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trauma informed approach

Updated: Jul 20, 2021

Using a trauma-informed approach (TIA) in our services of facilitation, teaching or guidance is a practical complement to develop good practices and compassion-based work. A TIA starts with realizing and recognizing the prevalence of stress and trauma, and the physical, emotional, and social impact on the individual and their community, as well as in the relationship with those who help them. This includes person-centered practices. Evidence has shown that trauma is related to impaired neurodevelopment and immune systems responses, health risk behaviors, and chronic physical or behavioral health disorders.

We are putting the knowledge into practice, considering that the relationship is crucial to facilitate change and because this relationship is actually a reflection of many socially constructed dynamics.

The decision-making in trauma-informed services considers the prevalence and the impact of adversities and traumatic stress, and the power dynamics that socially could reproduce the physiological trauma responses within the relationship in helping professions.

After years of work and study, I could deductively define that this approach as a relationship, which is sensitive and accountable about:

- Intersectionality

- Safety

- Trust, collaboration, and mutual support

- Empowerment through agency and resilience building

- Attunement

- Choices

- Language

- Respect the scope of practice

These topics are possible to put down into actions at any teaching, coaching, or therapeutic setting, understanding the existence of an asymmetrical relationship in the specific context of support and guidance.

Next, I will briefly explain some grounded terms.

Intersectionality (Kimberlé Crenshaw, 1989) is the concept that all oppression is interconnected, in the nature of social categorizations such as race, gender, and class, as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination and disadvantage. Is the acknowledgment that everyone has their one and particular experience of discrimination, adversity, and oppression, and we must consider everything and anything that can marginalize people- gender, race, sexual orientation, physical ability, etc.

In body-based work, like yoga or somatic-based coaching, there is a relationship based on trusting the guidance of an expert, where the limits of the personal space, the volition, and agency possibilities get vulnerably open. In terms of safety the way the guidance is delivered and framed, in terms of language and attunement, and how the environment is disposed of will determine either vulnerability or empowerment is enhanced. Some yoga practices are prescriptive towards a specific body alignment, while other styles encourage "to hold on a bit more, or to push harder". Under the light of TIA the priority shifts to the students learning to notice their own bodies and making choices that involve taking care of themselves.

This approach aims to contribute to the accessibility and could rise the discussion about ableism and cultural sensitivity in western yoga through the names of trauma-aware, trauma-sensitive, trauma-informed, etc. These systems have developed new frames of yoga practice as a therapeutic somatic method, which have successfully worked in therapeutic settings, vulnerable communities, and collecting scientific evidence.

In these uncertain times, contemplative and mind-body practices could be effectively used to anchor ourselves and create resilience. TIA highlights the responsibility as yoga teachers, in general, words, around our scope of practice and action: not all the yoga teachers are therapists, nor counselors, nor nutritionists, etc. So, as important as it could be our continuous training, also it is to recognize our limits, and the potential effects caused by acting beyond them.

It is always the right time to educate ourselves, to bring up open spaces to diversities, and to consider the ethical codes of the disciplines we promote, especially when these could be outdated and originally framed in far diverse cultures, like yoga. It is time to actively questioning how the practices of personal and social change are another echo of the dynamics that have imprinted some historical damage in the first place. And how they might help, or not, to the natural development for a sustainable transformation of individuals and communities.

*This post is inspired by the literature of Emerson and Hopper, and Judith Herman; the publication of SAMHSA's Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach; and the article of Carastathis, Anna. (2014). The Concept of Intersectionality in Feminist Theory. Philosophy Compass. 9. 10.1111/phc3.12129.

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