Yoga for Trauma

Table of Contents

Trauma is a psychological or physical injury or shock, often caused by a distressing or disturbing event. It can leave a person feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and disconnected from themselves and others. In recent years, yoga has emerged as an effective tool for healing trauma and restoring balance and connection to the body and mind.

Yoga is an ancient practice in India. It has been used to promote health and well-being. The practice combines physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation techniques to promote relaxation, reduce stress, and increase mindfulness. It is particularly effective for people who have experienced trauma, and it can help them reconnect with their bodies, release tension and emotions, and develop self-awareness and resilience.

Many types of trauma include physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, natural disasters, accidents, and medical trauma. Each person’s experience of trauma is unique, and the effects can be long-lasting and complex. For some people, the effects of trauma may be immediate, while for others, they may not manifest until years later.

Yoga for trauma recognizes that trauma is stored in the body and that healing must occur physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The practice emphasizes mindfulness, self-compassion, and non-judgmental awareness, and individuals can connect with their bodies and emotions in a safe and supportive environment.

Physical Postures

One of the primary components of yoga for trauma is physical postures or asanas. These postures are designed to help release physical tension and trauma that may be stored in the body. They can also help to improve circulation, increase flexibility, and promote relaxation.

Some of the most commonly used postures in yoga for trauma include:

Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Child’s Pose, or Balasana, is a gentle yoga pose often used for relaxation in yoga practice. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Begin on hands and knees with wrists directly down your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  2. As you exhale, lower your hips toward your heels and your forehead on the mat. Your arms can be extended before you, or you can bring them back by your sides.
  3. Relax your shoulders and let your hips sink toward your heels. If your hips don’t comfortably reach your heels, you can place a folded blanket/pillow between your hips and heels for support.
  4. Take deep breaths in this pose, feeling the stretch in your back and hips and releasing tension.

 The child’s pose can be practiced at any time during a yoga practice or as a standalone posture when you need to ground yourself.

Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

Warrior II is a strong posture that can help individuals feel empowered and grounded. To practice Warrior II:

  1. Standing at the top of the mat with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Step your left foot back, keeping your feet parallel to one another.
  3. Turn your left foot out to a 90-degree angle and bend your right knee, keeping it directly over your ankle.
  4. Stretch your arms to the sides, parallel to the floor, and gaze over your right fingertips.
  5. Breathe deeply and hold the posture for several breaths before switching sides.
  6. Corpse Pose (Savasana)

The corpse poses a relaxing posture that can help individuals feel calm and at ease. To practice corpse pose, nap on your back with arms by your sides and your palms facing up. Allow your feet to fall to the sides, and close your eyes. Breathe deeply and allow your body to sink into the floor, releasing tension or stress. The corpse is often practiced at the end of a yoga practice or can be practiced on its own as a relaxation technique.

Cat-Cow Pose(Marjaryasana-Bitilasana)

Also known as Marjaryasana-Bitilasana, it can be a beneficial yoga pose for trauma survivors. Here’s how to perform the pose:

  1. Starting with your hands and knees, your wrists under your shoulders, and your knees under your hips.
  2. Take a few deep breaths, then inhale as you arch your spine, bringing your tailbone and head up towards the ceiling. It is the Cow Pose.
  3. Continue to move back and forth between Cow and Cat Pose, inhaling as you come into Cow and exhaling as you come into Cat.
  4. As you move through the pose, focus on your breath and the movement of your spine.

This pose can be especially helpful for trauma survivors as it helps to release tension in the body and can promote a sense of safety and grounding. It can also help to connect the mind and body and to increase awareness of physical sensations.

Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

This posture is a gentle backbend that helps to release tension in the back and hips while strengthening the legs and core.

Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises, or pranayama, are another key component of yoga for trauma. These exercises help to calm the nervous system, reduce anxiety and stress, and promote relaxation. They can be practiced in conjunction with physical postures or on their own.

