How to Help Students with Triggers

Trauma is a tricky thing to identify. It isn’t easy for me to say “these are my triggers” as they pop up randomly and often without warning. Sometimes it’s an ad on television, a piece of paper that slips out of an old notebook or being in an overcrowded store alone.

In the last number of years, I have had the opportunity to meet with some of the most incredibly brave students. I created a non-profit in Cape Cod that was a beautiful (albeit failed) effort. My mission wasn’t specific enough to uphold our mission, but it lead me to meet some amazing people. We taught yoga to “people who didn’t have access or couldn’t afford it.” I taught in a homeless shelter that focused on empowering people to stand on their own two feet, the local libraries and a women’s shelter in the Upper Cape.

I didn’t know it then, but I would land myself in a women’s shelter in Boston for their support group almost exactly five years later. Abuse, trauma and triggers are quite cunning indeed. 

Talk about divine timing and plans.

In the last few years, I have had students with every dis-ease, trauma and trigger you could imagine. I have students with PTSD, sexual trauma and more. Holding space for them to breathe feels as though I’ve stepped into the exact place I need to be. Every. Single. Time.

In order to heal my own trauma, I focused on healing others along the same path. I continuously worked on my own healing, but helping them truly helped me.

And here’s what I learned :

You come first.

Honestly, in terms of healing your own trauma and holding space for others, the most important thing to learn and remember is that you come first, always. Continuously work on your own healing, feel your feelings, breathe and remember it’s okay to let go little by little.

Triggers are not our fault, but we can always be aware.

Technically, nothing we say or do can be held accountable for triggering a students trauma. HOWEVER – using specific words in class that may trigger someone in sexual or emotional trauma recovery could have an immediate reaction.

A few things that can help you avoid creating triggers : refer to your chest as your heart (instead of breasts or chest), avoid happy baby, when doing heart openers make sure you forward fold to remind them to hold love, safety and boundaries.

There are a million ways we can hold space for someone while teaching. At the end of the day, everyone is responsible for their own healing, but we can be a guide. Please take a trauma recovery course if you’re interested in digging deeper as I am a survivor of emotional trauma and not an expert in teaching trauma yoga.

You come first.

Breathing. Meditation. Yoga. Laughter with friends. Massage. Self-care. Filling your cup. 

Ground. Ground. Ground.

Grounding is the first step to safety. Use a grounding, root chakra meditation such as I am safe, I am healthy, I am present. Use grounding crystals {black tourmaline, smoky quartz or black onyx}. Use sage or palo santo to clear the energy. Feel your feet barefoot on the earth. Reconnect to the ground in whatever way feels the most accessible.

You come first.

Take a rose quartz or grounding crystal and place it in your clothes when you’re teaching and/or recovering from your own trauma. It may be nice to help others on the path, but be sure to heal your own heart while you’re giving love to others. 

There is always more than one approach and more than one tool.

Yoga. Meditation. Tarot cards. Writing. Crystals. Reiki. Sound healing. Therapy. Medication. Essential Oils. Yoga. Meditation. Bigger crystals. Laughter. Journaling. Thai massage. Reflexology. Yoga. Meditation. Emotional Freedom Technique (ETF). Rituals. Name your own tools. Be sure to dig deep and use whichever tool works for you in that moment.

Create safe space for your students. 

Create a safe culture and physical space for them to heal. Use sage or palo santo to release negative emotions before and after they share. When I teach in libraries, I always bring crystals and oils with me in order to create the physical image of a sacred space. Do not share their stories. Hold space for them. Be sure your students feel safe and comfortable. 

We are not doctors, we are listeners.

We are not doctors. We do not have the power or capability to diagnose or give advice we don’t have the qualifications to give. We are here to be listeners, to be healers and helpers on the path to recovering from trauma. We are here to hold their hand, hug them, tell them which crystal to place under their pillow, enjoy a laugh or a good cry. We are here to let them tell their stories if they have nowhere to share. We are here to hold them in childs’ pose while they wipe their nose from the instant tears that came down. We are here to allow release. We are here to listen.

You come first.

Schedule your massage. Don’t skip therapy. Keep crystals in your bra or your briefcase. Heal. Love. Laugh. You come first.

Triggers are insidious. Abuse is stealthy. The memories pop up and sneak in when you least expect it. If we can hold space for our students and continue to work on our own healing, we are doing a service to the world. Continue to love and live loudly and fiercely.

Lots of love to you yogis

Namaste, xx – Jenny

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