Yoga Dictionary: Trauma-Informed Yoga


ith what may seem like the weight of the world on our shoulders at times, yoga can be a relief many look forward to and even need to feel healthy and balanced. However, when practicing yoga begins to trigger past trauma or overwhelm someone, practicing trauma-informed yoga can be safe and beneficial, both mentally and physically.

Trauma-informed yoga is the educated practice of yoga with a particular awareness that people may have varying types of trauma that can affect them during yoga. Trauma-informed yoga training educates people on how to be more sensitive to what may trigger these traumas and how to address or avoid that in the most beneficial way.

Read on for more valuable insight into how trauma can affect us and how trauma-informed yoga can be a key to the healing process.

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What is Trauma-Informed Yoga?

Trauma can affect us in ways we don’t even realize. But, unfortunately, trauma isn’t like a visible wound we can see. With a Visible wound, it can be tended to, and we know to be cautious with it as it heals.

That is what trauma is, though, a wound. It is a living impact of a situation, time, memory, or even person that brought it about.

Though we may leave the cause of the trauma in the past, that wound is still with us. Trauma is often hidden or even underlying, making it that much harder to address and be fully aware of. This can be especially difficult for people outside of ourselves, who often are blindsided by our traumas spilling into day-to-day functions or possibly unaware.

Of course, we don’t always want to explain our traumas to others, it can be uncomfortable, and truth be told, very hard to explain sometimes. Trauma is such a varying thing and caused by a spectrum of events and personal experiences. What is uneventful to some can be life-altering to others. That doesn’t take away from the severity, everyone is just different, and that’s ok.

Here we look at few types of trauma for a better understanding:

  1. Complex Trauma: This type of trauma is brought on by trauma repeatedly occurring, with seemingly no end, or having no ability to stop it. Complex trauma can also be caused by exposure to multiple traumatic events. It can be related to bullying, sexual abuse, people being held hostage, and even domestic abuse situations, to name a few. It is unfortunately often associated with a lot of early childhood trauma as well.
  2. Acute Trauma: Brought on by a singular event that caused a traumatic response. Car accidents, natural disasters, and the loss of loved ones are a few events that may bring on acute trauma.

Often times seemingly safe environments and situations can draw our traumas to the surface. This can be a traumatic experience in itself, depending on where and when it happens.

We don’t always know what causes trauma to come back to the surface. That’s where Trauma-informed yoga comes in. With this yoga practice, considerations are taken with great care to be proactive in avoiding, managing, or in a controlled setting, addressing traumas.

Trauma-informed yoga is a multifaceted approach to helping people with traumatic injuries, anxiety, and many other mental health conditions brought on by trauma. This can be applied to any style of yoga, as it is more in the knowledge of the instructor or person practicing than in the style necessarily.

The multifaceted approach may be used independently or built up to. While every aspect of trauma-informed yoga is geared towards healing the body and mind, every body and mind is different.

So there isn’t a one-size-fits-all when facing trauma. This is wholly based on the individual.

In this clarification, we can get a  good idea of the differences between the two basic approaches to trauma-informed yoga:

The Capable Approach• With this approach, either with a trained instructor or after serious research yourself, you create an environment that is open to finding balance by easing into different styles, positions, even trying other music and settings until you find what works for you.
• The expectations are not about pushing your limits but more about finding a comfortable way to practice yoga. This approach can be a stepping stone to the traverse approach but is an excellent stand-alone method as well.
The Traverse Approach • In this approach finding your comfort is still essential.
• There needs to be a start point, like a safe haven of yoga poses, specific kinds of music, or scents that ground you in a good space.

Once that is well established, moving into poses and other changes in the routine can begin. Here we come back to obstacles that may have made you uncomfortable before.

The key to this is gently easing into these, being aware enough to know when to pull back, and having patients with yourself. It is about facing things trauma has taken from you, and in time, taking them back.

As with anything to do with trauma-informed yoga, the most important thing is the safety and well-being of the people involved. Healing can be a long road, but there is help.

How Does Yoga Help to Release Trauma?

Yoga is the practice of informed breathing, stretching, and various movements and focus. Reaching harmony of body and mind, and a balance to center you in that harmony.

When you have been sitting at your desk all day, and you finally reach out and stretch. You lengthen the muscles and breathe in and out a bit differently. You release this stretch to the feeling of tensions and tightness melting away a bit, right? You may not have even intended this stretch. Breathwork is an important part of trauma informed yoga. You can get certified in breathwork to learn how to mend the two forms together.