Some of the most commonly used breathing exercises in yoga for trauma include

  1. Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana Pranayama) – This breathing exercise involves alternating between inhaling and exhaling through each nostril, helping to balance the nervous system and calm the mind.
  2. Three-Part Breath (Dirga Pranayama) – This breathing exercise involves inhaling deeply into the belly, chest, and upper lungs, and exhaling slowly, helping to promote relaxation and reduce stress.
  3. Lion’s Breath (Simhasana) – This breathing exercise involves inhaling deeply and forcefully while sticking out the tongue and opening the eyes wide, helping to release tension in the jaw and face.


  • Meditation is an effective tool that can help people suffering from various mental health issues, including trauma. Trauma can profoundly impact an individual’s life, leaving them feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and even depressed. Meditation can be a helpful way to manage these difficult emotions and promote healing.
  • One of the important types of meditation for trauma is mindfulness meditation. It can help you develop a greater awareness of your emotions and learn to accept them without becoming overwhelmed.
  • Another helpful type of meditation for trauma is loving-kindness meditation. It involves directing feelings of compassion and kindness towards yourself and others. It can be particularly helpful for people who have experienced trauma, as it can help to counteract feelings of shame and self-blame.
  • If you want to use meditation to cope with trauma, finding a quiet and comfortable space to practice uninterrupted is important. You may also want to consider working with a trained meditation teacher or therapist who can help guide you through the process.
  • It is also important to approach meditation with patience and self-compassion. It can take time to develop a regular meditation practice.

In addition to meditation, several other techniques can help manage trauma, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and relaxation techniques like deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.

Ultimately, the key to healing from trauma is to find a combination of techniques and strategies that work best for you. Meditation can be a beneficial tool for managing the difficult emotions often accompanying trauma. Still, it is important to remember that it is just one part of a larger healing process. With patience, compassion, and the right support, overcoming trauma and leading a fulfilling life is possible.

Here we discuss this with Rachel, a yoga therapist, to get her thoughts on this topic.

NourishDoc: Hello, everyone, so most of us had some trauma, whether when we were kids or growing up, and then how do we get rid of that? All these traumas get into our nervous system and don’t go away. Rachel is working and infusing yoga therapy with her clinical social work to help her clients overcome trauma. Thank you so much, Rachel, for joining us, and Namaste.

Yoga Therapist Rachel: Thank you so much for having me and being here with you.

Combining Yoga & Clinical Social Work For Trauma

NourishDoc: Well, talk to us about how you’re using these two beautiful modalities and helping your clients who have gone through trauma.

Yoga Therapist Rachel: Of course. So, I’ve been a psychotherapist for a long time, and I’ve worked with trauma in many different settings. I sometimes think that when we try to talk our way out of things, we miss what is most impacted by trauma: our body and our nervous system.

So, I think Yoga Therapy has been just such a wonderful tool to use with my clients to help them to find balance in their nervous system again and gives them tools that they know that they can take and do something because I think a lot of the time, psychotherapy doesn’t necessarily give people real tangible tools that can help to regulate their emotions on a day-to-day basis.

Psychotherapy & Yoga Therapy For Trauma

NourishDoc: Okay, so let’s take an example of when you’re infusing psychotherapy and yoga therapy. So, what would it look like? Like, it would be sort of like counseling with a trauma client. Let’s take, an example, one of your clients and what yoga therapy would entail. Is it a combination of chanting, the Mudras, the breath work, and what type of yogas? Could you elaborate a little bit on this?

Yoga Therapist Rachel: Sure, and it was different with every client. I love Yoga Therapy so much that you can use it to be what exactly that person needs and where they’re at and take all the tools and make it a personalized practice for them. So, a lot of the time, what I’ll do at the beginning of my work with my clients is to do a full intake, see what they’re working on, and then really try to create a practice that works for them.

So, for some of my clients, let’s sit down and put together a practice that is 15 minutes. However, they can do it every morning, including asana, pranayama, and meditation. We often do mudras as well and some chanting. But then, sometimes, my clients need to be in the place to practice for 15 minutes daily; that could be the long-term goal.

