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Harnessing Healing Power: Yoga for PTSD and Trauma Recovery



In a world that often moves at breakneck speed, it’s easy to forget that some carry invisible scars. For individuals grappling with trauma, finding solace can be a monumental task. One avenue that has shown remarkable promise in this realm is the ancient practice of yoga. As Bessel van der Kolk, a leading expert in trauma recovery, aptly puts it, “You don’t have to talk about the trauma, you can be in a yoga class, and your body starts to shake and you think, ‘Oh my God, I’ve lost control again.’ But then you begin to realize that you can actually control it.”

I. Understanding PTSD and its Impact:

Before delving into the transformative power of yoga, it’s crucial to grasp the depth of PTSD’s impact on individuals. Whether stemming from combat experiences, interpersonal violence, or other traumatic events, PTSD can manifest as debilitating anxiety, depression, and a pervasive sense of disconnection from oneself and the world.

It’s important to recognize that trauma can reverberate far beyond the initial event, affecting a person’s sense of self, relationships, and overall well-being. This is where the holistic practice of yoga steps in, offering a multifaceted approach to healing.

II. The Therapeutic Potential of Yoga:

  1. Embodied Healing: Yoga is fundamentally about reconnecting with one’s own body. For trauma survivors, this can be a profound journey towards reclaiming a sense of agency over their physical self. As Judith Herman, a renowned trauma expert, notes, “Trauma is about the body, as well as the mind.”Through gentle, deliberate movements and poses, individuals begin to rebuild trust in their own bodies. This process is pivotal in re-establishing a sense of safety and self-assurance.
  2. Regulation of the Nervous System: Trauma often leaves the nervous system in a state of hyperarousal, constantly on high alert. Yoga, with its emphasis on controlled breathing and gentle movements, facilitates the transition from fight-or-flight to a more balanced state of being.The practice of pranayama, or breath control, allows survivors to regain mastery over their breath, a vital aspect of self-soothing and emotional regulation. By slowing down and deepening their breath, individuals can gradually retrain their nervous system’s responses.
  3. Empowerment and Choice: In a trauma-sensitive yoga practice, individuals are encouraged to make choices that feel safe and empowering. This sense of agency is particularly vital for survivors who may have felt powerless during their traumatic experiences.The opportunity to choose their level of engagement, opt for variations of poses, or even skip certain movements altogether creates a supportive environment where survivors can rebuild a sense of control over their bodies.

III. Mindfulness and Trauma Recovery:

  1. Present-Moment Awareness: Trauma often roots individuals in the past, reliving painful experiences. Yoga’s emphasis on present-moment awareness gently guides practitioners away from the past and future, creating a sanctuary of safety in the now.By anchoring their attention in the sensations of their breath and the movements of their body, survivors gradually learn to disentangle from the haunting grip of traumatic memories.
  2. Cultivating Resilience: Mindfulness, a cornerstone of yoga, fosters resilience by teaching individuals to observe their thoughts and emotions without being overwhelmed by them. This skill is invaluable for those on the path to recovery.As they practice observing their inner landscape without judgment, survivors gain a newfound sense of agency over their own minds. This shift empowers them to navigate their emotions with greater skill and composure.

IV. Yoga in the Corporate World:

  1. Yoga for Corporate Wellness: In the hustle and bustle of today’s corporate world, stress and burnout have become all too familiar foes. Considering yoga as a means of trauma recovery can also be seen as an integral part of corporate wellness. As wisely articulated by Arianna Huffington, the driving force behind Thrive Global, “Placing importance on self-care not only boosts our efficiency but also ignites creativity and strengthens our endurance.
  2. Enhancing Employee Well-being and Resilience: Yoga, even when not explicitly tailored for trauma recovery, plays a pivotal role in enhancing overall well-being and building resilience among employees. This, in turn, contributes to a more productive and balanced workforce.

By offering yoga classes or incorporating mindfulness practices in the workplace, companies can invest in the mental and emotional well-being of their employees. This not only reduces stress levels but also cultivates a more harmonious and productive work environment.


In the delicate journey of trauma recovery, yoga emerges as a guiding light, offering a path toward healing, empowerment, and resilience. By integrating trauma-sensitive yoga into both personal wellness routines and corporate wellness initiatives, we can collectively contribute to a world that acknowledges and supports the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. Remember, healing is a journey, and with yoga, every step is a testament to the strength and resilience within us all.