Pranayama Exercises for Trauma Survivors - Yoga Practice Blog

Pranayama Exercises for Trauma Survivors

best pranayama exercises for trauma survivorsBy Narendra Maheshri and Kimaya Singh

What are the best pranayama exercises for trauma survivors? Pranayama is the practice of breath control through various Yogic breathing exercises. The root of pranayama is “prana,” which means life force energy in Sanskrit.

This life force energy is manifested as the flow of oxygen throughout the entire body, including the brain. Practicing pranayama exercises can be an excellent tool for trauma survivors who are struggling with dissociative coping mechanisms, hyper-arousal, overwhelming anxiety, and insomnia.


Emotional Support and Pranayama Exercises for Trauma Survivors

Pranayama exercises can support a trauma survivor in his or her ability to tolerate distressful feelings and memories. The prudent practice of appropriate pranayama techniques also allows a trauma survivor to shift his or her emotional state of being immediately.

Some pranayama exercises for trauma survivors are stimulating, and other breathing techniques are balancing and calming. Nadi Shodhana pranayama is known as alternate nostril breathing. This breathing practice is appropriate for Yoga students of all levels.

It clears the mind and balances the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Nadi Shodhana pranayama also calms the entire nervous system down, alleviating hyper-arousal symptoms.

As tension, anxiety, and internal states of panic subside, your mind will clear, and your overall energy levels will increase. Additionally, your ability to focus and concentrate on the task at hand will also improve.

Nadi Shodhana pranayama is also very grounding and helps to slow down and ease the sense of being frantic all the time, which so many trauma survivors struggle with regularly.


How to Practice Alternate Nostril Breath

To practice Nadi Shodhana pranayama, sit comfortably on a chair with your feet flat on the floor or your Yoga mat in an easy-seated position. Begin by curling your right hand’s index finger and ring finger toward your palm.

Raise your right hand to the bridge of your nose and gently close your left nostril with your right hand’s fourth and fifth fingers. Take one long inhale through your right nostril to a count of five, then close your right nostril with your thumb.

Hold your inhale for five counts. Release your left nostril and exhale for a count of 5. Repeat the same procedure on the left side. Take your time. If you are anxious or breathing to a count of 5 is too tricky, back off and practice Nadi Shodhana at your own pace.

If it feels appropriate today, practice ten complete rounds of Nadi Shodhana. After you have finished this pranayama practice, pause and feel the gentle calmness pervading your body and mind.

More About Pranayama Exercises for Trauma Survivors

Take a deep breath. Inhale the soothing essence of possibility and exhale the weight of past trauma. Let’s go deeper into pranayama exercises for trauma survivors, where we’ll explore the transformative power of this ancient practice in healing emotional wounds.

When life has dealt us difficult cards, it’s natural to carry those experiences within us. But what if there was a way to release that burden, find solace, and reclaim our sense of peace? That’s where Pranayama comes in – a powerful tool rooted in yoga and breathwork that offers respite for those seeking healing from traumatic events.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into what exactly Pranayama is, why it holds immense benefits for trauma survivors, different types of exercises you can try, step-by-step instructions on how to practice them effectively, precautions explicitly tailored for trauma survivors like yourself, as well as exploring how combining Pranayama with other forms of therapy can enhance your journey towards recovery.

So get ready to embark on an inner exploration filled with gentle yet profound methods that harness the power of your breath. It’s time to take control of your healing process and rediscover inner tranquility amidst life’s storms. Let’s look into the world of pranayama exercises for trauma survivors together!


What Exactly is Pranayama?

Pranayama, derived from the Sanskrit words “prana” (life force) and “yama” (control), is an ancient practice that focuses on harnessing the power of breath to promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It is a vital component of yoga and meditation, offering a profound means of connecting with our inner selves.

At its core, Pranayama involves consciously regulating the breath through various techniques. By manipulating the inhalation and exhalation patterns, we can influence our nervous system’s response and cultivate a sense of balance.

One key aspect of Pranayama is awareness – being fully present in each breath as it flows in and out. This heightened awareness allows trauma survivors to tap into their internal landscape, bringing attention to areas where emotions may be stored or suppressed.

