98: Trauma-Conscious Yoga Is A Philosophy, Not A Specialty Class with Hannah Davis

When you think of teaching a trauma-informed yoga class, what comes to mind? Do you think of teaching a special class for a specific population, like veterans recovering from PTSD or survivors of abuse in a shelter? Those are populations that certainly benefit from a very well trained and thoughtfully trauma-conscious teacher (and specialty class!), but the truth is every single human has experienced some kind of trauma, and that is important to keep in mind in every yoga class we teach. 

I’m thrilled today to introduce you to yoga teacher, social worker and trauma-informed yoga expert Hannah Davis! Hannah Davis (she/her) is a body-focused clinician and yoga teacher specializing in mind-body healing. She has training in somatic healing, Ayurveda, mindful vinyasa, and various trauma-sensitive approaches. She leads several trauma-informed community-based yoga classes through Vikara Village and is a Licensed Social Worker in Maryland and DC.

In this episode you’ll hear:

  • an important, foundational definition of trauma
  • why yoga is such a powerful modality for people living with and healing from trauma
  • why trauma-informed yoga is an entire philosophy not *only* a specialty class
  • an explanation of the universal precautions as a core trauma-informed concept
  • the important skills of a Safe Space facilitator
  • whether or not it is possible to have a truly trauma-informed approach to hands-on adjustments
  • the place philosophy and subtle body teachings have in a trauma-conscious philosophy

Learn More From Hannah:

This episode is brought to you by OfferingTree, an easy-to-use, all-in-one online platform for yoga teachers that provides a personal website, booking, payment, blogging, and many other great features. The best thing about OfferingTree is you can get up and running in 10 minutes with no tech skills needed. As an added bonus, If you sign up at www.offeringtree.com/mentor, you’ll get 50% off your first three months (or 15% off any annual plan)!  OfferingTree supports me with each sign-up. I’m proud to be supported by a public benefit company whose mission is to further wellness access and education for everyone.

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3 Responses to “98: Trauma-Conscious Yoga Is A Philosophy, Not A Specialty Class with Hannah Davis”

  1. Donna

    Francesca, I follow you even though I no longer teach traditional yoga classes. You have such passion. As a nondual (nonduality what traditional yoga points toward) embodiment professional, I’d like to share a perspective.

    Nondual means direct experiencing life, rather than being in one’s head about it. We westerners are so entrained in subject-object percepiton that nonduality can be challenging to convey. Being caught-up in a narrative about one’s experience (rather than being the direct-experience of it) causes the pain-body to re-inflict or carry forward the trauma pattern.

    A trauma response is created during a life circumstance where we (in order to survive or fit in) abandon our body (separate into a thought about the experience.) This separation sets up a coping pattern that is a trauma response. This ‘sense of separation’ is widespread in our culture; trauma is an intensification of it. This sense of separation sets up behaviors of self-sabatoge, self-soothing and self-seeking, which become self-fullfilling prophecies. In other words, we are always seeking something, never at peace.

    Transformation of trauma isn’t about “getting that toxic energy out of the body” as mentioned by Hannah, or about strong standing poses. Our trauma pattern is not separate from us; as part of us, it cannot be toxic. It cannot be “overcome” as in war or sickness or rebellion. It is about nonviolence, letting go. There is a yogic principle – Ishvara Pranidhana – surrender, also found within Jungian Depth work, Buddhism, Gnostic Christianity and of course the veda’s and upanishads. This isn’t about doing strong yoga pose, it is about an inner way that involves being rather than doing.

    • Francesca Cervero

      Hi Donna, thanks so much for your comment. I hear you completely. I also do think that “being with” ourselves and our traumas can look and be embodied very differently in different people. In my view, all tools are equally valid.

  2. Hannah

    Hi Donna, thanks for your comment. I appreciate this perspective on nonduality, as it makes perfect sense. The ‘sense of separation’ you mention is our brain and body’s way of seeking safety. The “behaviors of self-sabotage, self-soothing and self-seeking, which become self-fulfilling prophecies,” are responses to the trauma experienced. Something overwhelmed our ability to cope and we needed to seek safety, immediately.

    Oftentimes, trauma survivors separate from the body to protect themselves. Offering “strong yoga poses” invites presence back into the body. When your muscles are active, mindful action is taking place, you’re able to focus on something outside of the thoughts, in this present moment. Yoga asana isn’t the only way; other examples of this are artmaking, knitting, gardening, jogging, etc… This helps build your ability to begin incorporating your trauma experience into your way of being. The philosophy of trauma-informed yoga isn’t a replacement for overcoming trauma, it’s a beneficial tool for many as we work towards a more embodied way of being.


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