Working Through Trauma with Yoga: Healing heart meditation

The Healing Heart Meditation allows us to bring ourselves to the awareness that joy is our natural birthright and our inherent nature. As we connect to our deepest self, we find the strength to let go of pain.

The following is an excerpt from Mindfulness & Yoga Skills for Children and Adolescents by PESI author Barbara Neiman, OTR.


When I was 16, my 18-year-old brother was killed as he walked along a train track on a college campus in the Midwest. For many years after this, the sound of a train, seeing a train track, the name of the college or the state where it occurred would be a trigger for me. It would send me back to the memory of our Rabbi at our front door crying as he delivered the news of the tragedy to our family. Within seconds of any of the triggers, I could somatically re-experience the trauma of feeling the disorientation, dissociation and nausea I felt in those moments of first hearing the heartbreaking news.

The shutting-down of all feelings and body sensation began later that evening when I was asked by my disoriented mother to call my brother’s girlfriend, Elle, and tell her about my brother’s death. Dutifully, and unconsciously, I completely turned off all feelings and made the call. As grace was with me, Elle’s mother answered the phone. I relayed the sad news to her and she was able to buffer the news to her daughter. My own post-traumatic stress went unrecognized for years as therapy was not as accessible at that time. It wasn’t until I began meditating, chanting and doing body work and talk therapies that I could get near processing this trauma.

Yoga was the first healing process that I was able to see tangible results from. At that time, my experience of yoga was chanting and meditation with a few physical poses. Here is a meditation that I find to be healing for my clients struggling with trauma.

Healing Heart Meditation

  • Place your hand on your heart. Begin to layer through the body of skin, fascia, bones, and into the heart organ.
  • Allow yourself to be still with yourself for a moment and filled with the heart’s own vibration of love for yourself and others. Even if your mind is busy, put the thoughts on the imaginary shelf and focus on the breath.
  • Breathing, bring to your mind’s eye an image and thought of anything that evokes joy for you.
  • Allow that joy to fill your being. Focus on the immediate feeling of joy as your heart leaps when you bring your beloved image to mind. It can be of nature, a friend, music, art, family or any images that speak to you.
  • It is this actual moment of remembrance of the joy that we are focusing on (such as seeing an old friend, tasting favorite food, relishing a beautiful color). This yogic technique from the ancient yoga scriptures that teach us how to connect with the universal consciousness of joy.
  • Breathe with an inhale for 4 counts and hold the breath for 2 counts. Then allow a long exhale for 6 counts and hold again for 2 counts to empty the breath. Repeat this several times.

As we do this meditation we bring ourselves to the awareness that joy is our natural birthright and our inherent nature. As we connect to our deepest self, we find the strength to let go of pain.

Often as the body relaxes while doing the physical poses and the deep breathing in yoga, feelings may surface that are generally armored in the body-mind. It is important to give space and be open to whatever may occur in a yoga session and neither judge nor hold to any routine that would shut down any client’s emerging feelings. This is why we do Sponge pose (Savasana) the relaxation pose at the end of a yoga session. We rest deeply after all the activity, integrating the experience nonverbally and meditating while we lie quietly. Also at the end of the session, it can be helpful to do a hand mudra that can be calming and comforting to seal in the practice.


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Featuring Barbara Neiman, Integrative Occupational Therapist, Yoga Teacher 200RYT in Embodyyoga®, coach for professionals seeking a holistic practice and a National Seminar Presenter.

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Barbara Neiman is an Integrative Occupational Therapist, Yoga Teacher 200RYT in Embodyyoga®, a coach for professionals seeking a holistic practice and a National Seminar Presenter. She teaches courses on Yoga and Mindfulness around the country. She created her company, Health Discovery, in 1988, to provide services for infants through school age children. As a Certified Practitioner of Body Mind Centering since 1989, Barbara has taught experiential hands on, movement, and meditation classes to hundreds of students.

Are You Ready for the October 1 Deadline?

Whether the DSM-5® is a book you love to hate or hate to love, one thing is certain: beginning Oct. 1, 2105 you need to put your feelings for the DSM-5 aside and learn to live with change. Read more for some DSM-5 resources.

Whether the DSM-5® is a book you love to hate or hate to love, one thing is certain: beginning Oct. 1, 2015 you need to put your feelings for the DSM-5 aside and learn to live with change.

Why now?

