3 Trauma-Informed Yoga Poses that Help Substance Use and Eating Disorders

group yoga class doing cobra pose trauma informed yoga
Cobra pose helps ease digestive issues like constipation, improves mental clarity and has calming effects.

Trauma-informed yoga (TIY) approaches the physical practice of yoga through the lens of those dealing with trauma. Two issues that respond especially well to TIY are substance use and eating disorders, because it encourages a mindful focus on oneself. Yoga also facilitates mindful breath from a trauma-informed approach that has been reported to reduce anxiety and depression. 

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People who have experienced trauma often find it difficult to attune to their bodies. Yoga can act as a disruption within the regulatory system, creating intensity for participants to be able to withstand physical, sensory or emotional experiences within their body. TIY can create a healing pathway for people those struggling with substance abuse or eating disorders by offering a gentler approach, with nondirective verbiage that empowers the person in a safe, inviting environment. 

3 Yoga Poses 

  1. Mountain pose is one of the easiest yoga postures for individuals to learn and get into. It combats mental health concerns and disorientation, improves balance by grounding to the earth and helps with gut health.
  2. Cobra pose helps ease digestive issues like constipation, improves mental clarity and has calming effects. 
  3. Seated forward fold is calming for the central nervous system. Holding this pose for three to five minutes can counteract an impulse, such as having a craving to use, for example.

“Trauma resides in the body,” says Elisabeth Nuesser, E-RYT, TIY, RCYT, trauma-informed yoga facilitator at Timberline Knolls. “Those traumatic experiences become embedded, not only from a psychological stance, but also physiologically. The fascia system (connective tissue that surround and hold every organ, blood vessel, bone, nerve fiber and muscle) also activates, and that energy gets stuck in bodily systems. This can lead to substance use and eating disorders. By practicing TIY and utilizing breathwork, yoga postures and mindfulness, this energy can be released from the body and healing is restored.”

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