Through consistent practice, Pranayama can help trauma survivors regulate their responses to stress triggers by activating the parasympathetic nervous system – which is responsible for promoting relaxation and calmness. By intentionally slowing down their breathing or engaging in specific breathing techniques like alternate nostril breathing or belly breathing, individuals can find solace amidst anxiety or intrusive thoughts.

Pranayama serves as a bridge between body and mind – fostering a deep connection with oneself while gently releasing past traumas held within. It invites us to embrace the healing potential in every inhale and exhale.

The Benefits of Pranayama for Trauma Survivors

Pranayama, the practice of controlling and regulating one’s breath, holds great potential for trauma survivors on their healing journey. The deep, focused breathing techniques in pranayama can profoundly impact the mind and body.

One of the key benefits is that pranayama helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation and reduces feelings of anxiety and stress. This alone can be incredibly beneficial for trauma survivors who may constantly be on high alert or struggling with flashbacks.

Additionally, pranayama exercises cultivate mindfulness and present-moment awareness. By bringing attention to the breath, individuals can anchor themselves in the here and now rather than getting lost in traumatic memories or future worries. This can help trauma survivors gain a sense of control over their thoughts and emotions.

Furthermore, pranayama has been shown to improve sleep quality by calming an overactive mind and reducing insomnia symptoms commonly experienced by trauma survivors. Restful sleep is crucial for well-being as it supports emotional regulation, cognitive function, and physical healing.

Moreover, practicing pranayama fosters a deeper connection between the mind and body. Trauma often disconnects individuals from their bodies as a protective mechanism; however, through intentional breathing practices such as alternate nostril breathing or belly breathing exercises like diaphragmatic breathing – trauma survivors can rebuild this connection gradually.

Pranayama offers numerous benefits for trauma survivors, ranging from stress reduction to improved sleep quality. By incorporating these gentle yet powerful breathwork techniques into their daily routine – and under professional guidance, if needed – trauma survivors can find solace in reconnecting with themselves amidst their healing process.


Types of Pranayama Exercises

Several techniques can be incredibly beneficial for trauma survivors when it comes to pranayama exercises. Each type of pranayama focuses on different aspects of breath control and energy circulation, offering unique benefits to the practitioner.

One joint pranayama exercise is Nadi Shodhana, alternate nostril breathing. This technique involves inhaling through one nostril while closing off the other with a finger, then exhaling through the opposite nostril. Nadi Shodhana helps balance and harmonize the body’s energy flow, promoting a sense of calm and grounding.

Another powerful pranayama practice is Kapalabhati, or skull-shining breath. This technique involves forceful exhalations followed by passive inhalations. Kapalabhati energizes and invigorates the body while clearing stagnant energy and releasing tension.

Ujjayi breathing is another popular pranayama exercise that gently constricts the back of your throat during inhalation and exhalation. Ujjayi promotes relaxation, deepens concentration, and cultivates inner strength.

Bhramari pranayama, or humming bee breath, involves making a soft humming sound on exhalation while blocking off your ears with your thumbs. This practice has a profoundly calming effect on both mind and body.

The list goes on with many more types of pranayama exercises available for trauma survivors to explore, like Sheetali (cooling breath), Sitkari (hissing breath), and Bhastrika (bellows breath), among others.

By incorporating various types of pranayama exercises into their self-care routine, trauma survivors can tap into their innate healing potential at both physical and emotional levels.

Step-by-Step Guide to Practicing Pranayama

Pranayama, the practice of controlling the breath, can be a powerful tool for trauma survivors to find healing and peace within themselves. If you’re new to pranayama or curious about how it can benefit you, here is a step-by-step guide to help you get started.

1. Choose a quiet space: Create a comfortable area where you won’t be disturbed during practice. This could be in your living room, bedroom, or even nature.

2. Sit comfortably: Practice in a seated position that allows your spine to be straight yet relaxed. You can sit on the floor with crossed legs or use props like cushions or blankets for support.

3. Begin with deep breathing: Focus on your natural breath briefly. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, feeling your stomach gradually expand as you fill your lungs with air. Exhale slowly while you release any tension or stress from your body.

