Trauma-Informed Yoga

Trauma-Informed Yoga

Trauma is a common experience in the lives of many people in our society. While daily stress and anxiety affects everyone at some point or another, daily stress is different from trauma. Trauma as defined by The American Psychological Association is “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, crime, natural disaster, physical or emotional abuse, neglect, experiencing or witnessing violence, death of a loved one, war, and more.” What do all of these things have in common? The person who experiences them is left feeling helpless and like there is no escape from the emotional turmoil that is now a part of their lives

But did you know that our emotions live in the body, not just the mind? Did you know that the body/mind connection is so powerful that by improving one, you can improve the other? This is an amazing benefit, because trauma can be released through movement! The practice of yoga has been proven to have many positive physiological benefits, especially to those who have experienced trauma. The difficulty with practicing yoga in a traditional setting is that the environment isn’t always conducive to creating a safe space for individuals whose nervous system is in a heightened state of awareness. This makes it nearly impossible to be able to reap the benefits yoga has on the nervous system when that individual’s nervous system is so easily triggered.

This is where trauma-informed yoga comes in, a specialized approach to yoga that supports those recovering from traumatic experiences. The primary goal of this specialized approach is to empower participants, helping them regain a sense of control and connection with their bodies. Trauma-informed yoga (TIY) emphasizes the importance of choice. Participants are encouraged to listen to their bodies and decide what feels right for them, fostering a sense of autonomy and empowerment. The yoga instructor does everything they can to ensure that the students who attend these classes feel safe, both emotionally and physically. Creating a safe environment looks like choosing the music and lighting to soothe the nervous system and being aware of triggers so that they can do their best to avoid student triggers. The instructor will do their best to be a consistent, reliable person for the students by maintaining clear, open communication and building trust by following a predictable structure. This method encourages collaboration and mutual learning between the instructor and the participants. Feedback is welcomed, and adjustments are made to meet individual needs. 

Yoga is a practice that has origins dating back some 3000 years. It is a practice which can increase an individual’s resilience, strength, and flexibility in their body, mind, and soul. We are living in a time that we finally have the opportunity to scientifically study the benefits of this practice and corroborate what the gurus have been telling us for centuries. TIY can be deeply healing for many, but it is important to note that practicing yoga may not cure all symptoms of trauma and may lead to some triggering moments. These moments can be worked through with intentional, consistent practice, as well as having a relationship with a trusted therapist. Although practicing yoga may bring up repressed emotions, this is also not guaranteed. I practiced yoga for over 15 years before I ever began to dive deeper into the emotional practice. However, without even trying, one can begin to experience these benefits at a neurological level. Yoga is different for everybody and every body is different. 

Research has shown that TIY can be particularly effective in addressing the physiological and psychological effects of trauma such as:

  1. Reduction in PTSD Symptoms: A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that trauma-sensitive yoga significantly reduced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in female participants (not limited to female bodies) compared to a control group receiving traditional care. 
  2. Improved Emotional Regulation: Practicing TIY helps individuals develop better emotional regulation skills. The mindfulness component of yoga promotes awareness of the present moment, which can mitigate the intense emotional responses often triggered by trauma.
  3. Enhanced Mind-Body Connection: Trauma often disrupts the connection between mind and body. TIY fosters a reconnection by encouraging gentle, mindful movement and body awareness.
  4. Increased Sense of Control: By offering choices and emphasizing personal agency, TIY helps participants regain a sense of control over their bodies and lives, counteracting the powerlessness that often accompanies trauma. 

The therapeutic practice of TIY acknowledges and addresses the unique needs of trauma survivors by focusing on safety, empowerment, and trust by offering a pathway to healing that honors the individual’s ongoing journey. More individuals will benefit from the profound healing potential of yoga as awareness, understanding, and access to TIY practices continue to grow.


The Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute

National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)

Trauma-Sensitive Yoga in Therapy by David Emerson

Trauma-Informed Yoga Training Programs


Comments are closed.