What is Trauma-Informed Yoga?

Brittany McBrideAdvanced Studies, Articles

Many people come to yoga to help heal old wounds, both physical and emotional. As teachers and advanced practitioners, we understand the healing that yoga can provide, and its ability to illuminate past traumas that can open pathways for positive change.

How great would it be to teach your classes with even more compassion for yourself, and others? Yoga Garden SF offers a training certification designed to give yoga teachers the knowledge they need to make their teaching more relevant to the needs of all students with diverse backgrounds: Trauma-Informed Yoga Teacher Certification 

MA, E-RYT 500 and Yoga Teacher Trainer, Karen Macklin, is committed to inclusiveness and diversity and believes that yoga, at its best, is a way of coming home to oneself. As part of the teaching faculty for this program, she took some time to answer questions on how our natural responses are affected by trauma and why learning instruction techniques for trauma-sensitive yoga can powerfully impact your teaching.

Why is it important to learn about trauma?

The practice of yoga was developed to offer people a pathway to attain deep states of concentration, clarity, and unity. But those states cannot be felt or even approached if the nervous system is in distress. For this reason, yoga — in all of its many incarnations — specifically aims to stabilize the nervous system. When the practitioner feels safe, meditative states suddenly become a lot more accessible. But one set of tools does not work for all nervous systems. 

For instance, when someone’s nervous system is traumatized, that person may not ever feel truly safe, not even in a yoga class. In fact, the yoga class can even create additional distress for the traumatized person if it, in some way, triggers their trauma.

If we want to be able to teach to large and diverse populations, as yoga teachers, it’s important that we start understanding how to offer different tools to different students, not only based on their strength or flexibility levels but also based on the state of their nervous system. It’s also important that we create an environment where everyone can feel safe, no matter their race, religion, sexual preference, gender identity, or personal history.

How does trauma tend to impact people’s yoga practice?

Trauma can impact someone’s yoga practice in a multitude of ways — it’s really not the same for everyone. Someone who has been physically or sexually abused, for instance, might be triggered by hands-on adjustments; for someone who has a history of abandonment, too much inward focus or even too much silence in the room could feel scary; for someone else, loud music or cramped spaces could make practice difficult.

It will be difficult to create an environment that is perfect for everyone in the room, but teachers can use certain tools and techniques to create an environment that feels safer to most people, and that is more sensitive to the possibility that some students in the room might have a traumatized nervous system.

What are the essential skills that yoga teachers need to have to serve their students who may be working with trauma?
I think this is what they are coming to the training to learn, right? 🙂

What makes you excited about leading YGSF’s Trauma-Informed Yoga Teacher Training?

I believe that yoga should be available to all people, regardless of their backgrounds or past experiences, and this training will help teachers make their own classes accessible to a more diverse population.

As a woman who’s only too familiar with the amount of trauma that women in our society regularly endure, I’m also passionate about creating spaces where women can both feel safe to be themselves and develop tools for strength and resilience in the world.

Trauma-Informed Yoga Teacher Certification 

Two required modules + various elective credits totals 30 hours that can go towards your 300-hour Certification

Balancing the Gunas

May 5 @ 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm
$115 - $140

with Max Kopeikin Yoga and Ayurveda define the three gunas the energetic qualities of nature that underlie all matter. Matter in the physical world, such as the human mind-body, are bound together by the gunasor “threads” of existence. These gunas are rajas (passion/activity),tamas (inertia/darkness), and sattva (harmony/balance). In this training, you ... Read More


May 6 @ 2:15 pm - 4:15 pm
$40 - $50

Trauma and Transference  with Max Kopeikin As yoga teachers, are we just instructors? Are we “healers”? Are we coaches? Are we friends? In this Trauma and Transference training, we will cover the professional ethics and boundaries of working as a yoga teacher. This includes both the legal boundaries and the ... Read More

Confronting Collective Trauma

July 1 @ 12:30 pm - 5:30 pm
$105 - $120

with Brooke Corazón Many yoga classes encourage students to make a connection with their breath and to be present with the physical, mental, and emotional sensations that arise through the practice of yoga postures. Students of yoga are often taught to go toward discomfort with mindful awareness. However, for folks ... Read More

Yoga for Survivors of Sexual Abuse

August 19 @ 1:30 pm - 4:30 pm
$55 - $65

with Brooke Corazón When we look at the word yoga, we can understand it as both a goal (yoga is union), and the process by which we can reach that goal (yoga is a practice). Throughout our lives, as we engage with the teachings of yoga, our lives are influenced by ... Read More

Youth Empowered: Trauma-Informed Practices for Teaching Yoga to Kids and Teens

August 25 - August 26
$185 - $200

With Leigh Stewart  This weekend-long training provides background on ways we as educators can use language, set up spaces and offer outlets for community among youth.  Whether you are a yoga teacher, classroom teacher, parent, or youth advocate, this workshop will provide creative ways to integrate yoga-based movement with trauma ... Read More


Trauma Core 2: Yoga, Trauma, & Healing

September 1 - September 2
$345 - $395

with Sean Feit Oakes and Karen Macklin Theory and Practice of Trauma-Informed Yoga Many people come to yoga to help heal old wounds, both physical and emotional. In this workshop we will dive in deeper to help support students who have been affected by past trauma. In this two-day teacher ... Read More