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What Is Trauma-Informed Yoga & How Does It Help?

Trauma-informed yoga can be a valuable element of care for people who are receiving residential or outpatient treatment for mental health concerns.

What Is Trauma-Informed Care?

Many addiction treatment centers and other healthcare facilities have adopted a philosophy of trauma-informed care, or TIC. This approach is based on an awareness that most people who seek physical and/or mental healthcare services are likely to have a history of trauma.  

Trauma-informed care can look different from one provider to the next. In general, though, it should uphold the following five principles:

  • Safety
  • Choice
  • Collaboration
  • Trustworthiness
  • Empowerment

Organizations that take a trauma-informed approach endeavor to incorporate trauma awareness and understanding into all aspects of their programming. For treatment centers that offer certain holistic services, this effort can include offering trauma-informed yoga, or TIY.

What Is Trauma-Informed Yoga?

As is the case with trauma-informed care in general, trauma-informed yoga is based on the understanding that many people who participate in this activity will have survived one or more traumatic experiences over the course of their lifetimes. This may include both physical and psychological trauma. 

Trauma-informed yoga is an accessible and compassionate practice where all people can feel welcomed and supported. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, including the following:

  • The focus of a trauma-informed yoga session should include helping participants feel more secure in and connected to their bodies, instead of merely encouraging them to hold challenging postures for extended periods.
  • Professionals who lead trauma-informed yoga sessions should emphasize to participants that they are welcome to stop or ask for assistance at any time during the session. Leaders should also be prepared to note any nonverbal cues from a participant that may indicate they are beginning to dissociate or experience another form of distress.
  • A trauma-informed yoga session may include more basic postures, such as mountain, warrior, and staff, while avoiding postures that may be problematic for people who have endured sexual assaults or other forms of violence.
  • Instead of asking participants to close their eyes (which may be a triggering experience for some people), the leader may ask them to either close their eyes or direct their eyes toward the ground. Leaders should also avoid offering hands-on assistance without requesting and receiving permission from the participant.

How Does Trauma-Informed Yoga Help?

When incorporated into a comprehensive treatment plan, trauma-informed yoga may offer a wide range of benefits, including the following:

  • Establishing physical and emotional safety: Time spent in a safe and supportive environment can be especially valuable to individuals who have a history of untreated trauma. Among other outcomes, this can help participants learn to trust others again.
  • Improving confidence and self-esteem: Unless a person is disrupting the environment or making others uncomfortable, there is no wrong way to participate in trauma-informed yoga. Understanding that they don’t have to be “perfect” in order to enjoy and benefit from an experience like a yoga session can be extremely valuable to someone who is struggling with poor self-image, trauma, or other concerns.
  • Developing a healthy mind-body connection: Trauma, mental health conditions, and substance use disorders (addictions) can all be detrimental to a healthy mind-body connection. During trauma-informed yoga sessions, participants can begin to rebuild this relationship and take important steps toward becoming comfortable in their own bodies again.
  • Cultivating a sense of belonging and interconnectedness: Addiction, mental illness, and trauma can also be isolating experiences. Trauma-informed yoga can help participants discover the power and promise of healthy connections with other people. The nature of trauma-informed yoga allows people to develop this sense of belonging without having to discuss their past or otherwise verbalize the difficulties that led them to seek treatment.
  • Managing stress and releasing tension: Trauma-informed yoga can be an ideal means for coping with stress, pressure, and difficult feelings. Even the simplest postures and a focus on controlled breathing can make a world of difference to someone who has previously been unable to find a healthy way to release the tension that they have stored in their body.
  • Easing symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD): As reported in a May 2018 article in the International Journal of Stress Management, many adult women who participated in a 10-week trauma-informed yoga class “shared the empowering realization that they have ownership and control over their bodies as well as a greater ability to acknowledge, tolerate, and confront emotions that previously felt overwhelming, such as anger, shame, or vulnerability.”
  • Promoting mindfulness: During a trauma-informed yoga session, participants are focused on the here and now. The meditative, mindful nature of these sessions can help patients incorporate mindfulness into other areas of their life. The American Psychological Association (APA) has reported that the benefits of mindfulness may include reduced stress, enhanced ability to focus, less emotional reactivity, and a greater degree of cognitive flexibility. 

Find Trauma Treatment in Atlanta

If you have been struggling with the symptoms of PTSD or other effects of untreated trauma, please know that you are not alone and help is available.

Peachtree Wellness Solutions offers multiple levels of compassionate care for adults whose lives have been disrupted by PTSD, other mental health concerns, and co-occurring addiction. At our treatment center in Atlanta, you can receive life-affirming services at the residential, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient levels. To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our admissions page or call us today.