Bridging Body and Mind: Considerations for Trauma-Informed Yoga

Int J Yoga Therap. 2018 Nov;28(1):39-50. doi: 10.17761/2018-00017R2. Epub 2018 Feb 12.


Individuals who suffer from trauma-related symptoms are a unique population that could benefit from the mind-body practice of yoga-or have their symptoms reactivated by it, depending on the type of yoga. Trauma-informed yoga (TIY), that is, yoga adapted to the unique needs of individuals working to overcome trauma, may ameliorate symptoms by creating a safe, tailored practice for students to learn how to respond, rather than react, to symptoms and circumstances. Yoga not thus adapted, on the other hand, may increase reactivity and activate symptoms such as hyperarousal or dissociation. This article reports on expert input about adapting yoga for individuals with trauma, with special considerations for military populations. Eleven experts, recruited based on literature review and referrals, were interviewed in person or via telephone and asked seven questions about trauma-informed yoga. Verbatim transcripts were subjected to open-coding thematic analysis and a priori themes. Findings revealed that TIY needs to emphasize beneficial practices (e.g., diaphragmatic breath and restorative postures), consider contraindications (e.g., avoiding sequences that overly engage the sympathetic nervous system), adapt to limitations and challenges for teaching in unconventional settings (e.g., prisons, VA hospitals), and provide specialized training and preparation (e.g., specialized TIY certifications, self-care of instructors/therapists, adaptions for student needs). TIY for veterans must additionally consider gender- and culture-related barriers, differing relationships to pain and injury, and medication as a barrier to practice.

Keywords: military veterans; posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); trauma-informed yoga; yoga therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Meditation
  • Military Personnel* / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / therapy
  • Veterans* / psychology
  • Yoga*