WRITTEN BY LARKIN SILVERMAN, PHILADELPHIA 2016 TRAUMA-INFORMED YOGA TRAINING PARTICIPANT
Tell us a little about yourself. When did you start practicing yoga?
Though I had always dabbled in yoga throughout adolescence (as a compliment to dance) it wasn’t until I moved to Philly and began grad school that
I really came to think of my yoga mat as a refuge and a place of reckoning, where I could be with myself, as myself.
I came to know that on my mat I could just feel whatever I had to feel and grapple with the truth of my body, my psyche, my emotions, exactly as they were and are, in that one present moment. My vinyasa practice became essential to my survival, not just on the mat itself, but off of it too. In just about one year of finding my home on my mat, I decided to pursue a 200-hour RYT program; I graduated with my teaching certification in December 2013.
What inspired you to take the Street Yoga Trauma-Informed Yoga Training?
As a survivor of sexual violence, my practice is essential to my sense of self.
My mat is the place where I lay claim to and exercise my agency, boldly, bravely, sometimes uncomfortably and messily.
My practice is liberating in that it is an act of reclamation.
But this revolutionary practice requires safety, requires safety to work. That safety can be interrupted. That safe haven can be taken away from me—by language, by touch, by ego, by berating, and by bullying. I’ve been yelled into poses that don’t work for my body, that feel suffocating, and then been told I’m creating drama or “story” for choosing a modification or variation that serves me better. I’ve been assisted violently without consent, I’ve heard some language choices that managed to insult, alienate, exclude, discriminate, and dis-empower.
I want to be an instructor who can hold space safely for her students.
I have so many unresolved questions as a 200hr instructor, and was looking for a program that could begin to explore them.
In my former job, I worked as the Community Liaison/West Philly Team Leader for the fantastic non-profit program Gearing Up (a Philadelphia program that uses the bicycle as means of personal transformation for women in transition from abuse, addiction, and/or incarceration). On days that we couldn’t ride, we would often do yoga in the RTF. Though I’ve since moved on to a new position doing Advocacy work for the bike industry, I miss serving that community! Teaching yoga on the side is incredibly exciting, but it is just one microcosm of our beautifully diverse and vibrant city, and there’s more work to be done.
What did you take-away from the training?
This training was remarkable. The most effective tools I learned were:
- Solidity: as an instructor the number one thing I can do is to be solid in myself. That sense of personal solidity, of purpose and ease creates safety and consistency for all students. My sense of solidness in who I am, even with my own background and biases.
- Offer choice without qualifiers: an invitation for practitioners to take any shape in which they feel comfortable, without justifying, or creating a sense of hierarchy or what is “right” or “better.”
- Orientation: Invite students to orient themselves in the practice space, to notice not just bodily sensations and thoughts, but the physical space within which they are present itself.
- Activating poses: Certain poses (the shapes of the Asanas themselves, or what names we call those poses) might be potentially activating practitioners; there are alternative sequences and/or ways to get there eventually.
- Individual trauma heals through relationship: This is so true for myself. I just had never heard it vocalized!
How do you plan on using the skills you have learned from the training?
I’ve already begun integrating certain skills into my weekly classes. I always ask for consent for hands-on assists, but now I know that that consent can be a fluid thing during class itself. Saying “today” or “tonight” can be a powerful tool to hold space for students to asset their needs. I’ve been listening to myself and choice without qualifiers is HARD! I catch myself all the time now, using fluff language that’s not essential.
My next steps are to look for opportunities beyond the studio where I already have an established class, and to go back to program locations where I previously worked for Gearing Up, and to begin partnering with new organizations and folks around the city.
I made some great connections and relationships at this training, and there are so many remarkable caregivers in Philadelphia who recognize and celebrate the transformative beauty of yoga.
Thank you for this opportunity, Street Yoga, and especially our amazing facilitator, Ivy Katz.