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Using Yoga to Heal Trauma

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statue-arm-2One of our clinicians, Rachael Bazzett, LMSW, recently completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training program. About a month ago she began offering yoga classes to clients residing in our shelter.

In recent years, many studies have been done about the connection between yoga and healing from trauma. While there are components of cultural appropriation to be considered in Western yoga teaching, the research regarding mind/body connection has been compelling for Rachael, which led to the pursuit of building yoga into the services offered to clients at the WCA.

“There’s a lot of really good research about the mind body connection… fostering that connection can be really useful,” Rachael said.

Rachael uses her combined knowledge as a clinician and a trained yoga teacher to create the best environment for survivors of trauma. People who have experienced domestic violence or any type of sexual trauma could have different triggers that come up during a yoga class.

“It’s common for yoga teachers to move around the room to assist and adjust people as they move through the class. I don’t do that because it might not foster a feeling of safety,” she said. “I come to teaching yoga with a perspective or lens of what is going to feel safe or best for the clients that we have.”

Rachael’s first yoga teacher allowed for many modifications – or different levels of positions based on what’s most comfortable for each person. This has really informed her philosophy as a teacher now.

“I think modifiers should be encouraged not just allowed… Clients or students get to have the experience to decide: ‘Does this feel like a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ for me? If what is being offered by the facilitator doesn’t feel good, then I don’t have to do it.’ Our clients know themselves and their bodies, so they know what can feel good to them,” she said.

According to Rachael, the clients that have been coming have been really excited and have been practicing themselves the rest of the week between classes. It’s a nice way to offer another tool for clients to use in their healing.

“What we’re doing at the WCA is helping clients find tools to add to their toolbox. Yoga is one of those tools,” Rachael said. “Yoga gives you a chance just to pause and notice what’s happening in your body.”

Rachael began offering weekly classes at the shelter for residents last month. She hopes that more clients will continue to attend and use yoga as a tool in their healing process.

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