3 Tips To Deal With Trauma-Informed In Online Yoga Classes

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads around the world, many yoga studios have been or are moving in this direction. For many people, switching to a virtual yoga class immediately is a steep learning curve.

In addition to wondering which virtual platform is the best and solving technical problems, there are more personal issues to consider. All over the world, people’s stress and anxiety are increasing. This is especially true for people with diseases that might make them more vulnerable than most people.

But we all care about our future and our loved ones, and we face the challenge of taking refuge in one place. What we have experienced in this pandemic is a collective trauma.

Trauma is anything that overwhelms our ability to cope. It changes the way our nervous system experiences the world around us. As a yoga instructor who understands trauma, I recognize the way our trauma and stress behave on the mat.

Because of this, I know that people now need to understand trauma yoga more than ever. Here is how to start getting your online yoga class trauma-informed.

It will help you reserve a space for students in a way that is sensitive to the pressures they may feel during and after this pandemic.

1. Take Precautions And Good Amount of Orientations

As a precaution, you should collect the emergency contact information of all virtual students as you would a face-to-face course. Having emergency contact information is especially important for people recovering from trauma because you never know what might trigger someone.

If there is an emergency in class, whether it is physical or emotional, you want to be able to contact someone who can help your students. It is also important to start each class by allowing students to adapt to the classroom environment, even if the “environment” is virtual.

Guidance helps to reassure the nervous system that although the person is in a new space or has a new experience, they are safe.

Although your online students will practice in the comfort of their homes, class on the day is still a brand new experience. For some people, even the use of this type of technology may be new. First of all, we must make them face the technology itself.

If you are using a platform such as Zoom, please take some time to explain how to mute or unmute the audio, how to access the chat function, how to turn the video on or off, and how to switch the screen from the gallery view to the speaker.

Check it out. Then introduce your teaching style (you never know who is watching, how much, or how much they know about you). Finally, tell your students what accessories they might need (I will describe them in detail later) and share the class agenda.

You might plan to start with a brief meditation, then perform a warm-up and complete flow yoga practice, and then end with a brief savasana.

Sharing your class structure in advance helps students understand what will happen. A clear outline of what is about to happen is especially important for anxious people. Experiencing anxiety will shift your focus from the present to what will happen next.

By guiding students to understand the technology, their teaching style, and expectations in the classroom, you can free up their thinking space to show and enjoy the classroom.

2. Check Your Language

With virtual yoga classes, your language is more important than ever. Through face-to-face lessons, you can see your students at any time and know when they need additional instructional tips.

However, in a virtual classroom, unless you broadcast live on a platform such as Zoom, where students can turn on the camera and allow you to view them, you cannot see your students (even with Zoom, your field of view is limited )-So you must teach more clearly and accurately than you are used to.

In addition, some of your words may trigger students without you noticing and supporting them. Trauma-informed practice prioritizes respect for student autonomy, rather than any specific posture or order. Although this should be the case for all yoga classes, it is not always the case.

Sometimes the teacher inadvertently forces students to do or maintain a posture for longer than they feel physically or emotionally safe. Although teachers may assume that all students know that they can opt out of a certain posture or instruction, for some people, obedience may be a response to trauma.

For some trauma survivors, ignoring their own feelings in order to please others is a subconsciously learned survival strategy. In these situations, even if you feel unsafe, it is difficult not to follow the teacher’s instructions.

In addition, through online yoga courses, students cannot easily see or receive each other’s signals. In a face-to-face class, if a student sees another student doing it, they may be more comfortable modifying the exercise to meet their own needs, but the online course does not provide the same strong visual support for the student.

In other words, whether online or face-to-face, teachers can support student autonomy by providing clues instead of telling them how to handle their bodies.

For example, instead of saying “move your right foot more than one inch”, you should say “consider moving your right foot more than one inch.” Or, you can say, “When you are ready, stop posing” instead of “posing a pose.”

These suggestions are very subtle changes, but for people who don’t feel the power in other ways, it can be refreshing to be reminded to control their body on a yoga mat.

I like to remind my students at the beginning of each class. Although I will always provide advice on alignment and stability, I encourage them to listen to their bodies. If they need to get out of position in front of me or anyone else, I will Support them fully (or if they want to maintain a position for longer).

If they want, they can lie on the mat during the whole exercise. I want to make sure they know that I am not the one who controls their bodies, and I support them in doing what they think is best for them.

3. Explain Well The Sequencing and Variations

When introducing yoga courses online to students, it’s important to keep in mind the three key factors that affect the student’s experience: preparation posture, changes, and ways to provide changes. As mentioned earlier, you cannot always see students in virtual courses (or at least clearly see them), so you cannot properly assess their consistency and stability.

This means that students will need to rely on their own sense of posture and whether they are ready to be assessed for a particular posture. A trauma survival strategy is to learn to subconsciously numb from pain, and sometimes they can also change your ability to feel the sensations of various parts of your body.

People who cannot perceive when they go too far are at higher risk of injury and require teachers to provide more guidance on safe alignment and posture changes.

This is why it is important to include a few preparatory poses before the more difficult poses, provide as many changes as possible, and pay attention to your language when providing changes. I first tell them that they can grab the edge of the mat, or they can use a “robot arm”, or they can put their hands behind their backs.

I will not make a value statement about these changes. I just present them as different ways of doing the same posture. Please also note that even using the words “edit” and “options” or “variations” will send wrong information to students.

“Modification” can make students think that the traditional posture is the correct way, and every “modification” can’t achieve this. Using “options” or “variations” can reduce stress and encourage students to try and choose the pose that best suits them for the day.

As teachers, part of our responsibility is to help students judge themselves less rather than more. Unfortunately, the focus of yoga is usually on “progress” to more challenging postures, as if there is no physical or mental benefit from the basic practice or exact position.

This hierarchy can make students feel that they “cannot do yoga” or are not suitable for them. This is not the message we want to convey to students, especially when they practice at home and may have been under tremendous pressure. Knowing our language and order can help prevent this.

Related Articles

Articles on Online Yoga

How You Build Community in Yoga Classes Online

How You Build Community in Yoga Classes Online Building a community in a yoga class is challenging enough for individuals, and many students avoid their practice to any part of their busy life. Now, many courses are only held online, which seems to be completely impossible. Especially when the teacher finds himself teaching a black…