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Trauma Centre Trauma Sensitive Yoga 

TCTSY is an adjunctive treatment for Developmental/Complex trauma meaning it is a complementary resource to add to your therapy and is also offered within clinical settings as an intervention for people with complex trauma experience.


TCTSY is an individual Yoga session with a trained facilitator for people who have experienced traumatic events repeatedly over time. It is for people who have been repeatedly exposed to inter-relational abuse and/or neglect. This might include:

  • childhood abuse, neglect or abandonment

  • ongoing domestic violence or abuse

  • repeatedly witnessing violence or abuse

  • being forced to become a sex worker

  • torture, kidnapping or slavery

  • being a prisoner of war.


Trauma Centre, Trauma Sensitive Yoga is an empirically validated, clinical intervention for complex trauma or chronic, treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

TCTSY may assist in both symptom reduction as well as personal growth by helping to regulate affective arousal, increase ability to experience emotions safely in the present moment, and promoting a sense of safety and comfort within one’s body.


Radomized trials found 52% of previously treatment-resistant participants in the yoga group no longer met criteria for PTSD compared to 21% in the control group. More research citations, information and links here


Complex Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or similar diagnosis comes from experience of complex trauma. Complex trauma describes repeated, often inescapable, exposure to threatening relationships/isolation. When we are isolated or when we are in repeatedly threatening relationships our lives are oriented to surviving.

Chronic surviving results in life-limiting emotional, social, cognitive and physical damage. Some somatic effects of complex trauma are hyper-arousal, heart rate variability and varieties of dissociative experiences.

Complex trauma is something that is enacted within relationships. For this reason it is different to PTSD which could be an accident or a one-off experience. Sometimes the diagnostic labels feel unhelpful especially as everyone is different. Not everyone with Complex PTSD will carry a diagnosis of PTSD. Not everyone with PTSD will carry a diagnosis of Complex PTSD.



TCTSY as a program of the Center for Trauma and Embodiment at JRI. It is an empirically validated, adjunctive clinical treatment for complex & developmental trauma, complex PTSD or chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD. TCTSY was co-developed by David Emerson, Director of Yoga Services, at the Trauma Centre, Boston now the Center for Trauma and Embodiment. Developed at the Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts, TCTSY has foundations in Trauma Theory, Attachment Theory, and Neuroscience as well as Hatha Yoga practice with an emphasis on body-based yoga forms and breathing practices.

With TC-TSY all participants are required to be in therapy.

Meriel Goss is a certified TCTSY facilitator.

Some TC-TSY History

TC-TSY began by drawing from the clinical insights of Dr. Bessel van der Kolk and David Emerson’s yoga teaching for traumatized people. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk is a psychiatrist noted for his research in the area of post-traumatic stress since the 1970s. Dr van de Kolk’s work focuses on the interaction of attachment, neurobiology, and developmental aspects of trauma’s effects on people. In 2002, Emerson, already teaching yoga to traumatised people, contacted van der Kolk yo combine their expertise beginning a pioneering exploration in using yoga for trauma. Their first pilot studies undertaken by the Trauma Centre.

    Whilst it’s understood that some people find yoga helpful for managing or living through anxiety and other stress-related symptoms at that time there were no researched precedents of yoga models working specifically with trauma within clinical settings. It is the specificity of their research and the clients they sought to serve that defines the TC-TSY approach. Many yoga colleagues and trauma-related organisation's have donated time, space and expertise for subsequent pilot studies. 2005 saw the beginning of a training program and weekly TC-TSY sessions for men and women at the Trauma Centre. Jennifer Turner joined the team in 2008 and taught the classes for their third study, a Randomized Controlled Trial, the first of its kind to be funded by the National Institutes of Health.

    Emerson continues to direct and to write about the program at large and to work individually with military veterans and teens in residential treatment programs. Emerson and Turner offer training programs for yoga teachers and clinicians who are interested in bringing TSY into the their treatment paradigm.

Further info:

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