Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that focuses on strength, flexibility and breathing to boost physical and mental wellbeing.
Science proved the power of yoga for healing trauma to help with a wide range of health conditions, from anxiety & stress to inflammation and chronic pain.
Indeed, a growing body of evidence suggests that when we use it in a therapeutic context, yoga for healing trauma is an effective tool for empowerment.
American psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s leading authorities on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), has pioneered the use of yoga to treat PTSD for 40 years. His work is based on the understanding that trauma takes a heavy toll on the brain and the body. In addition to the psychological effects, he says:
“Traumatized people feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs. So, in an attempt to control these processes, they become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.”
Van der Kolk suggests that, in order to recover, trauma victims must become familiar with and befriend the sensations in their bodies.
This is where yoga comes in. With an emphasis on feeling and connection, yoga empowers trauma victims to gain awareness and control. Through gaining control over their breath, body, thoughts, and emotions, it can be a powerful tool in helping to rewire physiology and psychology, to find a place of safety and comfort.
Yoga Poses to Heal Trauma
If you want to experiment with creative arts therapy and incorporate some trauma conscious yoga into your sessions with clients, here are three postures that address symptoms they may be suffering with.
In addition, trauma sensitive yoga is a great way to look after yourself as a mental health practitioner. It’s also a nourishing tool in supervision.
Lion Pose (Simhasana)
Teeth grinding, tense facial muscles, tightness in the jaw are some of the symptoms that manifest due to constant panic or anxiety. Facial exercises are not usually included in our exercise regimes. Therefore, we don’t release the tension stored in our facial muscles.
Lion pose is an excellent pose that helps to release the tension stored in facial muscles and jaw area.
Pond Pose (Tadagasana)
The solar plexus is located in the abdomen and governs self-empowerment and will power. When we face a traumatic situation and something threatens our sense of self or safety, it can manifest as an energetic imbalance in solar plexus. It can physically manifest as shallow breathing or gastrointestinal problems.
Pond pose is an excellent stretching pose that relaxes the abdominal muscles and enables us to do deep abdominal breathing.
Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
The throat deals with self- expression. If we suppress our inner voice for too long or are unable to say what we need to say to protect ourselves, the traumatic energy gets stuck in our throat region. Upward facing dog is a beautiful opening stretch for the upper body that stimulates the throat chakra. Also, it clears any energetic blockages that are present there.
If you want to find out more about releasing trauma with yoga, sand play therapy, and expressive arts therapy, why not sign up for one of my trauma training courses? They are the only trauma courses to explore evidence-based models of trauma therapy using sand play and expressive arts.
I integrate person-centred, Gestalt, object relations’, Jungian and transpersonal trauma models, and draw on neuroscience, somatic bodywork and systemic thinking. I also talk about trauma-informed cognitive behavioural therapy, EFT and EMDR.
You can read more about the courses I offer and book here.
Have your say!
Has yoga helped you release trauma? Which poses work for you? Please share your tips and experiences below!