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Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TSY and TCTSY)

Trauma can occur when we experience, or witness, a deeply distressing event or series of events. Long after experiencing trauma(s), our body can remain in trauma responses such as fight, flight, freeze, dissociate, and / or shut-down. 

Rationally we may know we're safe, but our bodies are telling us something else. As a result, we can develop a sense of alienation and disconnection from our physical experience. Overall, this can show up as feelings of being numb and / or use of strategies to reduce experiencing of trauma associated body sensations (e.g., drugs and alcohol, excessive working, social media, eating, and cognitive bypassing or fusing with thoughts- where we using thinking to keep our attention away from feeling). This can have a huge impact on our psychological health because body awareness is linked to processes such as emotional regulation, emotional recognition, empathy, choice making, sense of self, experiencing positive emotions, and our sense of being safe in the present moment. 

TCTSY offers a method to allow you to reconnect with your physical experience, which ultimately results in a reduction in symptoms of complex trauma and PTSD (see publications below).  

How does trauma-sensitive yoga differ from a typical yoga class?


The language is very specific and focused on inviting your attention towards your physical experience. Even thought its called "yoga" we don't always use yoga forms. Sometimes we might invite awareness to sensations associated with sitting, standing, walking, or hand movements. If appropriate, yoga forms are used to create physical experiences that they client can adjust or explore.

What to expect in a TCTSY session

Our sessions are designed to provide a supportive and non-judgmental environment for you to reconnect to your physical experience at your own pace. You will have the opportunity to practice gentle and accessible yogic techniques including stretching, strengthening, and breathing. The option to practice using a chair is available.  

1. The facilitator (Kathie) does not move around the room or physically adjust. 

2. This is an invitational style of practice; choices are offered so you are in complete control as to how you chose to move your body.

3. There is no coercion.

4. Your personal experience throughout the practice is explored at your pace.

5. No prior yoga experience is required.

Each student will have the option to fill in an intake form prior to attending their first class so that we can support their individual needs. We appreciate that this can often be challenging, so participants are welcome to fill out as much or as little of the form as they feel comfortable.  At no time will students be asked to talk about their trauma or the nature of their trauma.  

History of Trauma Sensitive Yoga 

Trauma sensitive yoga as taught through the Trauma Center (recently re-branded as the Center for Trauma & Embodiment) at the Justice Resource Institute in Massachusetts (USA) is an empirically validated, evidence-based, form of trauma sensitive yoga for people of all ages. This form of trauma sensitive yoga is based on trauma theory, attachment theory, neuroscience, and hatha yoga.  


Trauma sensitive yoga begun with the work of David Emerson, in clinical collaboration with Dr. Bessel van der Kolk and several other eminent trauma clinicians and yoga teachers in the early 2000s. Together they worked to develop a method of teaching yoga that would be of benefit for those that have experience psychological trauma. The positive neurophysiological and behavioural outcomes have now been replicated across a number of studies. 


The trauma sensitive yoga (TSY) program and protocol was re-named as Trauma Center Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TC-TSY or TCTSY), to preserve the integrity of the program, it's evidence-base, and to maintain the professional level of facilitators of the TCTSY program. TCTSY was the first yoga program worldwide listed as an evidence-based treatment for psychological trauma with SAMHSA-NREPP (USA).

Recommended Books  

By using these links to purchase a book there is no additional cost to you, but I make a small commission that is greatly appreciated.

van der Kolk, B., (2015) The Body Keeps the Score. Mind, Brain and Body in Transformation of Trauma. Great Britain. Penguin Books. 

Emerson, D., (2015) Trauma-Sensitive Yoga in Therapy: Bringing the Body into Treatment. New York. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Emerson, D., & Hopper, E., (2011) Overcoming Trauma Through Yoga. Berkeley, California. North Atlantic Books.

Herman, J. (1992) Trauma and Recovery. The Aftermath of Violence from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror. New York. Basic Books.

Key Trauma Center Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TCTSY) Research Publications 

Kelly, U., Haywood, T., Segal, E., Higgans, M. (2021) Trauma-Sensitive Yoga for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Women Veterans who Experienced Military Sexual Trauma: Interim Results from a Randamized Control Study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 27, pp. S45-S59

Oosterbroek, T., Dirk, B. (2021) The Experience of Trauma Center-Trauma Sensitive Yoga Training on Professional Practice of Mental Health Professionals and Yoga Instructors. Complement Ther Clin Pract. May;43:101365


Nguyen-Feng, V.N., Hodgdon, H., Emerson, D., Silverberg, R., Clark, C.J. (2020) Moderators of treatment efficacy in a randomized controlled trial of trauma-sensitive yoga as an adjunctive treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder. Psychol Trauma. Nov;12(8):836-846

Price, M., Spinazzola, J., Musicaro, R., Turner, J., Suvak, M., Emerson, D., van der Kolk B (2017) Effectiveness of an Extended Yoga Treatment for Women with Chronic Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. J Altern Complement Med. Apr;23(4):300-309. doi: 10.1089/acm.2015.0266

Rhodes, A., Spinozzola, J., van der Kolk, B. (2016) Yoga for Adult Women with Chronic PTSD: A Long-Term Follow-Up Study. J Altern Complement Med. Mar;22(3):189-96. doi: 10.1089/acm.2014.0407


van der Kolk B.A., Stone, L., West, J., Rhdoes, A., Emerson, D., Suvak, M., Sinazzola, J. (2014) Yoga as an adjunctive treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder: a randomized controlled trial. J Clin Psychiatry. Jun;75(6):e559-65

Further information

TCTSY International site:

TCTSY Australian site:

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