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Trauma-Informed Yoga and Wellness for Women: One Year Later

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Two women sit cross legged, practising yoga.
Trauma-sensitive yoga helps people learn to calm their minds and regulate physical responses and emotions.

In the fall of 2018, the IMAGINE Grants funded a project focused on trauma-informed yoga and wellness on Haida Gwaii. Led by Masset-based organization Haida Gwaii Society for Community Peace (HGSCP), this yoga practice aims to ease the effects of past trauma through meditation, breathing techniques, and poses geared toward relaxation and stress release. Shauna Huber, who coordinates the Stopping the Violence Women’s Counseling program with HGSCP, led the group after completing a trauma-sensitive yoga course aimed at women.

Shauna promotes the idea that: “Trauma-sensitive yoga helps people learn to calm their minds and regulate physical responses and emotions. Through this [training and] practice, people learn to recognize and tolerate physical sensations and thereby regain a feeling of safety inside their bodies.”

Promoting positive mental health through yoga

HGSCP provided this service for women who have experienced trauma, in hopes of promoting positive mental health. The IMAGINE Grant was used to purchase yoga props to support the initiative. The program was run out of an infrequently used house that the organization owned.

A safe space for wellness

The session ran as a drop-in group from January to June 2019, serving a total of 15 women. While attendance varied each week, over time participation increased. At the end of each session, organizers gathered feedback from class participants. The class became a safe space, where women could learn to use their bodies as a tool to calm the nervous system, and help promote physical and mental health and wellness. The classes created discussions around an increased sense of safety, and a desire to continue with this yoga practice into the future.

One year later: practice continues

A year later, HGSCP continues to offer trauma-sensitive yoga to women and the class has evolved into a more formal structure. It’s now a 12-week course with a fixed group of participants who complete intake interviews to determine their readiness. Each class includes up to an hour of yoga and a group discussion about different aspects of wellness, including safety, values, communication, trauma, managing emotions, and more.

Exploring digital formats in light of physical distancing

Feedback from participants continues to be extremely positive.

Shauna says, “[Students expressed] an enhanced sense of safety and wellness, a desire to continue with the practice of trauma-informed yoga., [and] enjoyment of the pace of the class, the style of instruction, and the choices given.”

HGSCP is now running its third 12-week session, and is exploring digital formats to maintain connectivity in light of physical distancing rules. Each session prioritizes new students; however, there is a strong desire amongst former students to join new sessions, which HGSCP is working to accommodate.

About the Haida Gwaii Society for Community Peace

Haida Gwaii Society for Community Peace is a non-profit organization that has served the communities of Haida Gwaii since 1995, when the first volunteer Board of Directors established the Tllaa Juuhldaa Naay Transition House located in Masset. Since then, the agency has expanded to include additional programs that support children and women who have witnessed or experienced violence and trauma.

Apply for IMAGINE Grant funding today

IMAGINE Grant funding is available now! The deadline to apply is April 30, 2020.