Trauma Informed Yoga at Work: A Street Yoga Graduate’s Story
By Alex Rodriguez, Street Yoga Alumni
Alex Rodriguez, CYT, shares how Street Yoga’s Trauma Informed training helped her navigate her first teaching position in 2017. Today, Alex is the community partner for Street Yoga’s upcoming training in Los Angeles, CA.
“Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” – Brad Meltzer
You probably wouldn’t know I have a mental illness unless I told you. It looks different on everyone, and can be invisible.
Understanding my own sensitivities and triggers has been huge in my healing journey. So when became a yoga teacher, I knew I had to learn how trauma manifests in others and could affect my students. That led me to take Street Yoga’s Trauma Informed Training in 2015; an experience that laid the framework for how I approach my classes, and makes me a better service provider for my students today.
I’ll never forget my first position as a newly-certified yoga teacher at a senior community in San Bernardino, California. The city ranks among the poorest in the nation with a high rate of drug addiction and homelessness. When I showed up for the interview, I noticed a man sleeping on the sidewalk as I waited for the security gates to open. The unpredictable environment of the center revealed itself shortly thereafter, when a man stormed in during my interview yelling that he needed the handyman. Then another woman came in angry about her bill, and “why isn’t the coffee ready yet!?” There was a lot going on in the room, and nobody even seemed to notice that we were in a meeting! This is where the yoga classes would take place.
I showed up for my first day of class with yoga mats in tow – only to realize that they would never be used. When I asked my students to sit on the floor, they looked at me like I was a crazy! Some had physical disabilities preventing them from getting on the floor; others simply did not want to. I tried to lead the class to sit in silence, and was met with resistance and lots of “why’s.” That’s when I knew I had to get creative. I didn’t know what my students had been through, and I didn’t want to push it.
After pouring through my manuals, I decided to modify the class into a chair yoga/meditation hybrid. Together, we made the best of it and took it step by step. I didn’t know I’d be teaching seniors who were going through these challenges, but I felt equipped to handle it because of my Street Yoga training. While I no longer teach at the facility, I’m hopeful the seeds I’ve planted there will continue to bloom. I now lead yoga classes at another San Bernardino community center, as well as at an all girl’s middle school, where I continue to approach my work with a trauma informed lens.
Alex Rodriguez is a 200-hour certified bilingual yoga teacher located in San Bernardino, California. Learn more and connect with her here.