What is trauma-informed yoga? How can trauma-informed yoga help someone with an eating disorder? How does trauma-informed yoga help people to move through their triggers? In this podcast, Dr. Castagnini speaks with Mary Ortenburger about trauma-informed yoga, what it is and how you can benefit.


Mary Ortenburger is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Claremont, CA. She is a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and Supervisor (CEDS-S), EMDRIA Approved Consultant, and a Certified Gestalt Therapist. In addition, she is a. yoga therapist in training with Be the Change Yoga, working to become a Certified Yoga Therapist, and has a small trauma-informed yoga studio in her private practice, for clients and members of the community.
Visit her website. Connect on Instagram.


  • Benefits of trauma-informed yoga
  • Getting through triggers
  • Does flexibility matter?

Benefits of trauma-informed yoga

What makes it different is that there is less directional language than there would be in a typical yoga class. There is a lot of invitational language that we use when we’re queuing postures, so I start my classes by saying “if you choose to lay in savasana for the entire class, then that is the best option for you and your body”. So, it’s encouraging people to make choices moment to moment by paying attention and developing interoceptive awareness to their breath, body and to what feels good. (Mary Ortenburger)
At the core of trauma-informed yoga, it helps people to tune into what feels good in their body and to mend or fix the relationship that they have between themselves and their body cues. Many people who have experienced deep trauma often are unaware or unable to listen to or understand their body cues because they have shut them down due to the trauma. In this way, trauma-informed yoga serves to repair that relationship so that the person can learn to listen to and trust their body again.
There’s a calming of the nervous system because it is more gentle flow … holding the long poses reclined or on the ground … people are learning to check in with what feels right for their body. (Mary Ortenburger)
The benefits:
  • Triggers the parasympathetic nervous system,
  • Developing mind-body awareness,
  • Helps people to find a safe space in their body

Getting through triggers

It’s not about the never being triggered like this isn’t a yoga class where they’re not going to be triggered, it’s [about] learning “oh, that’s happening”, being aware of it and [learning] what choices [you] have around that. (Mary Ortenburger)
Trauma-informed yoga is not about never being triggered, it is about learning how to move through triggers by finding a safe space in the body and practicing awareness of the choices you have in how to react, instead of reacting blindly. These choices give power back to the clients because they can learn to do what they need to do in order to move through the trigger and not feeling overwhelmed or helpless by the sensation. Clients are given the opportunity to learn how to be there for and support themselves through their triggers, with the guidance and presence of their yoga instructor.

Does flexibility matter?

Flexibility is not important because it is not about building physical strength in the body or building muscle. This type of yoga is centered around helping the client to feel safe and to learn how to trust their body while learning how to move through their triggers with the help of the lessons and from their instructor.



I am a licensed Psychologist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. While I may have over 20 years of clinical experience, what I also have is the experience of having been a patient who had an eating disorder as well. One thing that I never had during all of my treatment was someone who could look me in the eye and honestly say to me "hey, I've been there. I understand". Going through treatment for an eating disorder is one of the hardest and scariest things to do. I remember being asked to do things that scared me. Things I now know ultimately helped me to get better. But, at the time, I had serious doubts and fears about it. If even one of my providers had been able to tell me "I know it's scary, but I had to go through that part too. Here's what will probably happen...." then perhaps I would not have gone in and out of treatment so many times. My own experience ultimately led me to specialize in treating eating disorders. I wanted to be the therapist I never had; the one who "got it". I will be giving you my perspective and information as an expert and clinician who has been treating patients for over 2 decades. But don't just take my word for it...keep listening to hear the truly informative insights and knowledge guest experts have to share. I am so happy you are here!


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