Unlocking Healing: Understanding Trauma-Informed Yoga for Addiction Recovery

In the journey toward addiction recovery, healing takes many forms. While traditional therapies and support groups play vital roles, complementary practices such as yoga are gaining recognition for their profound impact on the healing process. Within this realm, the approach of trauma-informed yoga is a mindful and powerful tool for individuals navigating the complexities of addiction recovery. Seven Arrows Recovery integrated trauma-informed yoga into treatment programs to provide an alternative healing modality that is beneficial, accessible, and considerate of individuals with trauma. 

What is Trauma-Informed Yoga?

Trauma-informed yoga is a specialized approach that acknowledges the prevalence and impact of trauma on individuals’ lives, particularly those in addiction recovery. It integrates the principles of trauma therapy with the practice of yoga, creating a safe and supportive environment for healing. Trained practitioners are adept at creating an environment conducive to healing, emphasizing sensitivity and understanding of trauma triggers. This method of yoga is highly mindful of scenarios that may make individuals with past trauma uncomfortable and opens a door to a healthy healing practice that is as safe as it is effective. 

Understanding Trauma and Addiction

Addiction often stems from unresolved trauma. Whether it’s childhood experiences, interpersonal conflicts, or other forms of trauma, individuals turn to substances as a coping mechanism to numb the pain. Trauma not only contributes to the development of addiction but also complicates the recovery process. Recognizing this intersection, trauma-informed yoga offers a holistic approach to addressing both addiction and trauma concurrently. Alongside clinical care, trauma-informed yoga can provide a physical modality to release stress associated with trauma and heal from past wounds.

Yoga for Addiction Recovery

Yoga has long been recognized for its physical, mental, and emotional benefits. In the context of addiction recovery, yoga serves as a powerful tool for self-awareness, emotional regulation, and stress management. Yoga is especially beneficial for its ability to be performed in most spaces. Whether at home, outside, or in your room before bed, it’s accessible and its long-term benefits are significant. By incorporating trauma-informed principles into yoga practice, individuals in recovery can explore their inner experiences with compassion and mindfulness.

How Trauma-Informed Therapy, Alongside Yoga, Heals the Mind and Body from Addiction:

Trauma-informed therapy, coupled with yoga, offers a platform to delve into the root causes of addiction. Through introspective practices and guided therapy sessions, individuals can identify and process traumatic experiences that may have contributed to their substance use. By addressing these underlying issues, individuals can begin to heal and move forward in their recovery journey.

Addiction often disrupts the nervous system, resulting in heightened stress responses and emotional reactivity. Trauma-informed yoga provides gentle movements, breathwork, and mindfulness practices aimed at regulating the nervous system. By incorporating these techniques, individuals can experience a sense of calm and stability, reducing the intensity of their stress responses and enhancing their emotional well-being.

The experience of addiction can lead to a disconnect between the mind and body. Trauma-informed yoga encourages individuals to reconnect with their bodies, fostering a sense of embodiment and self-awareness. By cultivating a deeper understanding of bodily sensations and emotions, individuals can develop healthier coping mechanisms and improve their self-regulation skills, laying a foundation for sustainable recovery. 

Both trauma-informed therapy and yoga offer strategies for building resilience in individuals recovering from addiction. Through therapeutic interventions and yoga practices, individuals learn to cultivate inner strength, adaptability, and self-compassion. These qualities are essential for navigating the challenges of addiction and everyday life. 

The Science Behind Trauma-Informed Yoga

Research supports the efficacy of trauma-informed yoga in addiction recovery. Studies have shown that yoga can modulate stress response systems, including the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the autonomic nervous system. By regulating these systems, yoga helps reduce physiological arousal and mitigate the symptoms of trauma and addiction.

In addition, yoga promotes neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to reorganize and form new neural connections. This neurobiological process is crucial in rewiring maladaptive patterns associated with addiction and trauma. Through regular practice, individuals can strengthen neural circuits related to emotion regulation, impulse control, and self-awareness, facilitating long-lasting recovery. 

