Trauma Sensitive Yoga with Amy Hoare

Today’s episode opens up a difficult but important issue in the yoga world; the abuse of power.  Shannon has invited Trauma Treatment Specialist Amy Hoare who has recently completed her 300-hour at the Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga program.

Amy conducted a survey as part of her final project which focused on hands-on-assists, power dynamics, and abuse in yoga.

Amy began her yoga practice with the intention of working through trauma and decided to become a yoga teacher for her own healing. Amy took her YTT at Karma Teachers in Vancouver, BC, finding the program focused a lot on transformation and healing. Karma Teachers is a not-for-profit community-based program focused on working through trauma.

Amy compiled data for a survey she created about the abuse of power in yoga classes. There were 146 respondents (all of whom have participated in a yoga class), answering a series of questions that would help Amy unearth the overt and subtle abuses of power. Amy notes that there is an inherent power dynamic between the student and teacher- especially in guru settings. Amy shares that her intention was not to shame or cause division but rather to help her identify power imbalances so she could shed light on this for students and teachers.

Shannon and Amy discuss the oftentimes unsettling results. Amy also shares how her training and final project have influenced how she now teaches, defines terms such as complex trauma and trauma-sensitivity training, and gives tips on how you incorporate a trauma-informed perspective into your teaching.

[5:45] Amy’s yoga journey

[8:30] Amy’s understanding of trauma as she’s grown in experience and education

[9:10] Complex Trauma-  a trauma that is repeated (a duration element to it)

Always relational- always happens in relationship and therefore trauma is healed in relationship

[10:35] Background on the survey

[13:55] Survey question: Have you been physically abused by your yoga teacher (11.6%)

[16:15] Survey question: have you been verbally abused by a yoga teacher? (24%)

[18:45] Survey question: Have you ever found your yoga teacher value your experience over yours? (68%)

[20:10] How the study influenced Amy’s teaching

[22:25] Amy’s choice to back away from public classes and her focus moving forward in the trauma-sensitive yoga field.  

[25:15] How Amy’s language has shifted in and out of yoga classes e.g. asking vs. telling

Question for yoga teachers: Is there a possibility to be more aware of subtleties like language, cueing, and offering hands-on-assists?

[31:25] Working within the scope of your practice to help students and the benefit of therapy in conjunction with yoga classes

[34:40] Authentic connection and its relation to attachment theory; facilitator is doing the movement with the student and how that can create an authentic connection with a healthy attachment

[35:45] How Amy practices non-attachment in her teaching by not being attached to a rigid idea of the form- the point is a shared authentic experience, the practice of making choices and bringing in interoceptive awareness, all of which is based on trauma theory, attachment theory, and neuroscience

[39:00] Interoception in trauma-sensitive and trauma-informed classes, normalizing “feeling nothing”, avoid telling students what they need to feel and what the pose should look like

[41:40] Functional movement vs. precise poses

[43:45] Answers to hands-on-assists questions influenced the biggest change in Amy’s teaching:

Have you received a physical assists or adjustments without being asked (65%)

Have you ever felt pressured to receive a yoga assist adjustment even when consent was given (37%)

[46:20] Survey question: Have you noticed that certain advanced poses or forms are valued as more spiritual than other forms by your teachers through statements such as “go deeper”? (66%)

This response relates back to attachment to the form or that we need to take people somewhere in particular

[47:30] What Amy wants to say to yoga teachers about the results of the survey and moving forward

[52:40] Shannon’s closing thoughts and key takeaways


Interoception: Interoception is our ability to “internally-sense”; such as the feelings of hunger, feeling the need for a “bio-break”, feeling our heart racing, or feeling ourselves getting anxious. Interoception can be compromised by negative conditioning. This conditioning can come in the form of verbal cues “only babies cry” resulting in a shame in expressing deep pain with tears. Other verbal cues such as “you’re not sick, you’re just faking it” resulting in a conditioned distrust of our somatic symptoms. It can also be compromised due to trauma and toxic stress. The good news is through contemplative somatic and cognitive techniques such as meditation, mindfulness, and yoga (contemplative movement) we can improve our connection with what is going on inside ourselves!

From the article: Interoception: Our Felt Sense from Trauma Recover Yoga.Com

Complex Trauma: Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD; also known as complex trauma disorder) is a psychological disorder thought to occur as a result of repetitive, prolonged trauma involving sustained abuse or abandonment by a caregiver or other interpersonal relationships with an uneven power dynamic.

Excerpt from: Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Wikipedia Article

Trauma-Sensitive Yoga: “Trauma-sensitive yoga goals are quite contained, evidence-based model for effective treatment for trauma survivors. “ -Amy Hoare

Trauma-sensitive yoga helps them learn to calm their minds and regulate their physical responses and, thus, their emotions. They’re able to learn to recognize and tolerate physical sensations and thereby regain a feeling of safety inside their bodies.

From Trauma-Sensitive Yoga on

Trauma-Informed Care: Trauma Informed Care is an organizational structure and treatment framework that involves understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of all types of trauma.

From the Trauma-Informed Care Project.Org


Amy’s Email:

Yoga Movement and Research Group on Facebook

Link to Amy’s Survey: Power and Yoga

Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga program– great resources on the site

Karma Teachers in Vancouver

Related TCYT Episode:

003: Trauma Training for Every Yoga Teacher with Margaret Howard

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