Trauma-Informed Yoga

Yoga Will Heal offers Trauma-Informed trainings, classes and presentations for 1) yoga instructors & health professionals, 2) community classes and 3) workplace presentations. We provide tools in supporting a healing environment for trauma, stress, and other areas of mental health.

Interested in getting certified in Yoga for Mental Health? Or take a Community Class with a trauma-informed approach? Contact Us.

Trauma-informed yoga is based on the understanding that trauma impacts the entire mind-body system opposed to only the mind or only the body. "Trauma is not just an event that took place sometime in the past; it is also the imprint left by that experience on mind, brain, and body," says Bessel van der Kolk from his book The Body Keeps the Score.

Trauma occurs when we are unable to take effective action to stay safe, and remain trapped in a physically threatening and/or psychologically overwhelming situation - from What is Trauma-Informed Yoga. All trauma evokes a nervous system response that involves the body's instinctual fight/flight/freeze pattern, which is hardwired into the human nervous system to help protect us from harm. Normally, this provides the energy needed to propel us to safety.

Yoga can help balance the Unregulated Nervous System

"Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies. The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort," says van der Kolk. "Yoga is a safe way to experience yourself. Yoga gives you courage to face your sensations." We need to breathe and notice what comes up.


Yoga is a Multi-Pronged Approach

Trauma is most effective when combined with other approaches.

  1. Top-down: Cognitive-based talk therapies. This involves going to a therapist and processing memories, strengthening relationships, and developing meaningful and helpful personal narratives.

  2. Bottom-up: Body-based therapies. This approach helps calm down the nervous system, which helps the body self-regulate by feelings and tolerating a range of emotions and sensations.

  3. Medications. If needed, medications, under supervision of a qualified professional, can provide medication that supports the cognitive and body-based therapies to be more effective.

Trauma-informed yoga is widely considered to be the most effective body-based therapies available. It is critical to realize that yoga will be most effective in healing trauma when it is integrated into a larger set of therapeutic supports that have been specifically tailored to the individual. Yoga is most effective when used in conjunction with other therapies.

Trauma Healing

by Thomas Huble, Collective Trauma Summit 2022

from "Yoga for Mental Health", Journal of Nonprofit Innovation, September, 2022.

What is Yoga? Yoga is a holistic approach to living a balanced life. As we practice yoga, we need to remember that yoga is not simply a way to exercise the body, instead there are 8 limbs of yoga. Often, our focus is on the third limb (asana), focusing on movement and the body. As we use yoga for mental health, we need to be mindful of involving the other elements that include eating healthy, letting go of things harmful, pranayama (breath work), focus, concentration and meditation. When we use yoga as a tool, we open the door to healing. When practicing yoga, we need to involve all areas as we hold postures (asana), take deep breaths (pranayama), focus inward/being mindful of how we feel (pratyahara), concentrating on the present moment (dharana), and meditating on a mantra (dhyana). Being mindful of what is happening in our body and mind, and then learning to let go of things we cannot control.

Yoga: A Tool to Help in the Healing Process. Yoga can help us become mindful of the sensations of the body that will help us know when we can push ourselves and when we need to be kind and release a pose. Yoga can help us bring awareness to our thoughts, giving us the space to recognize unhealthy thought patterns, learning to refocus, and training ourselves to stay in the present moment. Yoga gives us the tools to refocus our worries back to our breath, helping us be in the present moment and thus reducing anxiety for the future. Yoga is a great way to experience the sensations of our body as we hold poses and breathe, then notice what comes up (A., V. der K. B. (2015).

Yoga has been shown to be a great tool in dealing with a variety of different mental health topics. To utilize yoga as a healing tool, there needs to be a broader understanding of yoga beyond using yoga as an exercise. When we engage other aspects of yoga into our practice, such as mindfulness and pranayama (breath), we increase the possibilities of healing by making it a holistic approach.

“Yoga is a great way to experience your body and all the sensations that arise,
which can aid in the healing process." - Dr. Angie Holzer

Trauma: Defined and Stats

Trauma Defined: “Trauma is the experience of, or perception of, something disturbing or dangerous.” -Julie Karlinsey, LMT, CMHC

Trauma Statistics: “Estimates: six in 10 men and five in 10 women experience at least one trauma… in their lives. Trauma and distress can arise from a wide array of causes, including domestic violence, sexual assault, racism, bias, harassment, economic uncertainty, political division, and more. New challenges arise every day, and conflict and strife anywhere in our globally connected world affect us all.” – Harvard Business Review, March 2022, by Katherine Manning.

Trauma-Informed Care Defined: “Trauma-informed care shifts the focus from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?” A trauma-informed approach to care acknowledges that (you) need to have a complete picture of a (person’s) life situation — past and present — in order to provide effective care.” – Trauma-Informed Care Implementation Resource Center, Nonprofit Organization.

“6 out of 10 men and 5 out of 10 women experience at least one trauma in their lives.”


Articles: Research & Innovative Approaches of Trauma

The Journal of Nonprofit Innovation produced a publication on trauma-informed care. One article focuses on Yoga for Mental Health and gives examples of how depression and anxiety can be a tool to help in the healing process. Read here.

Mental Health Topics

By arching the spine, the sympathetic nervous fibers are stimulated, which may help to lift a person out of lethargy." -Yoga for Mental Health, H.M. & K.B.

With anxiety, first focus on noticing signals of sympathetic activity and how to reduce them through; for example, stretching poses, OM chanting.

Resources

Dr. Stephen Porges. Creating Environments of Safety and Trust Through Polyvagal Theory https://www.stephenporges.com/