But then we also work to find small practices they can do throughout the day to help find balance. I often work with clients who are healthcare professionals or therapists as well. So giving them tools to manage their emotions and regulate their nervous system throughout the day, even if it’s a five-minute or two-minute practice, just things that they can integrate to help bring themselves back into balance throughout the day.

A Simple Daily Routine For Balance

NourishDoc: So, what would a simple sequence entail? Like, talk to us about types of postures and different types of breathing and chanting, whatever; how about that? Like, a five-minute or 10-minute, whatever you like.

Yoga Therapist Rachel: I mean, I think for all of my clients, the most important thing is many times, what happens with trauma is that we dissociate from our body. So, a lot of the work is helping them reconnect to their body and build awareness of what’s happening to them. So, in any practice, I’m doing with someone, we will start with simple body awareness.

That can be a mountain pose or a seated meditation pose, depending on where they’re at in their practice. If they’ve never practiced yoga before, it might start as something as simple as belly breathing. Using a four-count inhale and eight-count exhale is a good way to help bring the parasympathetic part of our nervous system on and then there for postures that depend.

If my client is presenting as really depressed, we might do some chest opening and back bending to help to give them energy. Suppose they’re always feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and emotionally saturated. In that case, we’re going to do practices that maybe are a little more movement focused, more dynamic to help release some of that energy to then, at the end of any sequences like finding a little time for relaxation and then, some meditation and one thing I always try to do with my clients is given the time, in the beginning, to check in where they’re at when they start and when where they’re at when they end just to see what practices are working. So, it’s a constant recalibration of what’s working for them and how we can change that over time based on their needs and what’s changing for them.

How Long Does It Take To Heal Trauma?

NourishDoc: Okay, and then, let’s talk a little bit about how often and the duration you talked about, two minutes, five minutes, but someone who has gone through trauma would need a sort of like a continuous process, right? So, what does that entail? How many months are we talking about? How many counseling sessions? So that people going through trauma understand what is in store for them.

Yoga Therapist Rachel: That’s a very good question. It depends on how much you’ve experienced and how they have an impact this had on you. So, many of my clients experienced ongoing trauma throughout their childhood. So, they’re working through much trauma that is layered on itself. If we experience trauma growing up within our family of origin, we become adults and repeat those patterns. We usually feel more trauma as adults as well.

So, there are ways that you’ll feel better in a couple of months. You might find more stability; you’re feeling a little better. However, in the long-term work, I think of really undoing some of these deeper patterns and finding a balance that could last a year or a couple of years; some people like to go to ongoing therapy. That is something that they feel gives value for that, valuable for them.

NourishDoc: So, okay, I think, I mean, most of us who have gone experience some trauma, we need to do some regimen daily, so that it doesn’t appear to get triggered, I should say that. So, anything else you like to add? This is a quick 10-minute session that brings hope more than anything else. Using a holistic lifestyle can help you lead a better, healthy, and joyful life, bringing joy and happiness to your life. So we are not selling happiness here or joy but advocating that to bring joy to you. So anything else you’d like to add Rachel before I wrap up?

Yoga Therapist Rachel: Yes, to go off that, I think my favorite thing about Yoga Therapy and yoga, in general, is that it helps us tap into what we already have within us. So, when we have practices and we can integrate that into our lives, we don’t have to rely on other people because we all have the tools we need within us. Then, there’s all this guidance from outside us that we’re just tapping into what’s already there.

NourishDoc: Absolutely. So the moral of the story for this particular session is infusing psychotherapy with yoga therapy and the postures and breathing and combining all the together to get that trauma out of your hands and doing a continuous process. It’s a continuous process. So with that, thank you so much to everyone for helping us support us daily. Hope these sessions are useful to you and we bring these quick 10 minutes every day. Namaste, and thank you much, Rachel, for being with us.

Yoga Therapist Rachel: Thank you so much for having me.


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