A pedagogical examination of the potential of Iyengar yoga for trauma

Publication Name

Sport, Education and Society


In recent years, interest in the therapeutic potential of yoga for people recovering from trauma has flourished. To date, much of this research on yoga for trauma adopts a quantitative methodology that positions yoga as a medicalised intervention to understand if yoga is ‘effective’ for trauma recovery for adults. This paper seeks to contribute to an emerging body of qualitative literature by drawing on the voices of eight Iyengar yoga teachers with experience teaching adult students with trauma. It reveals that the teachers do not hold themselves out to be specialists in trauma, nor do they rely on formulistic principles or knowing a person’s trauma narrative. Rather, they draw on the pedagogic skills they have developed more generally through their considerable experience of teaching yoga as an embodied practice to tailor their approach for their students. Of central interest is the way the teachers use their own bodies, particularly their sensory perceptions, to ‘read’ the bodies and emotional capacities of their students within each teaching session. The teachers also reflect on the way they use adjustments as part of their embodied pedagogic skills in nuanced ways that challenge the dominant no-touch discourse on teaching students with trauma. These pedagogic approaches offer important insights for movement teachers more generally, particularly those teaching vulnerable students.

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