When the DSM-5 was released in 2013, it was done under the guide that the ICD-10 would be adopted by the United States health care system that same year. The two books act as companions, both helping to categorize and communicate patient diagnoses into codes for the purpose of insurance reimbursement. As the ICD-10 implementation continued to be delayed, it meant that the ICD-9 codes provided in the DSM-IV would still allow clinicians to receive reimbursement for their care.

As ICD-10 goes live, the codes provided in the DSM-IV will officially retire. For mental health providers it means one thing: The change to DSM-5 has become inevitable. Make the switch, or simply lose your reimbursement.

What do you NEED to know about coding changes?

One major change is the numbering system; the ICD-10 has switched to an alpha-numeric system. ICD-10 diagnosis codes have between 3 and 7 characters and always begin with an alpha digit. All mental health codes will begin with the alpha digit ‘F’.

ICD10Coding


How DSM-5 and ICD-10 Are Combined in Diagnosis

DSM5andICD

For all the abuse the poor old DSM has taken, it brings a much needed sense of order and logic to what’s otherwise a raw, chaotic mess of mental and behavioral phenomena. Undoubtedly, many a therapist, even perhaps some of those loudest in condemning DSM, has consulted it, not just to figure out the most reimbursable diagnosis, but to get some handle on the maddening complexity that clients bring to sessions. If we didn’t have the DSM, would we be reduced to consulting clairvoyants?


Need more info on the changes to the DSM-5® and ICD-10 before the Oct. 1 deadline? We’ve got you covered.


We Agree – Yoga for Your Patients is Just Plain Dumb

You’ve suggested. You’ve coaxed. You’ve helped your patients to understand the benefits. We know your patients may be full of resistance, and you know what? We feel your frustration.

You’ve suggested. You’ve coaxed. You’ve helped your patients to understand the benefits. We know your patients may be full of resistance, and you know what? We feel your frustration. To convince the un-convinceable we present…

The Top 3 Reasons Your Patients Should NOT Practice Yoga

1. That emotional baggage you’re carrying around is heavy enough to be considered strength training.

The emotional stresses your patients carry with them can sabotage their chances at living a fulfilling life and maintaining satisfying relationships. The weight of these stresses can be intensely burdensome. Yoga practice is designed for healing, both mental and physical, from the aftermath of emotional trauma.

When you’re treating a patient that is struggling with emotional wounds, following a chakra-based practice can be beneficial. In “A Yoga Practice for Healing Emotional Trauma,” Mary NurrieStearns recommends the following affirmations:

  • I am safe.
  • I am alive.
  • I choose.
  • I feel.
  • I express.
  • I know.
  • I am.

Go ahead. Take these affirmations for a test drive. We double dog dare your patients to try these for a week and see how they feel.

2. Because being wound tighter than a boa constrictor wrapped around its prey feels awesome. And we know your friends love it when you call to say hi, yell about your coworkers, and then slam the phone down without asking about their day.

Chronic stress can suppress functions that aren’t needed for immediate survival. It lowers immunity, impacts the digestive system, and can even interrupt the reproductive system. Stress can also impact your patient’s sleep schedule. No matter what your client is striving to improve about their mental health, when their physical health is suffering, treating their mental well-being will be challenging.

But how do you combat the patient who tells you they simply can’t find time to practice yoga, and cutting out taking the kids to soccer practice isn’t an option? There are plenty of yoga breathing techniques that can be practiced in traffic, in front of the computer, or while standing in line. Even these short sessions bring stress relief, and help your patient manage the discomforts of anxiety. Have your frantically busy patients try this:

3. You love being locked up so securely that you are impervious to any emotion. We’re sure your partner feels twitterpated when you gush your lukewarm feelings.

Everyone wants to love and be loved. It’s human desire. But when we can’t express our feelings, thoughts, and desires to the people that matter most in our lives, our relationships suffer. It can be a challenge to dis-armour ourselves and unveil our innermost heart. But when we start to expose this side of our body we discover deeper connections to those around us.

Yoga not only improves the physical health of our hearts, but it can kindle within us the ability to heal ourselves. For patients struggling to open their hearts, try poses geared to the heart chakra such as sphinx, camel, cat or fish.

For your clients seeking comfort and healing, we hope they open their mind to the practice of yoga.


What’s your favorite reason for practicing yoga?
Tell us in the comments below!