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Trauma-Informed Yoga

“Our issues are in our tissues so let’s move through some of that and see if we can let go.”

HomeAgain recently held trauma-informed yoga (TIY) sessions at our Espigh Family Shelter. The yoga practice, led by Megan Hanson of Virginia Supportive Housing, encourages mindfulness around traumatic situations, such as a housing crisis. We interviewed Megan to learn more about this special practice and the impact it can have on people who have experienced trauma. 

HomeAgain: How long have you been practicing/instructing yoga?

Megan: “I started playing semi-pro rugby for the last 15 years, but yoga was introduced during that period as a recovery mechanism. About 2 years ago I had a personal shift and found a free class and an instructor I loved. I could always go to this class and find some relief and peace with an instructor who was teaching more than just a physical class. It has become my own process of healing and growing and I have dived into it. It’s a mind-body-spirit connection that the western world isn’t super connected to.”

HomeAgain: Can you describe trauma-informed yoga and how it can help people experiencing homelessness?

Megan: “It assists the instructor to know how trauma shows up in class and everybody walks into that room with different stuff. Some people’s stuff is more in the forefront and some is not so present, but the training focuses on understanding trauma and how to approach things that may be uncomfortable for someone who has experienced those things in class. Your role as the instructor is to really be able to hold that safe space for folks to have their own experience and feel safe to do so.  When someone re-experiences the shape of trauma, bringing them back to the present moment is really important. There’s neuroscience and biofeedback models of clinical and psychosomatic psychology – there is a science behind all of this to a cellular level! When we’re not able to process them through the normal brain channels we store them in our body. For a client the work is being done whether they know it or not, which is a great thing. There might not be a cognitive association with it. When trauma is triggered we keep engrained in those same paths. So when we’re not in threat we can feel as if we are because of those engrained paths. If you can create a solid safe place in a  yoga class you can use the different elements of yoga you’re connecting to different parts of your body and that’s when the neural networks open.

HomeAgain: What brought you and your practice to HomeAgain?

Megan: “My passion is ending homelessness and my line of work is that for the last 10 years. Yoga lends itself to someone with money and time. I was going out to different agencies working with homelessness and was getting to work with those next needs met- safety, housing, food security. Sense of purpose and connection to oneself is really how to make a house a home – to step out of that survival space and live a little! I thought TIY would help with that. Everything is in each of us, but breathwork and a few poses can be accessed by anyone no matter what their socioeconomic status. 

HomeAgain: How can trauma-informed yoga positively impact people who are experiencing HomeAgain: Anything else you want to share? 

Megan: “I was just so moved and blown away and proud of HomeAgain clients in this class. The women were moving so easily, expressing themselves freely, and they expressed to me they hadn’t been around yoga very much.”