Trauma Sensitive Yoga

Do you have trouble sleeping? Perhaps you find it difficult to control your reactions? Do you experience the same unhelpful patterns recurring in your life?

These can be responses to trauma. Research shows that yoga, combined with a treatment protocol can significantly reduce trauma (& specifically PTSD) symptoms. According to Linda Karl, an authority and long-standing yoga sensitive practitioner, “A physical yoga practice can be a way for a trauma survivor to make peace with the body, reclaim the body, and learn that the body can be reliable, safe and effective again.”

However, for many people who have experienced trauma, or episodes of depression or anxiety, traditional yoga classes can seem daunting.

What you can expect in a trauma sensitive yoga class

Personal control – in a trauma sensitive yoga class, you are free to make choices about which postures you are comfortable trying, and how long you stay in those postures. The breathing practices are gentle and calming and are offered, not prescribed. Respecting your boundaries is paramount so you will not be adjusted or touched by your teacher or work in partners.

Safety & respect – These classes are conducted in small groups of 8-10 people in a safe environment where your choices and opinions are respected. The teaching is geared towards you developing an enjoyable yoga practice that suits your own needs, whether you are an experienced yoga practitioner or an absolute beginner.

Like to know more? Watch our video describing the background of trauma sensitive yoga and what you can expect from a class.

Trauma Sensitive Classes North Melbourne

General Trauma Sensitive Class
9:00 - 10:30 am Saturday Mornings. $22 per class. Term discounts available.
New term begins July 13, 2024

Focused Trauma Sensitive Class
10:45 - 11:45 am Saturday Mornings. $20 per class. Term discounts available.
Six weeks July 13 - August 17 2024. Please contact Heather on 0411 223 340 to book or email classes@yogaessencemelboune.com.au
Corporates, Community Groups & Not-For-Profits
We currently provide customised trauma sensitive programs to a range of organisations. Please contact us to discuss your organisation's need

No intervention that takes power away from the survivor can possibly foster her recovery, no matter how much it appears to be in her immediate best interest

Personal Stories

While we often think of PTSD as something that many men and women experience coming home from battle, there are many reasons why we may experience trauma. 

Hetti’s Story

In 2013 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The fear was overwhelming. I was very fortunate to have been diagnosed early and to have excellent care, but there were unexpected obstacles along the way and many twists and turns in what turned out to be very extensive treatment.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have made a full recovery.  I practised a very gentle form of yoga throughout my treatment and procedures, and found it to be enormously helpful physically, and mentally. It moved me away from unhelpful, repetitive thoughts which were making me feel lost, fearful and vulnerable. Over time it gave me a sense of pride in my body that had been through so much and was still standing strong.

Paul’s Story

After struggling with PTSD for several years, Paul (an artillery-man in Iraq) started yoga and noticed that “I felt more centred and relaxed. “From there I just got hooked on it. It’s what worked on me. Since I have started Yoga I’ve gotten more productive. I started seeing a counseller again. I am able to talk about my problems whereas before I wanted nothing to do with it. It seems like I’m not as angry after I do Yoga. I’m able to function more in everyday life”

Annie’s Story

Dr Bessel Van Der Kolk shares the feedback of Annie, who participated in a series of trauma sensitive yoga classes.  Annie, who had a history of severe trauma reflects “I slowly learned to just have my feelings, without being hijacked by them.  Life is more manageable: I am more attuned to my day and more present in the moment.”

Ginger (an army veteran) comments: ”I focus on the moment and it instantly relieves my anxiety.”


Research shows that yoga, combined with a treatment protocol can significantly reduce trauma (& specifically PTSD) symptoms.• A randomized controlled study by the Justice Resource Institute, led by Bessel van der Kolk between 2008 and 2011 found that a short term Yoga program was associated with reduced trauma symptoms in women with PTSD. 64 women, 18-58 years old with chronic, treatment un-responsive PTSD, were randomly assigned to 10 weeks of Trauma Informed Yoga classes, or a Control Condition, Women’s Health Education class. At the post treatment assessment, the Yoga Group exhibited statistically significant decreases in PTSD symptoms compared to the Control Group. 16 of 31, (52%) of participants in the Yoga Group no longer met the criteria for PTSD compared to 6 of 29 (21%) in the Control Group.


• The Assessment of yoga as an adjuvant treatment for combat-related post-traumatic was published in Australasian Psychiatry in 2017. Thirty participants were recruited, with 28 completing the protocol (median age=63.5 years). For most variables there was no significant change in results after the waiting period. Comparing measurements obtained immediately prior to the commencement of the intervention to those taken after completion of eight yoga sessions, significant changes included an increase in the serum dehydroepiandrosterone concentration, decreased total PCL score (and all PCL, sub scales), decreases in all DASS sub-scale scores and significant improvements in PSQI and SF36 scores. No adverse events were reported.


Further Reading

Claiming peaceful embodiment through yoga in the aftermath of trauma – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26573451

Yoga as an adjunctive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder – a randomized controlled trial – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25004196

 Transcending Trauma – http://www.traumacenter.org/products/pdf_files/yoga_transcending_trauma.pdf

Please Don’t Touch Me –Trauma and Consent on the Mat – http://www.yogabuzz.org/blog/please-dont-touch-trauma-consent-mat

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