Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. Please speak with a medical professional before seeking treatment.

What can yoga help with?

PTSD, brain injury, anxiety, pain, sleep problems, and post traumatic fatigue.

What is yoga?

Yoga is a mind and body practice with a long history in ancient Indian philosophy. There are many styles of yoga that combine poses, breathing techniques, and sometimes meditation.

You do not need to be flexible to take part in yoga. Yoga can be adapted to meet your needs and abilities, for example: chair yoga and gentle yoga.

In the context of brain injury rehabilitation, yoga moves and techniques may be incorporated as part of your physical therapy or exercise program to help work on improving your posture, balance, strength and flexibility.

Restorative yoga may be particularly well suited for those who are experiencing stress, tension and anxiety, difficulty sleeping, or pain. Hatha yoga is also a slower moving yoga that is good for working on posture, balance and endurance.

Vinyasa and power yoga are faster moving. They may not be appropriate for people with physical injuries or severe motor impairments; but for those with PTSD or only mild TBI, these are good for strength, endurance, and stress relief.

Finding yoga and that ability to be exercising and be moving, but at the same time be meditating and be calm and be so relaxed and so mellow, has been so helpful and healing for me in the most amazing way. It has changed my life in a way that I could have never imagined.

Kevin Pearce, professional snowboarder who sustained a TBI

What is yoga like?

Yoga can take place in your home or in a quiet, peaceful room with other students and an instructor. It involves learning a set of full-body movements, each flowing into the next. While moving, you’ll focus on paying attention to what is going on in your body, including your breathing, your posture and positioning of your body.

Some people find yoga very relaxing. Others find it a welcome physical challenge. It might be a time to get in touch with your emotions. Yoga as a practice involves accepting yourself as you are.

All different kinds of people can get benefits from yoga. Your teacher can help you adapt the program to your needs. You might start with chair yoga or just breathing exercises.

What do people say about yoga?

Finding yoga and that ability to be exercising and be moving, but at the same time be meditating and be calm and be so relaxed and so mellow, has been so helpful and healing for me in the most amazing way. It has changed my life in a way that I could have never imagined.

— Kevin Pearce, professional snowboarder who sustained a TBI in 2009


I ended up really liking it. I think I get the most out of the deep breathing; it helps me relax when something stressful happens. I’ve tried therapy, and medications. It helped some, to a point. But I think yoga is the best thing for me.

— Debra, Veteran, Army National Guard

What do experts say?

One of the things about yoga that is different from traditional rehabilitation exercises is that it is more whole-body focused. It helps people learn to take their nervous systems to a more calm and relaxed state, which helps with healing.

— Kristine Miller, Department of Physical Therapy, Indiana University


I like to get patients [with TBI] moving in general, and I find yoga's mindfulness healing. Yoga also helps with balance, muscle pain, breathing, conditioning, and core strength.

— Heidi Fusco, MD, NYU Langone Medical Center/Rusk Rehabilitation


The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) recognizes yoga as an evidence-based complementary health approach for the treatment of, among other conditions, TBI and PTSD. The VA bases their recommendation for yoga as a complementary treatment on its safety and evidence of benefits demonstrated by previous scientific research.
Yoga - Whole Health 

What qualities make a good yoga program?

A supportive, experienced yoga teacher and a quiet, comfortable environment can provide a yoga experience that will help improve your well being. These can be in person or online. You may also gain benefits working with a self-guided course or book. Ideally, you’ll find a yoga instructor who has experience working with people with PTSD or TBI.

Why does yoga work?

Yoga has the physical effect of strengthening muscles, increasing flexibility, and improving balance. Physical exercise releases endorphins which makes you feel better. Yoga uses slow and lengthened diaphragmatic breathing, sometimes called Ujjayi or victorious breath, which helps calm your sympathetic nervous system. Also focusing on the poses and your breathing is a form of meditation, which can help quiet and calm the mind as well as the body.

How strong is the evidence for yoga?

Evidence is still emerging about the effectiveness of yoga as a treatment for PTSD and brain injury. There have been few studies that have investigated yoga as a treatment tool. Preliminary evidence seems to suggest, however, that people with a history of brain injury who practice yoga report feeling better strength, balance, flexibility, and attentional control. Yoga may also be effective in treating some symptoms of PTSD. One randomized controlled clinical trial found that veterans with PTSD who participated in yoga classes reported reduced PTSD symptoms. It appears that yoga may be effective as a treatment for PTSD and TBI, but more scientific research is needed to determine whether beneficial effects last over time.

According to this 2019 Samford University study, “The findings suggest that utilizing yoga in the rehabilitation programs of TBI patients is beneficial. The results are encouraging, and hopefully future research will be conducted in an effort to improve the overall health and outcomes of patients suffering from TBI. Larger sample sizes and multi-facility research would be beneficial to decrease the current study limitations.”

Where can I find more information?


Meghans Foundation


Cushing, R. E., Braun, K. L., Alden, C-IAYT, S. W., & Katz, A. R. (2018). Military-Tailored Yoga for Veterans with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Military Medicine, 183(5–6), e223–e231.

Davis, L. W., Schmid, A. A., Daggy, J. K., Yang, Z., O'Connor, C. E., Schalk, N., Do, A.-N. L., Maric, D., Lazarick, D., & Knock, H. (2020). Symptoms improve after a yoga program designed for PTSD in a randomized controlled trial with veterans and civilians. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 12(8), 904–912.

Donnelly, K. Z., Goldberg, S., & Fournier, D. (2020). A qualitative study of LoveYourBrain Yoga: a group-based yoga with psychoeducation intervention to facilitate community integration for people with traumatic brain injury and their caregivers. Disability and rehabilitation, 42(17), 2482-2491.

Nichols, H. (2018, September 25). How does yoga work? Medical News Today.

Seeney, R., & Griffin, J. (2020). The Lived Experience and Patient-reported Benefits of Yoga Participation in an Inpatient Brain Injury Rehabilitation Setting. International journal of yoga, 13(1), 25–31.

Veterans Health Administration. (2017). Can Yoga Ease Your PTSD? VA Wants to Find Out.

Wen, P.-S., Herrin, I., Loret de Mola, A., Rodriguez, F., Maravel, B., Benitez, L., & Cabrera, I. (2017). Yoga for Sleep, Pain, Mood, and Executive Functioning in Persons With Traumatic Brain Injury. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71(4_Supplement_1), 7111515267.

Wesley J, John H, Brad C. The Benefits of Yoga for Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury. J Yoga & Physio. 2019; 7(4): 555725. DOI: 10.19080/JYP.2019.07.555725

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. Please speak with a medical professional before seeking treatment.


Reviewed by Amy Shapiro-Rosenbaum, PhD, Cooper Hodges, PhD, Lyndsay Tkach, MA, CBIS, and Michelle Neary, March 2021.

The BrainLine Treatment Hub was created in consultation with TBI and PTSD experts.