How Trauma-Informed Yoga Can Help Survivors Heal

Jun 5, 2022 | Mental Health, Yoga

No matter what happened (or when), experiencing trauma can have lasting effects that interfere with your daily life. And while healing can help ease lingering symptoms (typically the result of post-traumatic stress disorder) the remedy is not one-size-fits-all. Some trauma survivors might find success with cognitive behavioral therapy, whereas others might find somatic experiencing — a special type of trauma therapy that focuses on the body — more helpful, according to Elizabeth Cohen, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in New York City.

One way survivors can engage in somatic experiencing is through trauma-informed yoga. (Other examples include meditation and tai chi.) The practice is based on the idea that people hold trauma in their bodies, says Cohen. “So when something traumatic or challenging happens, we have a biological tendency to go into fight or flight,” she explains. This is when your body is flooded with hormones in response to a perceived threat. When the danger is gone, your nervous system should gradually revert back to its calmer state.

“Even after the threat is gone, trauma survivors are often stuck in a stress-based fear response,” says Melissa Renzi, M.S.W, L.S.W., a licensed social worker and certified yoga instructor who trained with Yoga to Transform Trauma. This means that even though the threat is no longer present, the person’s body is still responding to the danger.

And that’s where trauma-sensitive yoga comes in, as “it helps move that basically unmetabolized trauma energy through your nervous system,” says Cohen.

What Is Trauma-Informed Yoga?

There are two different approaches to…