Step into the fascinating intersection of yoga and education, where the profound impact on students who have experienced trauma is unraveled. In the realm of creating a nurturing and effective learning environment for America's youth, trauma-informed yoga is making significant strides. This practice, adaptable for various age groups in educational settings, is accessible to a broad range of students.
Mental Health Concerns and Research:
The prevalence of mental health concerns and trauma among young individuals has reached alarming levels. Statistics reveal that 20% of youth in the United States grapple with mental illness, with over half of those aged 17 exposed to traumatic events. Beyond the individual's mental and physical health, these challenges have far-reaching implications for cognitive functions and academic achievements.
Recent studies, such as the one led by Lauren Davis et al. in 2022, titled "Trauma-Informed Yoga: Investing in Intervention for Mitigating Adverse Childhood Experiences in Rural Contexts," aimed to enhance the well-being of adolescents in rural Montana through trauma-informed yoga. The research shows that interventions like trauma-informed yoga can lead to significant reductions in anxiety, depressive symptoms, and improvements in sleep and focus.
Tailoring Yoga for Trauma Manifestations:
Yoga, when tailored to address the manifestations of trauma, provides students with a crucial sense of safety and emotional control. This is particularly essential for children who may find traditional disciplinary measures and classroom environments daunting. Integrating yoga into daily routines offers students alternative strategies conducive to their emotional and mental well-being.
Transformative Journeys for All:
The benefits extend beyond students, encompassing educators and parents on a transformative journey. Encouraging a growth mindset through trauma-informed yoga practices proves invaluable. Practical techniques move beyond the mastery of yoga poses to building a regulated nervous system. These skills become pivotal for academic success and personal development.
I try to incorporate tools from somatic-based therapies practices to help students address symptoms like anxiety and dysregulation, depression and disassociation. By that I mean I'm providing tools to their toolbox to address just the symptoms. -Kim Louria
In a recent interview with yoga guide Kim Louria, she discussed the 12 Principals of Growth she applies in her yoga classes and how simple phrases like "close your eyes" can be changed to '"soften your gaze" for trauma-informed practice. Using stories to help integrate the poses and principals is especially engaging with kids. Most importantly, trauma-informed yoga can help students traverse a well-worn path in their brain that is easier to navigate from the feeling brain into the thinking brain when triggered (Louria). While there's no one-size-fits-all solution, these general tips can help you create a safe and supportive environment (Gandenberger, 2020):
1.Student Preferences Matter:
Ask your students about their preferences for lighting, music, and room configuration.
Avoid delving into trauma histories; focus on creating a space that respects their comfort.
2. Respect Boundaries:
Refrain from physical assists, respecting the importance of bodily autonomy.
If considering assists, use an opt-in approach, obtaining explicit permission for each interaction.
3. Stay Present on Your Mat:
Remain on your mat during class to provide a sense of stability for students.
Visual cuing becomes crucial, especially when not giving physical assists.
4. Encourage Autonomy:
Use invitational language to empower students to make choices based on their comfort.
Foster body awareness by guiding them to explore movements that feel helpful in their bodies.
5. Grounding Techniques:
Equip students with tools to ground themselves when triggered or disassociated.
Incorporate exercises like the "5-4-3-2-1" sensory awareness practice.
6. Avoid Therapeutic Roles:
Focus on offering a healing yoga practice within your expertise.
If a student seeks additional support, refer them to professional therapists using resources like Psychology Today's "Find a Therapist" tool.
Understand that there's no foolproof formula, and occasional challenges may arise.
Learn, grow, and offer yourself grace as you navigate the complexities of trauma-informed yoga.
In summary, trauma-informed yoga is more than just an educational tool; it's a holistic approach to nurturing the minds and bodies of young learners. It empowers them to overcome challenges, equips them with emotional regulation skills, and provides a foundation for lifelong resilience. By embracing these tips, you create a classroom environment that acknowledges the uniqueness of each student's experience while fostering a collective sense of safety and support.
Want to learn more?
Listen to Yoga Guide Kim Louria on The Brighter Side of Education podcast. Kim goes into the practical application she uses in her classrooms!
Go to Yoga Ed to learn more about teaching yoga in classrooms.
A personal favorite yoga site to help kids stretch is Cosmic Yoga. I used this for many years in my own classroom with great feedback!
Davis L, Aylward A, Buchanan R. Trauma-Informed Yoga: Investigating an Intervention for Mitigating Adverse Childhood Experiences in Rural Contexts. Educ Stud. 2022;58(4):530-559. doi: 10.1080/00131946.2022.2102495. Epub 2022 Aug 22. PMID: 36654845; PMCID: PMC9844967.
Gandenberger, J. (2020, May 22). Guidelines and Grace: Recommendations for Teaching Trauma-Informed Yoga. Yoga Medicine®. Retrieved from https://yogamedicine.com/recommendations-for-teaching-trauma-informed-yoga/
Louria, K. (Guest). (2024, January 18). Healing Classrooms: Embracing Trauma-Informed Yoga in Education with Yoga Guide Kim Louria [Audio podcast episode]. In The Brighter Side of Education. Host Dr. Lisa R. Hassler. Season 2, Episode 32.