When I was hired by Yoga Behind Bars in October 2019, I was given the opportunity to attend our 17-hour Trauma-Informed Yoga (TIY) Training. I was a believer in meditation and mindfulness, but I had never experienced yoga that connects the body and mind. I have had some a-ha moments in life that led to considerable growth, and the TIY training was one of them.
Back in May 2015, I received a double Masters in Social Work and Public Administration. I got my dream job and I truly believed I was going to change my slice of the world. Seven months later I was in solitary confinement at Pierce County Jail on suicide watch. After 30 hours of no sleep in a cold, windowless room, with lights that never turned off, and my mind racing, a guard over the loudspeaker said, “Just kill yourself.” Those words have haunted me ever since.
Needless to say, I carried a lot of trauma into the first day of the TIY training. It was hard to be around strangers because I felt like I wore a scarlet letter on my chest labeling me a felon. I remember standing outside of the building where the training was being held trying to muster the strength to go in. I slowly got comfortable with everyone there, but my a-ha moment came the second day as we were discussing the symptoms of trauma.
For four years after the moment of my arrest, I had trouble recalling words. For four years I carried trauma in my mind and my body. No amount of counseling helped, in part because I couldn’t express my grief through words. I had lost all belief that I would regain my ability to think or speak clearly.
That day, learning from trainers who created a therapeutic environment, I was reminded that confusion and stuttering are both symptoms of trauma. I learned how the body carries trauma and how to use my body to heal itself and the mind. It was transformational. It was an a-ha moment.
We are living in history today that spans space and time. We are dealing with a worldwide health crisis and a 400+ year societal crisis at once. The trauma is real. It is both acute and historical. I hear it in the cries. When our ability to communicate breaks down and we cannot breathe, we gasp, we struggle, we get angry. I know what it’s like to lose your voice. To be disenfranchised. To feel less than. But I also know that healing is possible; that change is possible. And I truly hope this is our a-ha moment.
In response to COVID-19, we’re temporarily moving our 17-hour Trauma-Informed Yoga Training online. Our first online training will take place over the weekends of June 20-21 and 27-28. Space is limited. Click here to learn more and sign-up.