Yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong   

There is growing evidence that mindful movement and exercise like yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong can enhance our physical and mental wellbeing and assist in addressing the impacts of trauma. 

Whereas trauma and sexual abuse is experienced in the body and can overwhelm our nervous systems and our resources, yoga and mindful focused movement, like tai chi and qigong, can support us in:  

  • regaining control and positive connection with our bodies and selves 
  • integrating mind and body and spirit  
  • focusing and slowing our breathing 
  • grounding us in the present moment 
  • increasing self-awareness, strength, flexibility and energy. 

Provided below is an introduction to trauma informed yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong, along with some video links.   

Like exercise, mindful focused movement can be used in conjunction with, or separate from, talking therapies to enhance our overall wellbeing.  We invite you to also check out our physical Wellbeing companion page which highlights the benefit of exercise, eating and sleeping well to support overall wellbeing and address the impacts of trauma.   


Yoga is an ancient practice that incorporates gentle exercise, breath control, and meditation.  It is a form of exercise and stress management that involves structured poses (asanas) practiced with breath awareness and meditation. 

Studies have shown that practicing yoga can contribute to: 

  • Better sleep 
  • Reduced anxiety 
  • Improved balance 
  • Lowered blood pressure 
  • Reduced cardiovascular risk factors 
  • Lowered cortisol and perceived sense of stress 
  • Improved posture 
  • Increased strength 
  • Increased flexibility 
  • Improved joint health 
  • Reduced back pain 
  • Better bone health 
  • Heightened body awareness 
  • Addressing impacts of trauma (see Yoga for Veterans: How Trauma-Informed Yoga Can Help PTSD

While there are a number of different types and traditions of yoga, a key development in the past decade has been awareness and recognition of the need to adapt teaching practices to become more trauma informed.   

Trauma informed yoga 

Trauma informed yoga, sometimes called trauma sensitive yoga, has evolved to support people with histories of childhood and adult trauma.  Ideally, you will be able to access a certified instructor who has received additional trauma informed training that emphasises and supports safety.  Trauma informed yoga instruction supports mind-body connection and focused breathwork and: 

  • uses trauma sensitive language 
  • emphasises participant choice, comfort, and control  
  • provides a predictable routine that does not ask you to push through, or hold uncomfortable or potentially triggering positions.   
  • avoids physical touch, unless a person requests and gives permission 
  • invites participants to keep their eyes open 
  • will avoid certain poses, like child’s pose, downward dog or reclined butterfly  
  • will not suggest you go back to intentionally experience pain or trauma 
  • can be utilised in conjunction with planned psychological or medical support 

Trauma informed yoga focuses on gentle movement and focused breath, on increasing awareness and connection with the body, and on calming and relaxing our body and mind. 

If you are considering taking up yoga, in recognition that not all instructors have received training to be trauma informed, it is worth being on the front foot and letting any instructor know that you are aware that you find touch and some exercises or positions particularly ‘stressful’ or ‘uncomfortable’.   

Remember, many people live with injuries and not all physical and yoga exercises work for everyone, whether they have experienced childhood trauma or not. 

You may not be unable or uncertain about accessing yoga in your local community.  This is where the internet and online instruction can be particularly helpful.   

An example of trauma sensitive yoga provided by qualified instructor can be found here:

While yoga classes may be increasingly accessible, with the introduction of online instructional videos it is also worth checking out Tai Chi or Qigong.  Qigong is definitely worth considering by those with restricted movement.   

Introduction to Tai Chi and Qigong 

“Tai Chi and Qigong are traditional Chinese exercises that are widely practiced for their health benefits and as martial arts…Both Tai Chi and Qigong involve sequences of flowing movements coupled with changes in mental focus, breathing, coordination, and relaxation. There is significant overlap between the 2 practices in terms of movements and in the shared focus on breathing and mindfulness. Both practices are low-impact, moderate-intensity aerobic exercises that are suitable for a diverse population with regards to gender, age, and health status.”

Abbot and Lavretsky 2014 

Tai Chi and Qigong, like yoga, involve a series of structured movements with a focus on breathwork that support and enhance mind body connection.  Both Qigong and Tai Chi focus on cultivating the ‘Qi’ (‘Chi’) through movement, breath, and meditation with a focus on breath and slowness.  Both are low impact movements.  Qigong is a system of wellness and Tai Chi is a form of Qigong.  

Tai Chi is a martial art that engages mind, body, and spirit and consists of a structured sequence of slow and controlled movements that can help reduce stress and calm the mind.  Tai Chi involves learning, memorizing, and practicing a sequence of forms or postures, typically involving 7, 24 or 108 steps.   

The purpose of Qigong is to train the mind and body and promote the flow of energy throughout the body.  Qigong involves gentle free flowing movement. The relative simplicity and repetition of Qigong can make it easier for beginners to remember and those with restricted movement to practice.  Qigong invites us to increase our awareness; breath is slow, long, and deep; movement is gentle and smooth; and our mind is supported to focus and visualise. 

Below are links to two videos that provide an introduction to the practice of Tai Chi and Qigong.   

Tai Chi 

“People with PTSD who practice tai chi report feeling more relaxed, able to enjoy life again and find they increase both their energy and their ability to cope with stressful situations. They begin to enjoy people and activities that they had begun to avoid.”


Here is an introduction and example of 24 Form Tai Chi with Dr Andrew von Plitt.  Dr Plitt provides a short video on each of the 1-24 form separately, before bringing together in a structured sequence in this video: