an unrelenting assessment of potential threats in a space, no matter the circumstance. When a person is experiencing hypervigilance, they often are (consciously or subconsciously) checking entry/exit points to a space, listening for unfamiliar sounds, running potential situations in their mind, and/or memorizing people or cars. It’s exhausting.
In a yoga studio, hypervigilance might look like a person always sitting right next to the door, wanting to face (or close) windows, startling easily from a sudden sound or movement (like the “snap” of a yoga mat unrolling), sitting away from other people, or wanting to keep their phone/wallet/keys nearby.
Knowing this, you have the opportunity to set up your classroom in a way that is more hypervigilance-friendly.
- If you’re working with a small group, you could have people set up their mats in a circle, so everyone’s back is to a wall, rather than to another person. Having a wall “on their six” can help soften some of the stress from hypervigilance.
- As the teacher, you can set yourself up by the door, so when people look at you, they also have eyes on the exit.
- If your space has windows with people or car traffic outside, consider closing the blinds before people enter the room. One less thing to worry about.
- Space permitting, let folks have belongings near them if they want. If someone wants their phone nearby, you can ask that they turn it to airplane mode so as not to disturb other students.
- Whatever setup you decide on, communicate it clearly before anyone enters the room, so you don’t have to ask people to move again once they’re settled.
Up next: Hyperarousal