Teaching yoga has always given me purpose and the practice itself has helped me heal some deep wounds. Long before I knew that trauma-sensitive yoga (TSY) was a thing, I knew that I had to find a way to bring this healing practice to those who really need it the most. Until now, I’ve only shared TSY in a private setting, so I’m honoured and (very!) excited to bring this practice to my beautiful home studio in downtown Lethbridge: HeartSpace.
WHAT IS TRAUMA-SENSITIVE YOGA?
Trauma-sensitive yoga (or trauma-informed yoga) is a practice that utilizes invitational language, emphasizes choice, and encourages an embodied experience through mindfulness and somatic exercises, gentle yoga asana and heart-based meditation practices. TSY is safe, supportive, needs-adaptive and exploratory. There is a focus on cultivating awareness of present moment experience, taking effective action, making empowered choices and creating stabilizing rhythms.
In his book, Teaching Trauma Sensitive Yoga, Brendon Abram explains, "Yoga helps with trauma in three main ways. First, it takes our awareness away from a past event experience and into an experience of an event that is happening in the present moment. Second, it teaches us how to expand our window of tolerance to regulate physical, emotional and cognitive sensation. Third, it encourages us to explore the concept that we are connected to something greater than ourselves."
I was trained with the Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TCTSY 20-hrs) model and I primarily use this methodology and philosophy to frame my classes; however, my approach largely draws upon my own experiences with yoga, trauma and healing from CPTSD. I have been teaching for 8 years and practicing for 11, but my experiences with trauma forever altered my relationship with yoga, I'm incredibly grateful for this opportunity to share the practice in this way at HeartSpace.
THE HEARTSPACE TSY SERIES
Starting May 9 and running for six weeks, we will meet every Thursday evening at 6pm for a gentle 60-minute yoga practice. Our TSY classes are inclusive to any individual who identifies with having experienced trauma, loss or grief, and will be open to both studio members and newcomers. While you are not obligated to attend every class (nor are you expected to share your story), we do ask that you register for these sessions in advance, as space is limited.
The environment and group will be consistent and you are required to do only as much as you are comfortable with. HeartSpace is equipped with bolsters, blankets, blocks and mats, but you are welcome to bring your own props/mat if you'd like to. We respect your privacy; your personal information and participation in this class will be kept confidential.
Trauma is a subjective experience and affects us to varying degrees. If you feel like this is the right class for you, it probably is; however, if you have any questions I'd be happy to chat and help you decide if our TSY offering at HeartSpace Studio is a good fit for you. (*email me: firstname.lastname@example.org*)
If you're ready to join, register HERE
I've spent much of my life feeling misunderstood, unseen or excluded, and I think these are feelings that all people can relate to at some point in their own lives. I'm sure that some of this can be attributed to my own slanted or biased perspective of certain experiences (making assumptions about the feelings or intentions of others, taking things personally when I shouldn't, etc) but I also know that the pain of feeling not-good-enough is undeniably real. The fact is, I've always been really sensitive to the energy of others, and it took me a long time to (*better*) understand the subtle interaction of vibrational forces rather than letting weird vibes drag me way down.
I think we're more receptive to the energy in a room than we often realize or give ourselves credit for. In the past, whenever I've had that gut feeling that a certain group or place is not the right fit for me, I've been right. We've all heard the wellness tropes about vibrations and energy and connection ("your vibe attracts your tribe", and the like) but if you've felt this for yourself, you'll understand the truth and power behind those sentiments. There is also increasingly more research and scientific data being collected around the subtle body and energetic fields, and how we relate with others through these unseen forces. I attended a lecture with Dr. Bruce Lipton two years ago at the International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh called, Epigenetics and the Power to Change the Unconscious Mind. He talked about the unique vibrational profile of each atom, and explained constructive interference as "compatible energies coming together that increase the force of the wavelength" -- in other words: they join up and expand, creating "good vibes". The opposite interaction is known as destructive interference (unsurprisingly), which results in the "bad vibes" we feel when wavelengths meet but are out of synch, and essentially cancel one another out. At one point in the lecture, Dr. Lipton said:
"the first communication of every organism in the Universe is vibrational"
That resonated with me so hard. He followed up with, "we're taught to ignore our feelings and rationalize our way through life - FOLLOW YOUR HEART: this is your energy gauge," as he passionately brought hand to heart space.
The heart's message is clear and uncomplicated if we listen closely; the key is learning how to tune in to your own frequencies.
At the beginning of the year, I was offered an incredible opportunity, seemingly out of the blue: I was presented with a job teaching yoga (a fair number of classes) and working the juice bar at a new studio opening downtown. Just over a month prior to this big change, I had all but given up on teaching yoga in Lethbridge, so naturally, it wasn't easy taking another leap of faith that could easily become another face plant. I'd had a really disappointing experience with a local studio this past fall and realized I was facing a lot of destructive interference, so I made the difficult decision to leave. Cam and I had also decided that the age of private yoga in our home was ready to come to an end, so for a while, I faced a really uncertain future, as far as my teaching yoga was concerned. It was uncomfortable to sit with that while it lasted, but eventually I came to see that the universe had been asking me to make space for something much more positive in my life.
I have no reason to call anyone out or throw shade for not being treated the way I would have hoped; we'll feel disappointed often if we always expect the best from people. (I'm working on this...) But I've heard a similar sentiment from so many people in this community - about not being able to find a yoga studio that feels like home or the 'right fit' - that I just want to say I've finally found my yoga home, and I welcome you to come practice with us and see if it feels like yours, too.
The moment I stepped into HeartSpace Yoga Studio for the first time, I felt instantly embraced by the energy -- it was natural, comfortable, easy, and just felt right. We've been hearing this a lot from our students (we ALL want to move in, you guys!) and I can't even begin to tell you how happy that makes my heart.
I completely acknowledge that your own experience might feel really different from this, and that is totally fine - there are finally enough options in our city that I believe there's a right space for every yogi. Just don't give up, like I almost did, if you feel like you don't fit anywhere; there's a tribe out there somewhere for you. (And a home yoga practice is a really good alternative in the meantime!)
The studio itself is bright and clean with big windows facing 5th Street, drapey white curtains and tiny string lights, lots of plants and beautiful original hardwood flooring. All classes are held at room temperature (no hot yoga), and the space is equipped with lots of props (mats, blocks, blankets, bolters and straps) for you to use, free of charge with any pass or drop-in.
Solstice Juice Co. is located in the lobby and serves fresh-pressed juice, 3 kinds of nut mylk, locally-made kombucha and (soon to come!) healthy snacks. It's been a big hit in the 5 weeks we've been open, and I am a self-confessed full-blown juice addict already. (I don't know what's going to happen when the lemonades roll out in the spring and summer... probably, I'll pull a Violet Beauregarde and turn into a giant lemon...)
There are currently 6 regular teachers offering a variety of class styles and approaches to yoga practice, with other local and visiting instructors stopping in for the odd class or workshop. Lauren and Tracy (the owners of HeartSpace) were striving to create a studio with a warm vibe and inclusive community, and I think they've done exactly that and more with this space.
We have a two-week unlimited introductory pass for only $30, so you can try out the studio with no obligation to commit. Those yogis who sign up for our recurring monthly membership receive 10% off juice, retail and workshops, and there is no additional sign-up fee to start the contract. (There is a minimum commitment of 3 months, and after that, we ask for at least 10 days notice if you need to cancel.)
I'm truly loving practicing and teaching at HeartSpace, and I'm so grateful for every single person who has made the space what it is. I feel so love and supported, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how things unfold for us all here. Thank you, yogis. I love you. See you on the mat. Namaste.