Life’s challenges can leave profound imprints on our minds and bodies, often resulting in trauma. Trauma can manifest in various ways, affecting our mental and physical well-being. Through my lived experience of trauma, I found a path to healing through yoga. The journey was not without its ups and downs. I chose Dru Yoga as I resonated with the ability to adapt the moments which led to is inclusivity of all ages and ability. I loved the movement, and how it brought me into my body. However, something was missing. Later I realised it was this……
There was a teacher, and I was the student… I was expected to follow direction, for the movements to be correct. The power was with the teacher; I was expected to conform. For survivor’s trauma this can be triggering, reminding us of our trauma, even reliving it some cases.
Perhaps that sounds straightforward. Personally, I have found that it’s complex and requires ongoing learning, unlearning, and reflection. Because, even with our best intentions we can do harm, I know I have and I know that in my yoga journey I experienced it. The flipside is that we can also offer incredible support and be a guide as people connect/reconnect with their innate ability to experience well-being and wholeness.
Over the time, “what” I offer people has become much less important than “how”. How I am inviting people to make choices, how we are setting up the space, how I am encouraging people to explore sensations, inviting participants to make decision that align with their comfort levels and how we balance predictability with curiosity.
Through the creation of a safe and supportive environment my aim is to empower individuals’ to reclaim a sense of agency of their own bodies and emotions. As individuals engage in gentle movements and stretches, they may find that they are able to release emotions that have been held within.
This is all much more important than achieving a certain shape or completing a meditation exercise. For me, that shift from doing to sensing and experiencing releases the expectation of being perfect – it allows me to just “be”. However that may look.
Trauma-informed yoga is for everyone, no exceptions.
Sometimes people think that a trauma-informed approach is only for people with major trauma. And yes, it is absolutely critical to teach with a trauma-sensitive lens when working with people experiencing acute trauma symptoms. But the truth is that we all hold and carry a lot in our bodies-minds-hearts. Trauma-informed yoga is for everyone, no exceptions. I aim to facilitate sessions that are accessible and inclusive for all people.
The tools and experiences trauma-informed yoga seeks to facilitate can be used for the rest of our lives. They don’t require anything outside of ourselves, nothing fancy. When I see people in my sessions realize that they can soothe and calm themselves, that they are capable and have the capacity to heal, that they deserve to feel at home in their bodies—it fills my heart with joy.
We Are Enough
Many first-time students in my sessions \ express how apprehensive they are to come to the sessions. They worry that they “can’t do yoga” because they are “not ……….. (insert descriptor of choice) enough”. A student recently wrote in response to a request to list one thing they learned in class: “That yoga is for me.” In fact, this is one of the most common realizations people share with us. Our culture engulfs us with messages of not enoughness. Trauma-informed yoga can be an antidote to all the ways we are told we need to be someone other than ourselves.
That includes me. Because of Trauma-Informed Yoga, my own practice has shifted dramatically. I used to come to the mat with a pretty intense list of demands on my body. Rather than being with myself as I was, I attempted to use meditation and yoga postures as a way to be something different, better, improved. There is of course nothing wrong with wanting to work on our stuff on the mat. But I think my approach was to use force and self-criticism, rather than kindness and support. As is everyone, I am perpetually evolving. Trauma-informed yoga continues to help me practice self-compassion as well as cope with minor and major stressors, pain, and grief.
Resilience is Everywhere
And finally, full disclosure: I am leaning towards calling what I offer Yoga for Resilience. In both my Yoga world and my work as a Mental Health Occupational Therapist – people often talk about how “trauma is everywhere”. Lately, I have been thinking that “resilience is also everywhere”. I believe it is important to tap into the possibility and our ability to grow and transform, rather than focus solely on treating symptoms of trauma.
An article I read earlier this year about Healing Centered Engagement by Shawn Ginwright, gave me lots to think about. He says: “A healing centered approach to addressing trauma requires a different question that moves beyond “what happened to you” to “what’s right with you” and views those exposed to trauma as agents in the creation of their own well-being rather than victims of traumatic events.”
I like that. Here’s to a world where well-being and healing spaces are welcoming and available to all.