rhenneNearly 14 years ago I was in my first yoga class laying in Savasana with tears streaming down my face. These tears were a natural release from many years of unacknowledged pain and struggle. I didn’t have to do anything but stop, breathe, and exist.  I was just entering my twenties and beginning a long journey of healing. As I continued practicing yoga I found peace, solace, clarity, and experienced centeredness in and awareness of my body. For people who have experienced years of stress, anxiety, depression, and trauma—our bodies are often a place to escape, numb, and despise. Developing an appreciation of our bodies through movement, increasing relaxation through breath, and increasing awareness of the intricate relationships between mind and body can be unbelievably empowering.

I continued yoga classes as I pursued my bachelor’s degree in community college and later when I transferred to a four-year institution. Although there have been times when I fell out of practice, I have always found my footing with yoga. During my post baccalaureate, as I prepared to apply for graduate school, I worked as a research assistant for several studies at Portland State University’s Psychology Department. It was here that I came into contact with Mark Lilly via an introduction from a professor for whom I worked. I was thrilled by the opportunity to unite my personal passion for yoga and my career development. I provided an in-depth literature review on a variety of research of school-based yoga curricula as we discussed the possibility of implementing and evaluating such a curriculum. Throughout this time I was gaining experience in the non-profit sector working with youth experiencing the foster care and juvenile justice systems. I longed to find a way to integrate these seemingly disparate areas.

I have continued to pursue my education and I am currently in my fourth year of a doctoral program in social work and social research. I recently completed my master’s in social work. I am currently conducting research on food insecurity among college students, social justice work in non-profits, and students’ experiences of inclusivity and equity in elementary and middle school. Last spring, I was delighted to receive financial support to attend the Street Yoga Teacher Training and have since volunteered with David Douglas and Outside In. Each day that I join  youth at Outside In to do yoga, I leave feeling extremely appreciative, impressed, and inspired by their engagement and genuineness. It is always my hope that these students will have an opportunity to find the peace, solace, relief, and appreciation of self that I have experienced with yoga.