Bending without breaking: A narrative review of trauma-sensitive yoga for women with PTSD

Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2016 Aug:24:32-40. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2016.05.006. Epub 2016 May 8.


Objective: The purpose of this review is to evaluate the peer-reviewed empirical evidence on the use of Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TSY) for the treatment of women with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): specifically interpersonal trauma such as intimate partner violence. To date, no such review has been conducted.

Methods: Articles meeting study inclusionary criteria were identified through electronic database searches. A total of five studies (N = 5) were selected and reviewed. These studies included two randomized controlled trials (RCT), one follow-up of an RCT, one quasi-experimental study, and one qualitative study.

Results: There is tentative evidence to support the efficacy of TSY in reducing PTSD, depression, and anxiety symptomatology for women with PTSD; there is also tentative evidence confirming the feasibility of implementing TSY as an adjunctive mental health intervention, particularly for individuals who are non-responsive to cognitive-based psychotherapies. The qualitative findings speak to a number of benefits of yoga practice stimulated by TSY participation centering on the phenomenon of peaceful embodiment.

Conclusions: Replication of these results using larger and more diverse samples and rigorous study designs by independent researchers would add credibility to these findings and contribute to the growing body of knowledge on TSY. Additionally, there is a dearth of studies on this nascent form of therapeutic yoga. Therefore, further research is needed to explore the potential efficacy of TSY with other types of trauma, populations, and settings.

Keywords: Intimate partner violence; PTSD; Post-traumatic stress disorder; Trauma; Trauma sensitive yoga; Yoga.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intimate Partner Violence / psychology
  • Meditation*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / complications
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*
  • Yoga*