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“Are we using “trauma-informed yoga” to sustain oppressive systems instead of trying to dismantle them?”

This is a debate I've seen going round a few times recently, credit to @jivanaheyman on Instagram for starting this important conversation. I feel really passionately about this work and wanted to share my piece, so buckle in folks, I have thoughts.

First off, let's acknowledge that a good chunk, if not MOST, of the trauma responses we see are in response to the oppressive systems that have sparked cycles of generational and societal trauma for centuries. So is working to heal the trauma caused by our society simply propping up the very systems causing it in the first place? My answer is a resounding - no.

We don't have to pick one or the other - healing or activism. They come as a pair. Helping people to heal within these systems isn't propping them up, it's activism and resistance in itself. I'd argue that trauma is what causes a broken society to both form in the first place, and to perpetuate itself over time. Healing is what starts to cause shifts in society and the way we relate to one another. Working to heal collective trauma can pave a wave for us to imagine a new future.

It is easy for me to become bogged down by what there is to do, the fight that needs to be fought, especially as a queer person in a queer community. But joy, rest, expression - these stand in inherent opposition to oppressive systems. Our joy has value. Our rest has value. This is what we can find through trauma informed yoga. And vitally, activism is draining! It requires us to be able to hold space for our own healing. So healing and activism not only CAN, but MUST come hand in hand. A healed people is a people who can keep fighting the fight. Healing is not synonymous with complacency. Healing IS liberation.

I also want to recognise that a lot of people are still actively being traumatised as a result of these systems, on a daily basis. As Jivana said in his original post, "what we call trauma may be a healthy response to an unhealthy situation" - ABSOLUTELY! At the root of trauma informed teachings is the understanding that trauma responses develop as a result of our environment, and are there to keep us safe, rather than something to be pathologised (fuck the DSM). But - healing is STILL accessible here. You can still build nervous system strength and capacity even in the midst of it all.

With this said, it is still massively important for trauma informed yoga teachers to be aware of these issues. Many people with the best of intentions can still overlook collective trauma, or might not have the tools to hold capacity for issues that come up for those in the healing space they hold.

Finally I want to add that to push people away or discourage people from potentially healing modalities is just as harmful! Historically and currently, there is very little access to truly accessible forms of healing for marginalised communities (and honestly, most people in this country). Yoga, and TI yoga has become a way that lower income people can begin to access the healing that has been denied to them for so long. There will always be issues in the field and we should as practitioners fight to do what we can to keep the field informed and accessible. Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Trauma Informed yoga is an incredible tool when done right. Let's support one another to do it right.

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