It’s as though your body and mind are working in unison to help bring you some relief. Similar to yawning, this action may make us feel more awake or rejuvenated to an extent.

Before we can fully understand how yoga helps release trauma, we need to understand what trauma is.

The impact trauma can have medically proven, even having the ability to alter the structure of our brain. Our body’s response to trauma sends a rush of adrenaline and cortisol, engaging our survival instincts of Fight Flight or Freeze. However, this same response can be triggered later from something that may not directly link to the original trauma.

Our mental and physical responses to trauma are lasting and very real. Therefore, in order to heal and learn coping skills, it’s essential to address both the psychological and physical aspects of trauma.

Trauma causes significant stress to our mental health, as well as wreaking havoc on the nervous system. This, in turn, has a real effect on physical health. Sometimes, being the catalyst to cardiovascular issues, sleep pattern disruptions, even skin issues, to name a few, can be caused by the stress related to trauma.

Addressing all aspects of trauma is important in order to have a complete, well-rounded path to healing. Trauma-informed yoga has the ability to work towards that, both mentally and physically. It is breaking a cycle that can in itself be traumatic.

Yoga is scientifically proven to cause the body to release a happy, healthy cocktail, or chemicals and proteins, of health benefits and healing. Exercising the body and focusing the mind with yoga can improve your quality of life. This symphony of your body working this way can help improve sleep

Deprivation disorders and even reduce the risk of a variety of severe health issues.

By improving things like cognitive brain function and structure, the healing is literally from the inside out.

Trauma-informed yoga is an informed approach to making these benefits possible for those who may not be able to engage otherwise. Trauma is released in the exercises and actual practice of yoga and worked through in the most beneficial way for each individual.

What is Trauma-Informed Training?

This is essential training for instructors and or students wishing to work on their own.

Education on a variety of traumas, how they can affect someone, and how to safely and comfortably help them in the practice of yoga.

This training teaches the proper tools to create a safe and secure environment for those affected by trauma, including some here :

Being vigilant about how students feel.This can be about; music, proximity to others, poses, anything about the class they are part of.
Addressing students with positive language. Avoiding certain tones and wording can keep them in a safe place and avoid possible triggers.
Knowing when to limit the practice. Concerns of whether certain aspects of the class are triggering a student need to be met with care and understanding, as well as making it ok to progress at their own pace.

With proper education and preparation, Trauma-informed yoga can bring healing and balance. You can even get a trauma informed yoga certification online.

3 Trauma-Informed Yoga Poses

Though there is no definitive style, form, or posing that is only specific to trauma-informed yoga, some techniques may be more comfortable than others depending on the individual. For example, focusing on breathing deeply can be a frightening place of stillness for some, while for others, certain poses may bring about a vulnerability that they aren’t ready for in processing their trauma.

Learning what is best suited to one’s own body and mind is vital to continued healing.

With trauma-informed yoga, the tools and support are there to try different things. It isn’t a failure to listen to your body and table a pose or style until you are ready. Sometimes seeing what it’s all about can help curb fears or anxieties, so we will look at some rooted poses to just put our toes in the water, so to speak.

Tree pose

The intentional stillness of planting one foot on the ground signifies that the yogi is steady and rooted in the ground. Hands and arms are extended toward the sky for an open mind and calmness.

Child's Pose

This pose is one that anyone can do, as long as there are no physical limitations in getting on the floor. Anyone that practices child’s pose can achieve a feeling of safety and peace. Child’s pose isn’t specifically for children, however there is a specific child’s yoga. Become an instructor by earning your children’s yoga certification online.

Flowing Warrior Pose

Remember, you are doing this for yourself, and you deserve it. You are strong and capable. Breathing through this pose encourages a sense of calmness.


The reality is trauma exists and affects so many of us in a variety of ways. This has the ability to reach those suffering from PTSD, Panic attacks, and stress-related disorders across the spectrum. Taking back the choice to heal through Trauma-informed yoga is an incredible opportunity. To help others or yourself, bringing harmony back to body and mind.

Caleb Sharbono is a writer, bio-hacker, wellness advocate, and yogi. Caleb, who grew up on a small Montana ranch, joined the Navy at 17 to study cryptology. He later graduated from the US Naval Academy with a Minor in Mandarin, a Bachelor's in General Engineering, and a Major in English Literature. Caleb's interests and career cover diverse industries and disciplines. Caleb lives in San Antonio and is a Certified Yoga Instructor. He is also studying Zen Buddhism, practicing Holistic Psychology, and working towards his 300-hour yoga teacher training.


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