Yoga for Trauma – a Survivor’s Perspective

As social work and counseling fields, as well as the fields of neuroscience and psychiatry evolve, it is becoming increasingly clear that effective trauma treatment must include modalities to address trauma as it manifests in the body and in the nervous system.  Due to the pervasiveness of trauma in our world: as professionals it is ethically imperative that we be able to recognize the signs of trauma even when it is not verbally disclosed (as it often is not); we must develop at least a basic competency in body and breath based modalities that address trauma on nervous system (pre-cognitive) and somatic levels; we must be able to make appropriate referrals and engage in effective collaboration, when our clients need access to modalities beyond our scope of practice.

As the efficacy of yoga in treating trauma is increasingly recognized by medical science, many people will seek remedy for their trauma symptoms with yoga.  When taught in a trauma-informed manner, yoga is proven to help alleviate the effects of trauma. When yoga is not taught in a trauma-informed manner and is inappropriate for our client due to fitness level, instructional style, setting, etc. – our clients will not be helped by yoga, and are at a substantial risk of being re-traumatized.  Thus, if we as mental health professionals are to help our clients to gain access to this transformative practice, we must be informed about: how and why yoga, combined with psychotherapy, can be effective in healing trauma; how uninformed referrals to yoga can be harmful; and how to connect our clients with yoga instruction that is appropriate to their needs.