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Notes From The Trauma-Sensitive Yoga 10 Week Course. Week Five: Dosing a Yoga Practice

(Facilitator Notes from the 10 week Course)

Some aspects of trauma sensitive yoga are dosed. Meaning that the intensity is altered in order to make space for where the client might be on the day, where they are at on their therapeutic journey, or what works for them. Today we’re going to look at 3 areas that can be dosed in trauma sensitive yoga and why they are dosed.

Choice making

The number of choices offered in a yoga form increases the complexity and therefore the dose in a yoga practice.

For example, a low dose might be two options within a form (e.g., you might turn your palms to face the ceiling or the floor). A higher dose might include another layer of choice (e.g., fingers might also be curled in or extended). An even higher dose might include open ended choice (e.g., feel free to position your hands in any way that you choose).

In the above example, the dosing moves from less to more complex. This corresponds within increased complexity associated with decision making and potential sensations that could be experienced.

As mentioned in a previous session, feeling uncomfortable, or being unable, to make decisions can follow a history of complex trauma. In addition, people can experience decision fatigue, where an increased number of choices can impact one’s tolerance to making further decisions. Choice making can also be impacted by stress, where increased levels of stress can deplete internal resources that we use to make choices.

Interoceptive Cues

In a similar manner to choice making, interoceptive cues can also be dosed. A low dose might include cueing attention to sensation in one body area (e.g., you might notice your shoulder). A higher dose might include additional opportunity to explore physical sensations (e.g., you might notice internal and external layers of sensation through your shoulder). An even higher dose might include open ended interoceptive exploration (e.g., you might notice where in your body you feel this yoga shape).

As above, we move from less to more complex. The increase in complexity is associated with more fine-tuned interoceptive awareness and/or the ability to comfortably attend to a number of body sensations or areas.

Its worth noting that a yoga practice that includes interoceptive cues as well as choice is a higher dose than a yoga practice that just includes choice.

Choice of Yoga Form

Some physical postures feel more inherently safe than others. Typically, more defensive or protective (e.g., curled in postures where the throat and belly are covered) are adopted in response to learning that the environment we live in is unsafe. Offering the opportunity for an individual to take a more open posture can therefore equate to asking them to be more venerable. This, in turn, can increase levels of stress and anxiety.

In addition, a particular body posture or movement might be directly linked to a trauma event. As a result, its worth asking clients if they know of any physical postures or sensations that are triggering for them, as these would be considered an extremely high dose. It’s also worth noting that they might not know of any physical triggers and that these might be discovered during the practice.

The reason I wanted to cover dosing is that it helps to validate individual experiences and the impact of trauma on psychological processes and physical movement. Some days an individual may be comfortable taking a wide exploration of their experiences, on other days they may feel more conformable with a practice that feels more contained. This is importantly to keep in mind, because when increasing the dose of the practice we run the risk of creating a sense of overwhelm that is unlikely helpful for a client.

Another point I want to quickly clarify, as a facilitator, I won’t necessarily increase the dose of the practice for a client over time. Perhaps they choose to stay with a practice that is low dose, and that’s totally OK, because that’s what works for them.

Practice Point for Today’s Session

As a participant in a trauma-sensitive yoga session, or any yoga session, you can titrate dosing to suit you. For example, 1) several choices may be offered in a yoga form. You are welcome to land in one and hold or explore variations. 2) You are welcome to avoid yoga shapes that don’t work for you. In addition, 3) you can also anchor interoceptive experience to one body area, or to the surface underneath you (especially if your exploration, or experience, of various body sensations becomes overwhelming).

Every day can be different. Yoga includes the practice of being present in the moment and meeting yourself where you are at today.

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