Tricia McLelland (left) and Angie Delainey, co-owners of Satya Yoga Studio in Williams Lake, are excited to be the host place for an upcoming trauma-inspired yoga training in April. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

Yoga being used for trauma recovery in 25 B.C. communities

Yoga instructors are being trained in trauma-informed yoga to work with women and children fleeing violence.

Yoga is being used as a tool to help women and children dealing with domestic trauma in 25 communities across the province, including Williams Lake.

The B.C. Society of Transition Houses (BCSTH) has teamed up with the Yoga Outreach Centre on a three-year project to train yoga instructors to work with clients in transition and second-stage houses.

“We applied for money from the federal government’s public health department to research the impact of trauma-informed yoga for women and children who are fleeing violence,” said BCSTH executive director Joanne Baker.

Once the funding was secured, Baker and her team then contacted transition and second-stage houses across the province to invite them to be involved.

Baker said people are very interested in trauma-informed yoga. Those who are working with women and children who have experienced violence know that there are all kinds of things that they need to recover, to heal and get their lives back on track.

“Trauma-informed yoga is one of those things that could be useful for those kinds of things because we know that living with violence is a traumatic experience and can cause all kinds of physical harm to your body and psychological harm.”

Cariboo Friendship Society’s social programs supervisor Tamara Garreau is looking forward to seeing the program in Williams Lake.

Between April 1, 2017 and Jan. 1, 2018, 79 women and 41 children accessed the transition house in Williams Lake and 79 children had accessed the society’s peace program’s counselling services.

“It will be a new way of outreach for us,” Garreau said.

Sarah Holmes de Castro of Yoga Outreach has worked in transition houses and women’s prisons, mostly with addiction recovery treatment.

She will travel to do the core training for yoga teachers and other interested professionals in each of the communities where the project will be delivered.

For some people trying the trauma-informed yoga for the first time it can take some time to warm up to it, especially if they have never done yoga before, Holmes de Castro said.

“Others will jump up right after class and say they feel great and relaxed.”

The program involves a different delivery of yoga that is more “person-centred,” Holmes de Castro explained.

“We are supporting them to stay in control of what they choose to participate in or not and giving a little bit more emphasis on choice, rather than issuing instructions to them for an hour.”

They find it seems to create a bit more access for people, she added.

“We know the outcome of exposure to violence and trauma has different effects for different people.”

From April 6-8, she will be in Williams Lake doing training at Satya Yoga Studio, co-owned and opened by Angie Delainey and Tricia McLelland seven years ago.

McLelland said her background is in kinesiology, with extensive training as a yoga instructor.

April will see her training with Yoga Outreach for the third time.

She said she feels “deeply passionate” about the program and the initiative to bring trauma-informed yoga to various communities.

“It’s a profound practice and spans so much more broader than teaching a yoga class,” she explained. “Learning the invitational language and understanding self-inquiry and how to befriend the body is a practice that everybody needs to know because communication is the most important piece of creating relationships.”

McLelland encourages anyone working with children and adults to consider taking the training.

“You never really know when you step into a room who has experienced trauma,” she said.

“It’s great because this training teaches you to be a little bit more aware about triggers and how do you speak with somebody who is going through something.”

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