Does Yoga Heal Trauma?

As mental health treatment has evolved and modernized over the years, professionals have begun incorporating holistic practices into their treatment approaches. We commonly see programs revolving around practicing meditation and mindfulness, sometimes spirituality, or the importance of exercise and nutrition for improving mental health. 

One holistic practice we are seeing used more often to improve mental health is yoga. Frequently referred to as a form of exercise, yoga is a spiritual practice that requires discipline and focuses on breathwork and mindfulness. Many have experienced improvements in their mental health by practicing yoga. As a result, many people may wonder: can yoga heal trauma? 

Physical Benefits of Yoga

Some may think the physical benefits of yoga only revolve around increasing flexibility, but this is far from the case. There are many ways yoga improves physical health. While practicing yoga will make you more flexible, yoga can also reduce joint pain, help manage migraines, and even reduce the risks associated with conditions like multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and inflammatory bowel disease. Yoga can also improve sleep and cardiovascular function, boost your immune system and increase your strength.

Another significant benefit seen with yoga is improved back pain. Back pain is a widespread health problem among people throughout the country. Due to its benefits, healthcare professionals have begun recommending yoga to individuals with chronic low-back pain. 

Yoga is exceptionally useful for those seeking natural or holistic ways to manage pain. People may want to avoid taking prescription medication, narcotics, or other medications. Yoga provides an alternative approach to managing pain and improving physical wellness.

How Yoga Improves Mental Health

Yoga has also been known to improve mental health outcomes. An article on the effects of yoga on mental and physical health published by the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine scientific journal (ECAM) sites yogas’ improvement on mental illness. The study mentions symptom improvements for several mental health disorders. However, three disorders in particular that see a vast improvement with yoga include depression, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to their research, yogic breathing plays a significant part in improving mental health, especially when dealing with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. According to the study’s findings, yoga was able to help individuals who have PTSD after a natural disaster. The study indicates that yoga was able “[S]ignificantly reduce symptoms of PTSD, self-related symptoms of stress (fear, anxiety, disturbed sleep, and sadness) and respiration rate.” 

While more research will help indicate the long-term effectiveness of yoga in treating PTSD and other mental health disorders, it has been shown to greatly reduce symptoms, improving the quality of life for individuals overall.

Yoga and Trauma

PTSD is caused by severe trauma, whether that be a natural disaster, sexual assault, or even years of neglect or abuse. The traumas we experience go on to influence the rest of our lives, especially if untreated. As a result, we may develop mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, and other trauma-related disorders.

While not everyone who experiences trauma develops PTSD, there are many ways that trauma continually impacts their quality of life. They may suffer from low self-esteem, feel withdrawn from others, or experience intrusive and compulsive thoughts. Yoga can help with these symptoms, too.

Practicing Yoga

Clinicians have begun regularly recommending yoga because they have seen individuals struggling with PTSD or trauma benefit from weekly group yoga, yoga sessions that include guided meditation, and breathwork. Some research has shown that within a controlled group, at least half of the individuals regularly practicing yoga no longer fit the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis.

Yoga is comprised of three main pillars, which include:

#1. Pranayama, which is the Sanskrit term for the breathing exercises practiced in yoga

#2. Asanas, the Sanskrit term used for the various positions executed 

#3. Mindfulness meditation

Meditation and breathwork have been shown to help clients focus on the present and make their feelings and impulses more manageable. While practicing yoga, you become more aware of your body and open yourself up to your experiences. The idea of reliving those experiences can be deterring, but yoga allows you to isolate your natural response to this fear and cope in a healthy way.

How to Start Practicing Yoga

You can start practicing yoga by researching yoga studios in your area. There are also many options for practicing yoga in an online space.  Instructors may offer virtual yoga sessions through their websites. You can even use social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube to find yoga routines to practice at home. 

Untreated trauma and PTSD can lead to many struggles, including experiences of further trauma. If you are suffering from symptoms of trauma or PTSD, consider practicing yoga today. You will experience a plethora of benefits in your overall wellness in addition to healing from trauma.

Practicing yoga has been shown to improve physical and mental well-being, including helping to treat symptoms of mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. Yoga can also help heal symptoms of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. Yoga is comprised of three principles: breathwork, physical movement, and meditation. Research indicates that people who practice yoga to help treat PTSD no longer meet the requirements for a diagnosis. This is most likely because meditation and breathwork help clients focus on the present and heal. Yoga allows you to isolate your natural response and feelings to your trauma so you can learn to healthily cope with negative emotions or behaviors caused by trauma. If you are struggling to cope with trauma, SokyaHealth can help. Our online platform can offer you resources and professionals equipped to help treat trauma in addition to your yoga practices. Call us at 800-930-0803 and (866) 65-SOKYA today.

More than 50% of Americans struggle with mental health.

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