4. Start with alternate nostril breathing: Place one hand’s index and middle finger on the center of your forehead between the eyebrows (the third eye). Close off one nostril with either thumb or ring finger while inhaling deeply through the open nostril. Then, close off that nostril and exhale fully through the other side.

5. Explore different techniques: There are various pranayama exercises you can try depending on what feels suitable for you at any given moment – such as Kapalabhati (skull shining breath), Ujjayi (victorious breath), Bhramari (bee breath), or Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing).

Remember that practicing pranayama is an individual journey; there’s no rush to master all techniques simultaneously! Take it one step at a time and listen closely to what resonates with you in each session.


Precautions and Tips for Trauma Survivors

When practicing Pranayama exercises as a trauma survivor, it’s essential to approach them with care and consideration. Here are some precautions and tips to keep in mind:

1. Start Slow: Begin with simple techniques like diaphragmatic breathing before moving on to more advanced practices. This allows your body and mind to adapt to the practice gradually.

2. Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to any physical or emotional sensations during the practice. Take a break or modify the exercise if something feels uncomfortable or triggering.

3. Find a Safe Space: Create a safe and secure environment for your practice. This could involve finding a quiet room, using soft lighting, or playing calming music.

4. Seek Support: Consider working with a qualified yoga instructor with experience supporting trauma survivors. They can provide guidance, modifications, and reassurance throughout your journey.

5. Set Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries during your Pranayama practice. This may include avoiding certain poses or techniques that feel too overwhelming at this stage of healing.

Remember that each individual’s healing process is unique, so be patient with yourself and honor where you are on your journey toward recovery.

Combining Pranayama with Other Forms of Therapy

Pranayama, the ancient practice of breath control, can be a powerful tool for trauma survivors on their healing journey. Did you know that pranayama can also be combined with other forms of therapy to enhance its benefits? By integrating pranayama exercises with other therapeutic modalities, individuals can experience even more significant relief from the symptoms of trauma.

One effective combination is using pranayama alongside talk therapy or counseling. Engaging in deep breathing exercises during a therapy session can help clients ground themselves and stay present in the moment. This can make exploring difficult emotions and memories easier without becoming overwhelmed.

Another way to combine pranayama with therapy is through mindfulness practices such as meditation or yoga. These practices encourage individuals to cultivate awareness and acceptance of their thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. By incorporating pranayama into these activities, survivors can deepen their mind-body connection and promote relaxation.

Additionally, some trauma survivors find benefit from combining pranayama with body-based therapies like somatic experiencing or EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Pranayama exercises can help regulate the nervous system’s response to stress, allowing individuals to process traumatic experiences more effectively.

It’s essential for trauma survivors considering combining pranayama with other therapies to consult with qualified professionals who are knowledgeable about both practices. They can guide how best to integrate these approaches based on individual needs and preferences.



In this article, we have explored the incredible benefits of incorporating pranayama exercises into the healing journey of trauma survivors. Pranayama offers a powerful tool for restoring balance and promoting emotional well-being.

Through its various techniques, such as deep breathing, alternate nostril breathing, and breath retention, pranayama helps trauma survivors regulate their nervous system, reduce anxiety and depression symptoms, improve sleep quality, enhance self-awareness, and cultivate a sense of calm and inner peace.

Trauma survivors need to approach pranayama exercises with caution and seek guidance from experienced teachers or therapists who can provide support throughout the practice. Taking gradual steps in building a consistent practice ensures safety while reaping the many benefits that pranayama has to offer.


As with any form of therapy or technique used in healing work, it is vital to combine pranayama exercises with other forms of treatment, such as counseling or psychotherapy. The integration of different approaches can create a holistic framework for recovery that addresses both the physical and psychological aspects of trauma.

Remember that each individual’s healing journey is unique. What works for one person may not work for another. It is essential to listen to your body’s cues and adjust your practice accordingly. Be patient with yourself as you embark on this transformative path towards healing.

By embracing the power of breath through pranayama exercises, trauma survivors can reclaim control over their bodies and minds, finding solace in the present moment. With dedication and perseverance, they can discover renewed strength within themselves as they navigate their way toward resilience and wholeness.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division


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