top of page

The Pillars of Trauma-Informed Yoga: Realize, Resilience, and Respond

Written by Kayla Reetz, Yoga Instructor + Trauma Supports Team Member

Content provided by Jodi Wasson, Director of Trauma Supports

"There is no time stamp on trauma. There isn't a formula that you can insert yourself into to heal. Be patient. Take up space. Let your journey be your balm." - Dawn Serra

Whenever I see the words “3Rs” and “trauma” together, my mind goes toward a movie I have seen with my husband called Instant Family.

If you haven’t seen it, it is a Mark Wahlberg movie about a couple who struggle with infertility and choose to adopt from foster care.

It’s a good movie that gives you a lot of feels, but only dips a toe into what trauma is really like for all those in the foster care and adoption worlds.

I had to chuckle, because, in the movie, the teenager calls the caregivers out for trying to use “the 3 Rs” on her.

And no, the Rs I am about to discuss are not the same ones from the movie, as you may have been wondering.

The 3 Rs when thinking about Trauma-Informed Yoga are Realize, Resilience, and Respond.

I know. Simple. But let me take you through what each of them mean...

#1 Realize

To REALIZE as a Trauma-Informed Yoga instructor is to know what your role is for your clients.

You are not their caregivers or therapists, you are their instructor and your intention is to share tools and techniques they may want to use in the future. Or not.

When we realize something, it not only becomes part of our sight lines, but it also becomes visible to our core- such as realizing when you are ok with something versus not ok with something.

It’s that gut feeling we get and have a choice to listen to or not.

As such, it is also important to realize your own boundaries due to past traumas, potential privilege, or even common assumptions made in the past, or still make today.

All of these pieces impact how we may interact with the clients we serve.

This helps us to better understand the WHOLE effects of trauma on the body as well as the societal structures around us, helping us to navigate a way forward.

#2 Resilience

The definitions of resilience, according to a quick google search, is: “the capacity to withstand or to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” AND “the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.”

Now read those again, but think of them in terms of a living person and not an inanimate object.

Resilience is an important concept to understand because it is, effectively, the goal of the programming: to give a person tools to withstand hardship both within and outside of themselves, as well as be able to “bounce back” to who they really are- the best version of themself.

So, in order for that to happen, we must acknowledge what factors may help a client get there.

WE remember each journey through trauma is unique and experienced/perceived in completely separate ways.

We recognize various factors can help each individual in their personal journey, but may not translate to everyone.

Once again, I would like to remind you that you are not their therapist.

While practicing this step of the Rs, you may have students respond in various ways including anger or frustration, dissociation, or even have to remove themselves multiple times from your instruction.

It is not your job to “fix” what they are going through, but to help them return of their own accord.

#3: Respond

This is by far the biggest focus of the three Rs. It is not centered around your client’s response, but your own. All of the factors mentioned above contribute to this piece. They all work together to form how you- as an instructor- respond to them and their trauma responses.

First and foremost, always respond with compassion. This is sometimes the hardest to do because of the nature of their response, but it can sometimes come a bit easier when the separation of their journey and yours are deciphered.

Many times, the reaction to instruction has nothing to do with the instructor’s instruction and everything to do with a part of the individual’s trauma journey.

With that in mind, it’s important to model the usage of the Modalities of Mindfulness as you teach.

The Modalities of Mindfulness:

  1. Body-Based Observation and Inquiry (Movement)

  2. Breath Connection

  3. Sensory Experiences

  4. Guided Mindfulness Practices

  5. Brain + Heart Power

This means embodying and including all 5 parts and modeling how they can work together and separately.

Doing this helps us to react mindfully instead of impulsively to our surroundings.

Challenge to Change's Modalities of Mindfulness

With that, we also want to be proactive in our approach to individuals working through trauma. This can be done through mindful use of language, poses, music, and even adjustments. By having this proactive and mindful approach, we limit the potential for re-traumatization during the practice.

I know that was probably a lot to take in. I've created special guided mindfulness practice to help you process what you've taken in so far.

Plus, you'll get to experience the power of the guided mindfulness modality!

So, I know that seems like a lot to think about when prepping for a trauma-informed practice, but when we do, we create a safe and judgment free space for our clients to do the work in.

If this final and most imperative step is not there, no advancement can be achieved.

Therefore, it is the boundary we must uphold the most- in whatever way we can- both for ourselves and for our clients.

Yoga for Resilience Curriculum

Our Trauma-Informed Program offers a well-researched curriculum created, led, and taught by trained and experienced Challenge to Change Yoga Instructors.

We offer yoga and mindfulness programming to youth and adults who may have experienced trauma and are navigating difficult challenges or adults who may teach or work with this population.

Programming is designed to encourage resilience, support a mind and body connection, facilitate experiencing physical sensations in the body without activating fight/flight/freeze response, and teach self-regulation techniques and strategies

At Challenge to Change, Inc, we have many people practicing Trauma-Informed Yoga in youth and adult facilities throughout the state.

Our Yoga for Resilience Curriculum has been successfully implement in:

  • Juvenile detention centers

  • Shelters

  • Treatment centers

  • Alternative high schools

Check our Trainings Page for our next Trauma-Informed Yoga Teacher Training.

More information on our Trauma Supports Department can be found here:

Challenge to Change Trauma Informed Informational Handout (1)
Download PDF • 160KB

Wishing all of you peace,




bottom of page