September 12: Trauma-informed Yoga

What is trauma and trauma informed yoga?
Trauma is any situation that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope — this includes emotional events. Trauma and stress can affect us physically and continue impacting us long after the event.

I teach trauma informed yoga as a moderate physical practice meant to be welcoming to those who have experienced trauma but open to all. My intention is to offer a practice that is focused more on the inward experience than on outward appearance of the postures. I offer a number of options including the option to rest or take “none of the above.”

What is trauma informed yoga NOT?
Yoga/trauma-informed yoga is not intended to be a treatment for trauma  or any other condition, and if you are experiencing symptoms of trauma or aren’t sure if this trauma-informed yoga class is right for you right  now, please connect with a mental health professional. I am a yoga  instructor with trauma informed training, and not a mental health  professional. I don’t talk about trauma during the practice or ask participants to speak about traumatic experiences (or anything at all). But there will be time after class to ask questions.

Why do people take trauma informed yoga classes? How can yoga help us heal?
You do not need to be a trauma survivor to take this class—if you are looking for a moderate movement practice with options for how to move,
an invitation to notice your inward experience, or are simply curious about trauma-informed yoga, this class could be a great fit.

A few possible benefits:

– making choices with body movement
– relieving stress and practicing self-care
– building a stronger body-mind connection
– practicing present moment awareness
– noticing breath and using it as a resource
– feeling more at ease in your body, stretching and/or strengthening

What will the practice be like?

All parts of the practice are optional, but generally speaking I’ll offer the following:

Beginning: Seated on the ground, orienting to the space and ourselves, and warming up physically.

Middle: Standing postures and balancing postures, twists and folds with  occasional opportunities for some weight-bearing on the arms such as plank and down dog (these are optional).

End: Seated postures, either on the ground or with other options such as reclined on the back, followed by rest (with a guided body scan and/or  breathing practice).

How will zoom be set up as it relates to privacy?
Zoom directs you to add a name to your account, and this name will be  visible when you join the group, but you can also rename yourself and/or include pronouns if you’d like (eg Kate R – she/her/hers). Participants are welcome to keep their cameras off or on, and will be muted during the practice with the option to unmute themselves if needed.  Participants will be able to chat with the host/instructor directly, or message the group as a whole, but not with each other (nor share screens with each other). You will be required to enter your email address upon joining the group and that will be visible only to the host, not shared with the group.

About Kate (she/her/hers)

Kate first practiced yoga at an affordable gy m in Washington, DC during grad school, and fell in love with how it made her feel, physically and mentally/emotionally. She’s taught in a variety of settings from studios and gyms to Cook County Jail, the YWCA, and residential homeless shelters. In addition to yoga teacher training, Kate has completed trauma informed yoga teacher training with Street Yoga (focus on youth), Prison Yoga Project with James Fox, The Breathe Network (yoga, resilience, and sexual violence), Eat Breathe Thrive (yoga and body image/eating disorders), and the Center for Trauma & Embodiment. She completed Illinois’ 40-hour training in Sexual Violence Crisis Intervention at the YWCA.

Book here.

March 20: Trauma-Sensitive Yoga

What is trauma-sensitive yoga?
Trauma (on some level) is something that everyone in our society will experience, whether it’s physical, verbal, mental, or through something as commonplace as having surgery. The body stores these traumas, and they can come into play during a yoga class. Potentially presenting as anxiety, the inability to move, flashbacks, tears, phantom pains in the body, and many other ways as well. The mind wants to suppress the traumatic memory to protect us, but the body remembers and stores these memories. The good news is yoga is incredibly powerful in healing and soothing the body during these responses! However, traditional yoga classes are not always set up to support in this way. There is nothing wrong with traditional yoga, and there is no way to make a class completely trigger free. Everyone handles trauma differently and there is no “right” way to do it. This space is an attempt to make the umbrella of yoga a little bigger and to offer space for those who are not called to a more traditional class at this time.

Who is this class for?
This class is for new yogis and seasoned practitioners alike! If the pandemic has been challenging, if you have experienced paralysis in a yoga class, if yoga feels daunting because it’s yoga, or if you have a hard time feeling totally free in a traditional class and want to try something different, or simply if you’re curious and want to try something new!

What To Expect?
Trauma-sensitive yoga is built to empower you with freedom of movement — or stillness — in class. You are welcome to change shape at any time, or alter your breath whenever you feel the impulse. The teacher will practice with you the whole time, and they will constantly offer options, helping you find what feels best for you that day. There are days when it’s helpful to follow, and days when it’s not. In trauma sensitive yoga, these are all welcome experiences and options.

The Teacher: Kate Smith identifies as Caucasian, Female, She/Her/Hers pronouns.
4:00 – 4:10: A brief introduction to what we will be doing and getting settled int the space. You can ask questions either to the group or anonymously in the chat.
4:15 – 5:15: We will do an all levels trauma sensitive yoga class together.
5:15 – 5:30: You are free to leave or ask questions if you wish.
No props required (not even a mat); however, a blanket can be nice to pad the knees.
No music (you can play some in your own space if you wish, your speaker will be off for class).
No recorded video of the class.
No chants or anything tied to specific beliefs or religion.
No guided visualizations.
The option to leave your camera off the whole time.
The option to ask questions about trauma sensitive yoga at the end (with the option to leave if this does not suit).
The option to change shape during vinyasa.
The option to leave should the space not support where you are at today.

If you are experiencing a challenging time right now, and wish to talk to someone, we recommend the following two resources. You are not alone, and these resources are here for us.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1–800–273–TALK (1-800-273-8255)
This is a crisis hotline that can help with many issues, not just suicide. For example, anyone who feels sad, hopeless, or suicidal; family and friends who are concerned about a loved one; or anyone interested in mental health treatment referrals can call the Lifeline. Callers are connected with a professional nearby who will talk with them about what they are feeling or concerns for other family and friends. Call the toll-free Lifeline, 24 hours/day, 7 days/week.

Crisis Text Line: Text “MHFA” to 741741
Available 24/7, 365 days a year, this organization helps people with mental health challenges by connecting callers with trained crisis volunteers who will provide confidential advice, support, and referrals if needed.

More About The Instructor: Yoga has helped Kate both mentally and physically since she first discovered it in 2014, helping her through PTSD and anxiety while creating strength and connection between the mind and body. Kate is a sort of “Yoga Melting Pot,” culminating Trauma informed Yoga, Lllyangar, Kundalini, and prenatal training to make her own style. Kate is first and foremost a trauma-sensitive trained yoga teacher. She has been privileged enough to use this training to teach in Cook County Jail through Yoga For Recovery, and to educate teachers in their 200 hour level certification on the importance of trauma sensitivity in the world of yoga. Smith herself has over 200 hours of extended and certified mental health education as well, and she believes all people should have access to mental and physical wellness. It is a passion of hers to help break the stigma that surrounds trauma and mental illness in our culture.