Shining a Trauma-Informed Lens on Yoga: Savasana

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Shining a Trauma-Informed Lens on Yoga: Savasana

There are many reasons why someone who has survived trauma may have difficulty in yoga classes and may dramatically benefit from their teacher incorporating a trauma-informed lens into their instruction. In this video, Molly Boeder Harris focuses specifically on the challenges of Savasana (corpse pose) and how invoking stillness can, for some people, mirror a quality similar to the physiologically induced “freeze response” commonly experienced both during and after trauma. She suggests alternate options for rest that yoga teachers can offer to assist people in remaining grounded and present during what can be the most vulnerable part of a yoga class.


The insights Molly shares here may be useful for survivors of trauma who are hoping to learn alternate ways to finish class with the group, or to simply support their own self-practice. Importantly, this video affirms survivors in knowing that their bodily responses and needs are very natural reactions to trauma and an innate, often unconscious, attempt to manage the intensity of what they have survived. Savasana can become increasingly accessible to trauma survivors over time, through practice, props, identifying comforting variations, developing a yoga sequence that prepares the nervous system for rest, utilizing essential oils and introducing soothing music – as well as when complemented by other healing support systems. The experience of savasana is specific to each person and can be an interesting exploration to discover what shape and supports will create the conditions where rest feels accessible. Knowing what supports or enhances your ability to “let go” is an excellent resource for your self-care tool kit, as savasana, and other resting poses can restore energy within the physical body, balance the nervous system and create a nourishing feeling for the soul.

In his book, In An Unspoken Voice, Dr. Peter Levine describes the importance of finding “islands of safety” in our body, however small. These are places within our bodies where we feel ease, connection, pulsation, comfort, a soothing temperature, etc. that we can tolerate and even enjoy. By identifying these places, we slowly build connections among them which eventually creates a more complete internal “landmass” within the body. This landmass becomes a stabilizing resource that gives our mind the confidence and freedom to roam, on a sensory level, throughout our shape. Yoga in general, and savasana with its many variations, can be a place where we begin to explore our inner landscape and build bridges between the islands of safety that live within. We approach this practice of embodiment incrementally, methodically and with steadfast self-compassion. Savasana can become a powerful practice in and of itself that you can personalize and develop – accessing its therapeutic quality on all the planes of the human system.

If you would like to learn more about The Breathe Network’s Founder and Executive Director, Molly Boeder Harris, please visit her practitioner page here!