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Trauma Informed Yoga: Healing Trauma with Awareness & Understanding.

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

"When we are able to face our traumas with awareness they become the birthing pains to the pure Self."

There are many reasons why people are drawn to practice yoga, consciously and unconsciously. We may seem to feel initially attracted for superficial reasons while for many underneath it all there is a calling in the heart to heal generational patterns and come home to yourself. Yoga & breathwork practices have the power to look deeply into our consciousness as human beings and tune into our natural awareness that's so needed as a foundation for any authentic healing of trauma.

One of the main openings in the process of yoga is a muscle of the body called the Psoas. Also known as the hip flexor, it's the muscle that connects your legs to your spine. Yoga can connect deeply with this part of the body and begin to release physical as well as emotional tensions. Many emotional tensions & traumas are being held within our system unconsciously and the Psoas (hip area) usually stores the most painful experiences in connection with the heart.

What is Trauma?

Any significant event or experience, mild or severe, that leaves an imprint in someone's consciousness and manifests in the physical and emotional body as some form of limitation or pain. Without understanding and awareness deep imprints of trauma or ego identification create a disturbance in the being. The impact and interpretation of the trauma affects clear perception and appears to diminish the natural flow of truly experiencing life as it is from the heart.

For people who have experienced any mild to severe trauma the release of these emotions through the practice of yoga can be immensely more challenging than the average person. Any kind of mistreatment, abuse or unusually intense emotional experiencing from the past needs to be more understood in the yoga community and the world.

Supporting Others Through Trauma

with Understanding


Along the healing path of yoga reactions due to stored or unprocessed trauma can sometimes arise. These reactions may appear to be more intense or severe with some more than others. Sometimes when dealing with individuals of trauma there is a defense or coping mechanism referred to as 'shutdown'. This is when someone has been unable to complete the process of releasing trauma in their system and the shutdown happens as a protective response of dealing with very painful emotions or experiences.

Another reaction closely related to shutdown is what's called 'freeze' state where the fight or flight response from a traumatic event hasn't been allowed to be completed. This primal response then becomes stored in the nervous system causing disturbances and unbearable states of traumatic fear & anxiety. The symptoms & interpretations of trauma will vary according to each individual but the physiology of fight, flight & freeze states and how it's released from our system is the same.

When interacting with someone who has experienced trauma it is very important to refrain from just inviting yourself into their space. The energy you approach with has to be one of observing with gentle loving space. People who have been mistreated or abused in some way can experience severe reactions due to the energies of others who don't understand or respect this.

If someone is experiencing apathy, numbness, anger or rage, instead of judging someone for what is happening and the reactions they are having, allow space for them to feel safe enough in allowing them to connect with the underlying emotions and releasing the false beliefs or perceptions that may be attached to the emotions. If someone is experiencing the states mentioned above the underlying emotion that needs to be observed & released is usually one of sadness or fear. Anger is always a cover for sadness or fear. These states along with many other experiences of trauma is closely linked with the play & reactions of what's called ego identification - the belief that these states of play and experiences are the fact of who you are.

Gentle touch done intuitively is important for trauma sensitive people and an awareness not to overcharge or over engage when practicing asana. Too much can feel like an invasion of boundaries and cause reactions of shutdown. While touch is beautiful and grounding when done in the right way, physical touch isn't always needed for someone to heal and feel safe. Just by observing with loving space, understanding & awareness people are able to recognize what is happening within themselves through their own intelligence. Coming from this perspective the space that is needed to release deeply held traumas will only be supportive for someone in this way if you have also healed deeply within yourself.

"You can only be a healing space for others as deeply as you have seen yourself"


In my own experience with many years of yoga practice, the support and understanding of what can arise in you when healing deeply held traumas just wasn't there in the appropriate way. This has been surprising and almost shocking to see how much judgement still exists among people even in a yoga or holistic healing community. Throughout my own healing journey I have observed very little understanding of the reactions that can happen within someone who has experienced trauma even though so many of us are going through a similar process.

It is important we stop identifying someone's reactions or traumas as the fact of who someone is, not labeling them will start to bring more understanding, awareness and a more evolved space of consciousness into the community. By hopefully bringing more understanding and awareness to the more challenging & authentic side of yoga, the path of healing trauma will no longer leave people feeling isolated in their pain. If you are really genuine in your practice as a healer or teaching of yoga, it is not about becoming an elite gymnast or a professional at meditation but about healing at the core of your own self to be a light for others in such challenging times as these.

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