Trauma-informed yin yoga is based on a particular understanding of trauma. In my practice, coming from a background of depression, substance abuse, losing my dad to suicide, and more, my style of yin yoga emphasizes its impact on the mind-body system instead of particular mental states viewed in isolation from the physical body. In my belief system, we practice yin yoga with the mindfulness of healing the body, mind, and spirit all at once. Studies conducted on trauma-informed yin yoga concluded that it is at least equal if not more powerful than traditional therapies, like talk therapy.

Emotions can not only be stored in the mind but in the physical body as well and trauma-informed yin yoga based sequences help individual who practices to release those trapped emotions from the physical body and ease the tension they can place on the mind.

Traumatic events involve “inescapable shock”: threats to physical survival and/or psycho-emotional integrity experienced in circumstances that prevent safe escape. Traumatic events may be one-time occurrences, such as a car crash, or part of an ongoing pattern, such as chronic domestic violence.

Though single-event trauma and complex, developmental trauma differ, both evoke the nervous system response that involves the body’s instinctual fight/flight/freeze pattern, which is hardwired into the human nervous system to help protect us from harm. Normally, this provides the energy needed to propel us to safety. Trauma occurs when we are unable to take effective action to stay safe and remain trapped in a physically threatening and/or psychologically overwhelming situation.

“Your entire body is intelligent, not just your brain. Your organs are separate intelligences within your body that perform certain functions and produce specific emotions or feelings”
― Bradley Nelson, The Emotion Code: How to Release Your Trapped Emotions for Abundant Health, Love and Happiness

Balancing an Unregulated Nervous System

If we do not consequently use our time and the opportunity we have to process and release the resultant sense of shock experienced throughout the body-mind system, we may remain stuck in a state of severe physiological and psycho-emotional disequilibrium. Through my Yin Yoga practice as a teacher, we use the time, space, peace, quietness, and release of the yin yoga sequences I put together to heal the nervous system. You see when you release the body, you release the mind and vice-versa.

Staying stuck in a state of hyper or hypo-arousal caused by past traumas, will leave us on high alert regardless of actual circumstances, events, environment, or potential threats or shut down and disconnected state from the rest of the world. This can manifest as depression, lack of energy, or a complete disconnection from life. Either way, traumatized people chronically feel unsafe within their bodies and mind. The discomfort of past events keeps those emotions alive and recurrent within the body and mind of the affected person. This chronic sense of discomfort commonly produces or exacerbates additional problems such as disruptive relationships, substance abuse, or even dangerous over-reactions to otherwise minor events. These elevated stress levels lead to PTSD and may cause other serious health problems like cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

Yin Yoga encourages the discharge of otherwise incomplete release of the nervous system. Through the yin practice, we are going through a purge of what’s not working inside to a state of balance and comfort. The beautiful thing is that you don’t need to do much, you don’t need to talk, you don’t need to work on the past, you simply allow everything to come out and get released through the posture and long holds. It is almost magical how yin yoga can work. My trauma-informed yin yoga practice encourages the students to let emotions arise, face them with a disconnected and distant observation while allowing them to vanish and leave the body and mind through the practice. This is terribly healing and offers the nervous system the purge it needs to lower its alertness level and ease the pain and suffering the student is going through.

Trauma-informed yin yoga is widely considered to be the most effective body-based therapy available. It is critical to realize that yin yoga will be most effective in a combination with other therapies or even just as a stand-alone. It is a truly powerful and healing practice that needs to be experienced for one to understand. With my practice, I accept you as you are and offer you that much-needed safe space to heal at your own pace while allowing you to down regulate your nervous system to the once healthy level of impulses it was on.