About the Potential Reaction Scale

“PR Scale” is a rough estimate, based on subjective reporting of real-life clients.  The number is on a scale of “1-unlikely” to “5-likely” that a student/client with unresolved trauma may have a negative reaction to a particular pose. The factors that determine a person’s response to poses is highly variable, and may even change day to day, therefore the scale should never be used as a definitive guide. It is simply a Trauma Informed Yoga Therapy Collective experience-share. 

The Reactive Potential Scale has grown organically over the past 15 years, based on collective knowledge and experience from hundreds of trauma informed Yoga Therapists/Teachers from all walks of life, teaching in a large variety of settings. Most of the contributing Yoga Therapists work in the most challenging settings and with student/clients who have heightened sensitivity to their environment due to debilitating unresolved trauma; an important distinction as many of the consumers of YTL information are teaching Yoga in studios and public spaces where the students may have less sensitivity. When our collective’s content is lacking for specific poses, information has been derived from data mining vetted internet searches. 


The information we are passing along is intended to serve ONLY as a foundation for teachers and therapists without any prior knowledge of an individual’s unique strengths and challenges and/or how an individual/class may respond to the asana choices within a class/session. 


Every pose has the potential to be beneficial & every pose has the potential to be inappropriate for some people.   this is not a do/don’t list!


The poses that are listed as Level 5 have the highest incidence of creating a negative response in a student/client. There are many factors that are part of a student experience and therefore taking verbatim as a pose-only effect is very misguided, but the less experienced teachers may pay particular attention until they have enough experience under their belt to know the difference. The information has been gathered through subjective reporting - not through a formal research project as the requirements to create such a project would be immense and entirely financially out of reach. 

The majority of the negative responses that have been reported manifested fit into the following six categories:
1) out of proportion anger,

2) frustration

3) intrusive memory recollections

4) impatience

5) increased competitiveness

6) negative self-talk.

This list has been within the TIYT™ Trauma Informed Yoga Therapy curriculum since 2009, and only taught within the context of a trauma informed methodology, due to the risk of misuse and misunderstanding of this type of content without the Yoga teacher having prior exposure to basic trauma informed principles. 

If you stop teaching the Level 4 & 5 poses entirely, you are doing a great disservice to your clients and to the practice of Trauma Informed Yoga.  Each of the poses are beneficial to many, and in the proper setting, with proper preparation and experience, even the Level 5 poses may have a therapeutic benefit to the most sensitive student of Yoga. 

Therefore, this scale is not a cookbook and NEVER should be used as a definitive guide. To refrain from teaching “Happy Baby Pose” in a class of female survivors of sexual assault may seem like it is common knowledge to many, but there are far too many reports of women having very negative reactions in a group Yoga class after the teacher taught this pose; therefore, we do not assume anything. The information contained within, again, is just a guide to help you make informed choices for good starting poses with clients/students who are seeking Yoga to help manage and move past unresolved trauma. 


“One of the lessons of yoga is that it’s not just the poses you do but how you do

them that affects the mind.”