Practical Applications of Trauma-Informed Yoga

Trauma-informed yoga incorporates a variety of practices tailored to the unique needs of individuals in addiction recovery. These practices may include:

  • Mindful Movement: Gentle yoga poses and sequences promote body awareness and mindfulness, allowing individuals to connect with their physical sensations without judgment. While yoga can be strenuous depending on the style, mindful yoga, known as “yin” yoga, can be extremely beneficial to the nervous system. 
  • Breathwork: Conscious breathing techniques help regulate the nervous system, reduce anxiety, and promote relaxation. Deep, rhythmic breathing facilitates emotional regulation and enhances self-soothing capacities.
  • Guided Meditation: Meditation practices foster inner calm and mental clarity, allowing individuals to observe their thoughts and emotions with detachment. Mindfulness meditation cultivates present-moment awareness, reducing rumination and promoting acceptance of one’s experiences.
  • Yoga Nidra: Also known as “yogic sleep,” Yoga Nidra is a guided relaxation practice that induces a state of deep relaxation and heightened awareness. This profound relaxation technique promotes restorative sleep, reduces hyperarousal, and supports emotional healing.

The Intersection of Trauma-Informed Yoga and Addiction Recovery Programs

Trauma-informed yoga complements traditional addiction recovery programs by providing a holistic approach to healing. Many treatment centers now integrate yoga and mindfulness-based practices into their programs to enhance the effectiveness of therapy and support holistic well-being.

Incorporating trauma-informed yoga into addiction recovery programs fosters a supportive community where individuals can explore their inner experiences, cultivate resilience, and reclaim their sense of agency. Addressing the underlying trauma and promoting holistic healing is where trauma-informed yoga empowers individuals to break free from the cycle of addiction and live fulfilling, meaningful lives.

Seven Arrows Recovery incorporates trauma-informed yoga for its wide range of benefits to the mind, body, and soul. In addition, its ability to be practiced outside of treatment and used as a life-long tool for coping and grounding makes it even more imperative to the healing process. 

Trauma-Informed Yoga at Seven Arrows Recovery

Trauma-informed yoga offers a profound pathway to healing for individuals recovering from addiction. By integrating trauma-informed principles with the transformative practice of yoga, individuals can embark on a journey of self-discovery, resilience, and empowerment. Through mindful movement, breathwork, and meditation, trauma-informed yoga provides a holistic approach to addressing the complex interplay of trauma and addiction.

If you or someone you know is on the path to recovery, consider exploring trauma-informed yoga as a complementary practice in your journey toward healing and wholeness. For more information on how yoga can help you in your recovery process, contact our team at Seven Arrows Recovery.

Laura Harder, LAC, M.A.

About the Author:
Laura Bailey holds a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art from Temple University in Philadelphia, and a Master of Arts in Art Therapy and Counseling from Southwestern College in Santa Fe. Laura has worked in community mental health and residential settings throughout New Mexico and Arizona since 2013. Laura has a passion for treating addiction, trauma, and co-occurring disorders.

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Clinical Director

Lindsay Rothschild LCSW, CCTP, SAP

Lindsay Rothschild is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Substance Abuse Professional with a passion for assisting others in activating their own inner healing intelligence. She completed her Master’s Degree in Social Work at Arizona State University in 2011 and went on to study various ancient wisdom traditions for healing. Her training as a Clinical Trauma Professional and over a decade of experience working with trauma survivors has afforded her a rich understanding of the powerful impact of trauma on the mind, body and soul.

Lindsay studied holistic nutrition and trauma informed yoga at the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts. Lindsay is certified in the Trauma-Conscious Yoga Method™ and is also a registered yoga teacher. She most recently completed training in Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP). Lindsay partners with the Arizona Trauma Institute to facilitate trainings for mental health professionals and educators in the community in an effort to promote awareness around Trauma Informed Care. Lindsay is also the owner of Roots to Rise, PLLC where she provides somatic psychotherapy, EMDR therapy, supervision, trauma informed yoga, and substance abuse professional services. Lindsay describes herself as having a wild and free spirit, an open heart and a belief that all humans have the capacity for transformation and growth.

Medical Director

Dr. Tracey Oppenheim MD

Dr. Oppenheim was born and raised in Michigan. She completed her medical school education, general and child and adolescent psychiatry training at the University of Michigan. Go Blue! She is passionate about the mind body spiritual connection and has completed additional training in integrative psychiatry. Dr. Oppenheim believes in each individual’s ability to heal through discovering their inner healing intelligence.