Let’s talk about trauma

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Trauma, trigger, and bullying are words that get really overused.

Let’s just get that out in the open right now.

Now let’s talk about how those words relate to the work I do at Rise Up Yoga.


There are so many types of trauma one can experience. Here are a few:

Generational trauma. Like that our African-American, black and Latino, Asian-American, Native or Indigenous Americans, etc.. Groups that have been historically oppressed, marginalized and systematically lived through horrors of slavery, criminalization, mass incarceration, internment camps, genocide by colonists, denied basic human rights, lynched, portrayed in the media as enemies of the state, and so much more. Cycles of poverty can also play into generational trauma as well as generational abuse, addiction and a host of other things.

There is chronic trauma. Where a trauma incident begins and doesn’t immediately end. This could be food insecurity, war, fear surrounding citizenship status, housing insecurity, domestic violence, abuse and addiction and again, so much more.

Single incident trauma. Where a traumatic event has occurred and the person is left with the aftermath. The death of a parent, a serious accident, things that can leave a violent and lasting impression on the mind. PTSD is often associated with this sort of trauma, but really it applies to all trauma.

Our kids are sent to school with these traumas and expected to learn. To flourish.


So let’s unload Trigger.

It’s a sound, smell, light, food, movement, position, temperature – anything that can may the trauma feel like it’s currently happening and put a child in fight or flight. I’ve had a kid break down crying in nearly every class I’ve taught. I never know what the trigger is. I’m not there to create a bubble for them, I’m there to help them build stress resilience to the triggers.

I don’t want them seeking medication to deal with the triggers. I want to help them build neuropathways to better deal with stress and triggers. They won’t be able to avoid triggers, so I’m there to help them access tools to cope.


This goes hand in hand with triggers in my experience. When a kid is triggered they escalate and bully. Or lash out. Really, I don’t see that much bullying in the truest sense of the word, but I do see kids lashing out and attacking one another physically or verbally.

Kids that aren’t triggered don’t look for ways to pick on or bully the other kids.

The word bullying is so overused that it’s hard to really know what it is when you see it. But sometimes, kids will let you know. “All the kids pick on me because I’m from X country and people from X country at Y.” That is one I took to the dean as a legitimate issue involving possible bullying.

I was told that after breaking up a fight between the student that said that and a least a couple others.

But you can clearly see the interplay between trauma and triggers can lead to these things. Apparently, the trigger was that one of the kids made a remark about kids from X country being bad a soccer. That was all it took to trigger and bring up the trauma of being a refugee from X country and all the trauma associated with that huge issue.

And yet we expect all these kids to get ready for an arbitrary test to tell how well the teachers are doing.

Again, let’s note, I’m not an expert on this, these are my observations and what I have been studying while developing my curriculum.

Where does yoga come in and why is it helpful?

One of the ways we can help build this stress resilience is by having the kids practice movement linked to mindful breath in a predictable and rhythmic fashion.

You know, like a Sun A or a Sun B.

Then we add elements of balance to help touch on focusing while breathing. It’s a skill that translates off the mat to testing or studying and the sort.

Then we add physical challenges. Tougher poses (maybe a slower flow or an arm balance) and teach them to breathe through the challenge. It’s meant to teach them to breathe and remain calm in triggered situations so they can make rational choices. Right there, I’m working to break some of the generational trauma. Better choices.

Right there, I’m working to break some of the generational trauma. Better choices will hopefully lead to better long-term wellness.

It’s also an opportunity to empower them. To show them that by rising up and doing the practice they are already breaking a cycle. They are already making a wise choice for their body and wellness. They often express pride. They can better identify how they are feeling. They can calm themselves.

This work isn’t new. Street Yoga has been doing it for years. Other organizations as well. Rise Up Yoga’s partnerships with schools goes on until the school no longer wants to continue. The goal is to be in the schools indefinitely and eventually and sustainable grow so we can have more well-trained teachers in other schools and serve as many populations as possible.

But you know, for now, it’s me. So 4 schools next year which will mean a 7 day work week for me. And that is okay. Because I want to be the change I want to see if this world and that take hard work.

If you haven’t yet, talk to your boss or pals or financial advisor about donating to Rise Up Yoga to help keep this moving.

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