One of the most influential books I've read this year, Overcoming Trauma through Yoga communicates principles of teaching for trauma recovery that are applicable to every class, every where.
Emerson, Hopper and their co-authors (legends in their own rights in trauma research and treatment) advocate for yoga practice in dealing with the aftermath of trauma and give guidelines and suggestions for both teaching trauma sensitive classes as well as advocating for home yoga practice. This alone was music to my ears, of course, but their guidelines were confirmatory of my own instincts.
My preference has always been hands off, as a yoga teacher as well as a student. I nearly always find physical adjustments jarring, even when the overall effect is revelatory. As nearly everyone who's been in yoga classes for more than a decade, I've also received detrimental adjustments, even from celebrity status teachers with supposedly great credentials.
Overcoming Trauma through Yoga elucidates the basic wisdom behind preferring auditory adjustments over physical ones and confirmed my intuitive preference. Not only do physical adjustments bring up all sorts of attentional and boundary challenges, but they invalidate the deeper premise of yoga practice: in a "class" you may be trying to do the post your instructor is teaching, but in a "practice" your intent is to sense your own experience in each pose. It's not that you go off and do different poses; but the core of the pose is how you feel it and learning to sense your body in space, so having someone put you there is actually counter-productive. It may take longer to feel the pose from the inside, but the path to getting there - much like transitions between poses - is as important as the getting there.
There are instructional parts to this book, fundamental for anyone starting out and interesting for the experienced practitioner. One of my favorite suggestions is the cue... "if you'd like to add something" as a substitute for "going deeper" or "more advanced" or what have you. This language takes the competitive spirit out of the equation and reveals the degree to which everything is optional.
The most surprising finding for me was that a measure of Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is correlated to resilience in recovery from trauma. HRV is an interesting and relatively simple measurement of how long it takes the body to recover - or return to baseline - from an excited state. Yoga has a positive effect on HRV and this is one of the bases for recommending it as an adjunct to trauma therapy.
Whether you've got your own trauma journey - and let's face it, modern life is traumatizing - or you want to be prepared when you have someone in class who does, this book is the most important resource I've read all year. What is your top yoga book for 2013 and why? Leave a comment and share your thoughts...