Trauma-sensitive yoga: a collective case study of the trauma recovery of women impacted by Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jennifer Isabelle Ong (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Craig Cashwell

Abstract: Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is defined as a pattern of abusive and controlling behaviors that an individual perpetuates physically, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, economically, and/or sexually against his or her intimate partner (World Health Organization, 2013b). More than 1 in 3 women in the United States have experienced IPV at some point in their lifetime (The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Summary Report, 2010). Further, more than a third of women who have been impacted by Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) develop PTSD (DeJonghe, Bogat, Levendosky, & Von Eye, 2008; Van der Kolk et al., 2014). Despite the high incidence of PTSD in women impacted by IPV, there seems to be a gap addressing the needs of this clinical population due to the ambiguity on the efficacy of current treatment interventions for PTSD. Serious limitations such as high drop out rates and nonresponse rates persist in studies of even well-established and heavily researched interventions such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), suggesting that these interventions may not be effective for all trauma survivors (Schottenbauer et al., 2008). In recent years, neuroscientists such as Porges (2001, 2003) have shed new light and understanding on trauma by suggesting that social behavior has a neurobiological basis. It may be that until traumatized individuals increase physiological awareness of their body, conventional trauma treatment approaches that are cognitively oriented may have limited effectiveness (Emerson, 2011; Scaer, 2005). Trauma-sensitive yoga (TSY), a structured body-oriented yoga practice, is one of the novel approaches specifically designed to help trauma survivors recover from trauma. Although research on TSY is in its infancy, several scholars have found evidence for its efficacy as an intervention for significantly reducing participants’ PTSD symptoms (Dick, Niles, Street, DiMartino, & Mitchell, 2014; Mitchell et al., 2014; Van der Kolk et al., 2014). While this is useful information, these researchers have not yet considered how TSY facilitates trauma recovery beyond what is reflected in PTSD scores. However, identifying nuances in individual recovery is central to informing more tailored interventions specific to survivors’ diverse trauma recovery needs (Dutton, 2009). To fill this gap in the extant literature, the purpose of this study was to study adult female IPV survivors’ perceptions of trauma recovery as facilitated by TSY. In particular, the researcher sought to develop an in-depth and unique contextual understanding on five women’s trauma recovery experiences using a collective case study research design. Findings from this study revealed individual and collective themes across cases that support the use of TSY to facilitate trauma recovery in multidimensional ways. Themes from the benefits of TSY on women’s trauma recovery included (a) physiological benefits, (b) emotional benefits, (c) spiritual benefits, (d) cognitive benefits, (e) enhanced perception of self and others, (f) shift in perspective on time, (f) self-care, and (g) application of positive coping strategies. The findings indicate that TSY offers a versatile approach to meeting the diverse needs of women impacted by IPV-related trauma. Contrary to the proposition that TSY is suited for all complex trauma survivors, the findings also suggest that TSY classes may be contraindicated for certain complex trauma survivors.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2016
Collective case study, Complex trauma, Intimate partner violence, Post traumatic stress disorder, Trauma recovery, Trauma-sensitive yoga
Yoga $x Therapeutic use
Abused women $x Mental health
Abused women $x Rehabilitation
Women $x Violence against
Intimate partner violence
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Psychic trauma

Email this document to