A Trauma-Sensitive Approach

Today we were fortunate to get a rehearsal visit from David Emerson and Jenn Turner, joining us from The Center for Trauma and Embodiment at the Justice Resource Institute.

As one of our community partner organizations for the production of Wolf Play, the staff at JRI are helping the cast and team understand more about the sources and manifestations of trauma in the body.

This community partnership is also part of Company One Theatre fulfilling our mission-driven goals to AMPLIFY the following:

  • That every child deserves love and a fighting chance to heal from personal and cultural trauma
  • the many ways people become family, and the extreme lengths they may go to protect the pack
  • the tools needed to navigate the thin dividing line between vulnerability and violence
  • local efforts to support the lived experiences of transracial and transnational adoptees
  • accessible theatre that opens conversations for all, thanks to Pay-What-You-Want ticketing and the support of the Boston Public Library

David and Jenn are accomplished experts in their field, and we’re excited to share more info about their work with Trauma Sensitive Yoga, below.

David Emerson YACEP | He/Him/His
Director, The Center for Trauma and Embodiment at JRI

Dave is the founder of Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TCTSY) for the Justice Resource Institute in Massachusetts, where he coined the term “trauma-sensitive yoga.” From 2009-2011 he was responsible for curriculum development, supervision and oversight of the yoga intervention component of the first of its kind, NIH-funded study to assess the utility of yoga for survivors of trauma. Mr. Emerson has developed, conducted, and supervised TCTSY groups for rape crisis centers, domestic violence programs, residential programs for youth, active duty military personnel, survivors of terrorism, and Veterans Administration centers and clinics and more. In 2018, Dave Emerson co-founded the Center for Trauma and Embodiment at JRI. In April, 2020, JRI will host the Annual Conference on Trauma and Embodiment.

Dave is the a Author of Trauma-Sensitive Yoga in Therapy  (Norton, 2015)

This practical guide presents the cutting-edge work of the Trauma Center’s yoga therapy program, teaching all therapists how to incorporate it into their practices.

When treating a client who has suffered from interpersonal trauma―whether chronic childhood abuse or domestic violence, for example―talk therapy isn’t always the most effective course. For these individuals, the trauma and its effects are so entrenched, so complex, that reducing their experience to a set of symptoms or suggesting a change in cognitive frame or behavioral pattern ignores a very basic but critical player: the body.

In cases of complex trauma, mental health professionals largely agree that the body itself contains and manifests much of the suffering―self hatred, shame, and fear. Take, for example, a woman who experienced years of childhood sexual abuse and, though very successful in her professional life, has periods of not being able to feel her limbs, sensing an overall disconnection from her very physical being. Reorienting clients to their bodies and building their “body sense” can be the very key to unlocking their pain and building a path toward healing.

Based on research studies conducted at the renowned Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts, this book presents the successful intervention known as Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TSY), an evidence-based program for traumatized clients that helps them to reconnect to their bodies in a safe, deliberate way.

And co-author of Overcoming Trauma through Yoga (North Atlantic Books, 2011)

Survivors of trauma—whether abuse, accidents, or war—can end up profoundly wounded, betrayed by their bodies that failed to get them to safety and that are a source of pain. In order to fully heal from trauma, a connection must be made with oneself, including one’s body. The trauma-sensitive yoga described in this book moves beyond traditional talk therapies that focus on the mind, by bringing the body actively into the healing process. This allows trauma survivors to cultivate a more positive relationship to their body through gentle breath, mindfulness, and movement practices.

Overcoming Trauma through Yoga 
is a book for survivors, clinicians, and yoga instructors who are interested in mind/body healing.


Jenn Turner LMHC | She/Her/Hers
Director of Training, Center for Trauma and Embodiment at JRI

Jenn has had the honor of working with survivors of trauma for over a decade. Along with working in private practice as a trauma-informed therapist, Jenn has been leading Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga classes for women at the Trauma Center since 2008 where she also oversees the teaching team. She taught the yoga classes and developed the protocol for the NIH-funded research study that examined the effects of TCTSY on treatment-resistant PTSD (results can be accessed by clicking here). Jenn is a lead TCTSY trainer and supervises students in our certification program.

• • •

Information about Trauma-Sensitive Yoga Groups at JRI

Participants are required to be in therapy, either at the Trauma Center or elsewhere. Visit this link for more info.

The main objectives are for us to use yoga forms as opportunities to notice what we feel in our bodies and to practice making choices about what to do with our bodies.
• No experience necessary.
• We strive to make the classes accessible to everybody regardless of physical ability.

Trauma-sensitive yoga is a way for us to safely experiment with having a body. Through yoga we can experiment with:
• Breathing
• Moving
• Strengthening
• Stretching
• and, Resting

Our classes are set up so that students are in control over what they are doing with their body at all times and the teacher is there to provide safe, professional guidance and to help students focus on particular dynamics (what muscles they are using, what it feels like to have their feet on the ground, what it feels like to breathe, etc.)

Participants will not have to talk to other participants, making this class more comfortable for those individuals who find it difficult to be in groups.

Classes are open enrollment.