The 5 central themes of TCTSY
Below is a list of the central themes of TCTSY which can be experienced in every practice. Each theme is directly linked to one or more of TCTSY's theoretical underpinnings - trauma theory, attachment theory, and neuroscience.
Invitational language and choice-making
All cues are provided as an invitation, and practitioners may pick and choose what they do and how they do it, based on how they would like to practice. The idea is to provide a yoga environment in which people are empowered with the ability to make decisions over their own bodies, and have complete control over their experience. For someone who has survived being physically or psychologically controlled and manipulated by another person, having invitation and choice can be a very profound experience.
Some examples of choices include:
The choice to show up and/or to practice.
The choice to practice certain yoga forms and skip others
Choice within a yoga form - multiple options are provided throughout
The choice to stop at any time or remain longer
Taking effective action
Taking effective action is about making decisions to change or adjust what we do with our bodies based on what we physically feel. Keeping in mind that practitioners often feel stuck in bodies relating to past conditions, this theme reinforces feelings of personal agency over one’s own body/experience and helps internalize the locus of control*. Participants are continually invited to use physical sensation as a basis for making decisions regarding how they wish to proceed/practice.
*an internalized locus of control is how strongly a person believes they have control over the situations and experiences that affect their lives; whether they are capable of “makings things happen” or exist at the mercy of others/outside forces.
Often referred to as the “6th human sense,” interoception is the ability to notice, understand and feel what's going on inside your body. Individuals with histories of complex trauma live in bodies that are constantly alert for signs of potential danger, and over time, have become experts at noticing minute changes in both their surroundings and interactions with others. In response to the more immediate need to survive, internal sensations become subverted, ignored, dissociated or numbed, ultimately compromising a person’s ability to notice, feel and interpret their meaning. Even years after a person has reached a place of safety, this relationship between the body and mind remains. It can be extremely distressing and causes individuals to feel “disconnected” or estranged from their bodies. The practice of interoception in TCTSY helps to restore the interoceptive pathways in the brain by drawing the attention of participants to the possible physical sensations they may feel during a practice. In some cases this may lead participants to take some action to change or alter what they are doing, in other situations they will perhaps remain where they are and explore what they feel. Interoception in TCTSY is an opportunity to practice what it means to be embodied - namely noticing and feeling the body for its own therapeutic value and contribution to recovery.
Shared authentic experience
Frequently participants feel socially isolated from others as a result of their experiences, and have deeply internalized feelings of being “other” and intrinsically different and excluded from everybody else. In TCTSY the facilitator practices together with the participants. Each person takes responsibility for their own physical experience in the context of a relationship that is authentic, predictable, and respectful. By doing so the mirroring of trauma dynamics is avoided by having both people engaged in the same activity, and validates differing physical experiences. Lastly, it also contributes to reconnection with others and relational safety.
It can be said that power dynamics between people lay the groundwork for traumatic relationships to take place. In response TCTSY is fundamentally interested in sharing power, and actively seeks to avoid any situation that may influence, is coercive or manipulating of a participant’s experience.
Some examples of non-coercion in TCTSY include:
There are no physical adjustments or any emphasis on yoga technique. Likewise there is no “right” or “wrong” way to practice. While for obvious reasons touch is inappropriate in this situation, “fixing” a person’s physicality while simultaneously emphasizing the importance of their subjective experience is a mixed and unhelpful message.
The facilitator remains on their mat at all times. Out of respect for high levels of hyper-vigilance a facilitator will remain on their mat throughout the duration of a practice, and does not wander around the room.
There is no labeling/qualifying of yoga forms based how they should feel, look, or what they are good for. (eg: “this should feel really good!” “this form is great for relieving depression.”) Likewise there is no use of metaphors. All cues and language is based within concrete, visceral terms of what is happening in the body, right now.