(Facilitator Notes from the 10-week TCTSY Course)
The Therapeutic Aspect of Choice Making in Trauma Sensitive Yoga
The first aspect I want to cover about trauma-sensitive yoga is the use of language to facilitate choice making. I will be using language like, you might, if you want to, maybe. Emphasising that you can choose, you are control of how you move your body during the practice.
This helps to foster a sense of autonomy and agency.
It is not unusual for some physical shapes can be mentally or emotionally uncomfortable.
A key part of this practice is that you can choose your experience.
This serves 2 therapeutic processes
1. Choice making in TCTSY helps to bring our focus to how our body feels right now, in the present moment. A key here is that focus is on the physical experience without necessarily translating body experiences verbally- less cognitive/thinking activity.
Therapeutically, this means TCTSY is a mindfulness practice, where there is a strong evidence-base for therapeutic effect across a range of disorders. Mindfulness is also a technique used in positive psychology, where the focus isn’t on treating disorders but instead on promoting wellbeing- flourishing, thriving.
2. Trauma as a lack of choice
One key aspect of trauma is lack of choice. This can occur in a range of circumstances:
1. An environmental event that was out of one’s control and could not be escaped.
2. Interpersonal relationship where there is power dynamic that leads to oppression of an individual or individuals.
3. Being born into environments where there is neglect.
4. Being affected by systems that limit choice.
It’s not uncommon for a person who has been continuously subjected to an external authority or an environment where there is no choice to stop trying to choose. So, we don’t refer to our internal authority- our sense of autonomy. But much like anything we do, the more we practice focusing on the outside world and less on the inside world, the better we become at this way of focusing.
It’s worth noting, we repeat, or learn, behaviours because they serve a purpose. Focusing on the outside rather than internally means that we are more alert to outside dangers and are more likely to survive or at least increase our level of wellbeing in that situation.
So, in TCTSY we directly address the tendency for people to focus outside their bodies by providing space for people to practice feeling and making choices, entirely, based on what they feel or want.
It’s worth noting, that it’s not uncommon for people to become physically numb because of trauma. Partly due to increase tendency to focus externally. Also, because emotions associated with trauma are body based. So, to cope with these intense feelings people sometimes disconnect from these sensations. Or the trauma itself may have involved body sensations. Again, being numb to these sensations and body areas is a coping mechanism.
As a result, survivors or trauma can feel a sense of disconnect from their bodies so it can sometimes be difficult to make choices. That’s ok. You can choose how much you choose. You are welcome to follow along with me. (But that is also a choice).