Healing mind and body, the benefits of yoga to help recover from trauma

Jill, a yoga instructor with training in trauma yoga, has given us insight on how yoga has helped women who have experienced a trauma.

Below, Jill a yoga instructor with training in trauma yoga, has given us insight on how yoga has helped women who have experienced a trauma:

Yoga translates as ‘union’ from the root Yuj, which means to yoke/bind. In class we are practicing a connection between body, breath and mind. We can bring those things together in a way that helps people who have experienced trauma to integrate their experiences and feel more at ease within themselves.

Often after experiencing trauma, we can dissociate from our physical body, or feel pain and tension as a result of our experiences. It is also easy to get ‘stuck in our heads’, ruminating or over-analysing or worrying about the past or future.

Women experience trauma in many different ways. It can affect how we feel about our bodies, our abilities and our confidence to step forward in life. We are very good at hiding our trauma, and often experience hyper-awareness – always looking for potential threats, being aware of everything very intensely. Yoga practice is where we establish a balance between being aware and growing a sense of feeling safe, grounded and relaxed.


The science:

We are consciously moving from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic nervous system, which initially recreates some stress in the body followed by letting go, and this facilitates rest, digestion and recovery and helps us to regulate our fight or flight response. 


When a group of women are able to practice yoga together, breathe together and move together, this creates healthy bonds and a space to heal the wounds (physical and emotional) that accumulate during our lives, without having to speak about them. The simple act of stepping onto the mat is a commitment to our sense of well-being. And it’s not about lifting your leg to your ear! It’s more about falling over, steadying yourself and getting back up again, laughing, releasing fears and anxieties and starting a journey to get to know yourself again.


The practice gives an opportunity to just be with whatever comes up in the body/mind and breathe through it until it passes, and it does, eventually.

It builds resilience, patience and can change how our brain relates to certain things, so we can manage through difficulties, change or better control our reactions which help us to make choices off the mat and out in our lives. This helps us have more compassion for others too, and increases our ability to listen and choose based on our own needs while considering others.


Who and what inspires me…

A lot of my learning came from my yoga teacher Jessica Stewart and a great book you can use at home is ‘Overcoming Trauma through Yoga – Reclaiming your body’ (Elizabeth Hopper, PhD and David Emerson).


“I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories… water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.”
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype


A Poem by Mary Oliver, Wild Swans:

You do not have to be good

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about your despair, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun, ad the clear pebbles of rain

Are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile, the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exiting –

over and over, announcing your place

in the family of things.