Using Trauma Informed Language to create a more inclusive yoga space

Denver Clark, C-IAYT Yoga Therapist, E-RYT500, Licensed massage therapist


A heavy word.

A word that we are seeing more and more often, especially in the yoga industry.

Trauma is defined as, “a distressing or disturbing experience,” and once we begin to learn about trauma we become aware that every human experiences some form of trauma in their lifetime. This means that when we step into the yoga space to teach, even if we are not intending to teach “trauma informed yoga,” we are always working individuals with a host of different life experiences that have likely been very distressing or disturbing. Since this is the case, finding ways to be more trauma informed in our language is one simple way we can make our students feel more comfortable and uplifted in our classes.

Teachers are often unaware that they are speaking in commands:

“Raise your hand,” “lift the foot,” “Do this, do that,” etc etc.

Invitational language is when we omit the commands we’ve been used to using and replace those with opportunities to explore the yoga practice. This creates an experience for our students that shows them the practice is theirs and not ours because our job is to show up for their experience. Invitational language asks your student to really listen to their own body and make a true connection with themselves (the goal of yoga) instead of mindlessly following orders and potentially disconnecting from the union and awareness that yoga can facilitate.

In my trauma informed course at Heartwood Yoga Institute, teachers are often overwhelmed at this idea. They’re afraid of sounding like a broken record and turning their students off by saying “I invite you to..” every other pose. So to help you on your teaching journey, below is a list of a few ways you can start using “invitational” language in your classes this week:

“I invite you to…”

“When you’re ready..”

“One option is..”

“We could..”

“Let’s try…”

“How about we…”

“If you’d like…”

“If it feels good today..”

“let’s explore…”

A challenge I am always giving my advanced yoga teachers in training is to never say the same thing twice in class. Even when teaching a 2 sided posture, try to cue into and out of the pose completely differently each time so it feels just like a new pose. How many of us teaching many classes per week over the course of years have found ourselves checking out and simply reciting our usual “script?” If you practice expanding your vocabulary by always using new phrases, you’ll be more present as a teacher and your students will be more likely to listen and stay present with you to avoid missing out on what comes next. I like to call this “tricking” my students into being present. I know, I know, it sounds negative but sometimes we need a little challenge from our teachers – I know I do!

I promise that with practice, this kind of language will become a natural part of your communication as a teacher and best of all, it will create a more trauma inclusive and uplifting yoga experience for your students!

For more information on Trauma informed language and trauma informed yoga, you can take the continuing education course at Heartwood Yoga Institute with me!