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Tips to Make Kids Yoga Classes Trauma Informed

Written by Rochelle Jewell

Set Expectations

·        Use clear, consistent & predictable class routine.

·        Tell children what you will be doing so they know what to expect in class.


Create a Safe Space

·        Make physical and emotional safety a priority 

·        Try to hold class in an area that is quiet and distraction free.

·        Close door, if possible, to keep distractions down, but do not lock it.

·        Keep room well-lit.

·        Give enough space between mats.

·        Do not use scents, oils, sprays, etc. Limit your personal use of fragrances.


Offer Choices

·        Give choices within acceptable limits.

·        Allow children to observe, rather than participate.

·        Allow children to keep eyes open during class.

·        Ask before you touch a student.

·        Offer a variety of ways for students to give permission.

·        Remember that some children who have experienced trauma may not feel they have the right or ability to say "no."


Use Invitatory Language

·        Preschool:  Allow language to be engaging and fun, use facial expression to encourage a sense of safety, even while you are being more precise with your directions.

·        Elementary:  ”You can keep arms up, or down.”  “If you are not doing yoga with us, please stay on your mat.” :You can keep your eyes open or closed.”

·        Tweens/Teens:  “Let’s try…”  “Your choice.”  “Hands on your hips, your thigh or overhead”

·        Adults: “I invite you to…” “You are welcome to…”, “You might…”, “Perhaps…”  “Hold here for another breath, or two or three….” “Consider trying….”  “You might close your eyes of prefer to take a soft gaze.”

Be willing to adjust how and what you teach

·        Be mindful about the use of touch, partner poses, and guided imagery which you might be used to.

·        Be flexible with your class plan. Tune into what you are seeing from your students and meet students where they are.


Keep Children Pain Free

·        Watch your students' bodies for safe alignment in postures.

·        Watch your students’ faces for cues that something is causing pain or is triggering


Empower Students to take care of themselves

·        Remind students that yoga is not a contest and not to do anything that hurts.

·        Encourage self-awareness


Let go of Outcome and Expectations

·        Assume that each child is doing his or her best. 

·        If a child exhibits behaviors, which are disruptive or unexpected, believe that those behaviors are serving some purpose for that child.

·        Remember that it is not your job to "fix" anyone


Commit to Continuing Education

·        As new research unfolds, be open to new ideas.

·        As with anything, there are differing styles, methods and opinions regarding trauma informed yoga.  

·        Be clear, yourself, and to your students and their families about what makes your offerings “trauma informed,” if you are promoting them as such. 

·        The terms “trauma informed” and “trauma sensitive” will mean different things to different people.  

·        Consider the population you hope to work with, your own personal teaching style and what your intentions are for this work when considering advanced trainings for yourself.




Trauma-Informed Yoga for Children Resources


ChildLight Trauma Informed Yoga and Mindfulness for Youth Workshop with Rochelle Jewell:

November 16, 2018 9am-5pm in Dover, NH

March 15, 2019 8am-4pm in Dover, NH
July 17, 2019 8am-4pm in Dover, NH *Offered as part of our Summer Training Immersion and immediately precedes our Yoga & Mindfulness for Children and Teens with Special Needs Teacher Training



Levine, P. A. (2006). Trauma Through a Child's Eyes: Awakening the Ordinary Miracle of  Healing. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.​

van der Kolk, B. (2015). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. New York: Penguin Books.​

Emerson, D., & Hopper, E. (2011). Overcoming Trauma through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body. Boston: North Atlantic Books.​

Cole, S.F., O'Brien, J. G., et al. (2005). Helping Traumatized Children Learn. Boston: Massachusetts Advocate for Children.​

Nakazawa, Donna Jackson. (2015). Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology and How You Can Heal. New York: Atria Paperback


Websites/Journal Articles​

SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative (NCTSI)  http://www.samhsa.gov/child-trauma

Mindful Teachers: Mindfulness for Trauma and Violence http://www.mindfulteachers.org/2016/04/yoga-mindfulness-for-trauma-violence.html

ACES too High  https://acestoohigh.com/

The Association for Training on Trauma and Attachment in Children  https://attach.org/​

AOTA Childhood Trauma Fact Sheet     https://www.aota.org/-/media/corporate/files/practice/children/schoolmhtoolkit/childhood-trauma.pdf 

Resources for Schools to Help Children Affected by Trauma Learn  http://www.traumainformedcareproject.org/resources/bibliography of resources for schools to be trauma informed.PDF

Understanding Complex Trauma, Complex Reactions, and Treatment Approaches http://www.giftfromwithin.org/html/cptsd-understanding-treatment.html

Childhood Trauma Infographic http://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/programs_campaigns/nctsi/nctsi-infographic-full.pdf  



ReMoved  films about abuse/neglect and children in the foster system.   ​http://www.removedfilm.com/

Stephen Porges (several links to videos, podcasts and written text of his work)  http://stephenporges.com/



Yoga for Children:  200+ Yoga Poses, Breathing Exercises and Meditations for Healthier, Happier, More Resilient Children, by Lisa Flynn

Yoga Children Book Cover

"Play with the practices in this book and bolster your child's resilience and self-esteem as you enhance your relationship." ~ Amy Weintraub

Buy the Book!


Check out our blog, The Kids Yoga Resource!