The Inside Track: Trauma-Informed Yoga

Written By: Lauren Holmes

Can Yoga Heal Deep Trauma? Sacred Activist Atira Tan shares her experiences of working with trauma-informed yoga in some of the world’s darkest places.

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Pass Notes: Trauma-Sensitive Yoga.

Trauma Sensitive Yoga was developed by Dr Bessel Van de Kolk, a leading expert in trauma recovery.  It is rooted in the use of a very specific language. Yoga teachers are taught how to observe trauma as it emerges in the body and to respond to it.  Trauma-informed yoga is about understanding the nervous system and helping students to regulate it. 



How does trauma-sensitive yoga help?

Through trauma-yoga, I’ve seen women reconnect to their bodies in a safe and loving way and find the path to develop this relationship quickly and easily.  Trauma is lodged in the body as much as the mind, so it’s so valuable in their recovery to give them these tools.


How does it work with sex-slavery?

You can rescue a young women who has been sold into slavery. You can give her food, education and safety, but if she doesn’t believe in her self-worth, all of that is nothing, she is not confident, she is broken. I saw how a lot of these women even went back to the sex trade.  A lot of programs will look after the physical but not their emotional, mental and spiritual well-being, so I started Art To Healing as a response to the need for that.  

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How do you define trauma?

"My background is as a Somatic Experience Practitioner, and my understanding is that anything that overwhelms our nervous system, where we don’t stop to process it and be present, is too much.  As a society and culture, we don’t know how to respond. Our instinct is to walk away from what moves and troubles us rather than to sit and be present."

Do you think the world is traumatized?

"Most people choose to see and push on.  It’s very difficult for our culture to know what to do when we feel overwhelmed, when we encounter all the terrible and painful things happening in the world, to our planet and fellow-man.  Being more trauma-informed helps us to respond to the pain and suffering. Instead of saying, “that is someone else’s problem”, we can be more present and compassionate. I truly believe when we do that, the world will be a different place. Being more trauma-informed makes us better human beings."

How can people learn more?

I’m offering a 100 hour Teacher Training at the end of 2018. We really advocate for these teachings to be spread out through individuals and communities.  Why? Because the world is traumatised. You don’t have to be in a war zone to experience trauma.

Can I volunteer?

We do take on volunteers in Nepal who are trauma-informed. It’s crucial that they are trained in culturally appropriate behaviour, who have a Masters degree in Psychology, Art Therapy or Child Psychology and a lot of experience working in the field.  The key is to demonstrate resilience while working under pressure.

What’s behind such rigorous requirements?

Nepal is so intense, you are in trauma vortex constantly.  Like any human being, you will be triggered when connecting with women in so much suffering.  I have people who have worked as child psychologists and have come to volunteer and collapsed. It’s an energetic thing, the field of trauma they carry as a collective, so you have to be pretty strong as a therapist to hold that space.   It’s proper Third World there too. We need a certain type of resilience and a lot of devotion to the cause. We welcome people who want to offer something back, but it has to be for the cause, not for them.




Find out about Atira Tan's 100 hour Trauma-Sensitive Yoga in Nepal

If you are suffering from trauma, including PTSD, sexual abuse or depression and would like support, book a somatic experience session with Atira Tan or connect with one of New World Native’s trauma-experts.



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