3 Trauma-Informed Breathing Cues

by Jivana Heyman

We can make our pranayama practices more accessible through a better understanding of the breath. Here, three trauma-informed breathing cues to inform your teaching.

1. Bigger isn’t better.

Focus on subtle and slow rather than on big and loud. Deep breaths are not necessarily what we all need. In fact, constantly telling people, “Just take a deep breath,” ignores the fact that deep breaths are not always accessible for people who have anxiety or other disabilities. Also, the goal of pranayama is actually stillness and quietness, which calms the nervous system, so deep breathing isn’t necessary to reach that goal.

2. Notice how you feel.

Increased sensitivity to our inner experience, interoception, is the goal of yoga. So take time to notice how you feel after any practice. Notice the impact on the nervous system, the emotions, and the mind. Do you feel calmer and energized, or stressed and unregulated?

3. Avoid retention.

Many yoga teachers instruct retention for beginning practitioners, and I think it’s too much too fast. Take time to get comfortable with pranayama before practicing retention. So if you’re new to pranayama, or if you don’t have a regular practice, then retention may increase anxiety. Instead, work on momentary pauses, and notice how they feel. Increase those pauses slowly rather than holding the breath for a certain count.

I’m excited to explore this further in my upcoming course, Making Pranayama Accessible: Overcoming Obstacles with the Breath. We begin on Thursday, and the first session is FREE! Save your spot here or keep scrolling for more info!  โคต๏ธ

Making Pranayama Accessible:
Overcoming Obstacles Through the Breath
New online course with Jivana Heyman — the first session is FREE!

December 1-15, 2022
Tuesdays & Thursdays
5 sessions — the first session is FREE!

Pricing tiers, payment plans, & scholarships available

Learn More & Register Now


In this course, you'll discover: 

  • How the breath brings wisdom and can help us overcome the kleysas, our spiritual obstacles
  • The relationship between breath, mind, and spirit
  • How to find safe and accessible ways to work with your breath
  • An understanding of basic anatomy and physiology of breathing
  • Trauma informed breathing practices for safety
  • Nervous system regulation, relaxation, and the breath
  • Ways to effectively practice common breathing practices
  • The role of the breath in meditation
  • Breath as a source of inspiration for spiritual exploration


Learn More & Register Now


More Ways to Train with Jivana Heyman

Accessible Yoga Training Online
Jivana Heyman & guest facilitators

January 18 - February 3, 2023 | 38 hour training

The Accessible Yoga Training Online is a foundational course for all yoga teachers, developed to assist trainees in learning to design yoga classes where all students can practice together regardless of age, size, ability, or experience level.

Learn More


Accessible Yoga 200-Hour Teacher Training Online
Jivana Heyman, M Camellia, and Accessible Yoga School faculty

Starts in 2023

This foundational training will help you build a teaching practice that equips you with the tools you need to share yoga with all your students, while celebrating their differences and individuality.

Learn More & Join the Interest List


About Jivana Heyman

Photograph of Jivana Heyman

Jivana Heyman, C-IAYT, E-RYT500, is the founder and director of the Accessible Yoga Association, an international non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to the yoga teachings. He’s the author of Accessible Yoga: Poses and Practices for Every Body (Shambhala Publications), as well as the forthcoming book, Yoga Revolution: Building a Practice of Courage & Compassion (Shambhala Publications, Nov. 2021).

Jivana has specialized in teaching yoga to people with disabilities with an emphasis on community building and social engagement. Out of this work, the nonprofit Accessible Yoga Association was created to support education, training, and advocacy with the mission of shifting the public perception of yoga. Accessible Yoga offers Conferences, Community Forums, a Podcast, and a popular Ambassador program.

Jivana coined the phrase, “Accessible Yoga,” over ten years ago, and it has now become the standard appellation for a large cross section of the immense yoga world. He brought the Accessible Yoga community together for the first time in 2015 for the Accessible Yoga Conference, which has gone on to become a focal point for this movement.

Jivana is also the creator of the Accessible Yoga Training and the co-founder of the online Accessible Yoga School with Amber Karnes, which is a platform for continued education for yoga teachers in the field of equity and accessibility. They also created the Accessible Yoga Podcast in 2020.

Over the past 25 years, Jivana has led countless yoga teacher training programs around the world, and dedicates his time to supporting yoga teachers who are working to serve communities that are under-represented in traditional yoga spaces.


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