On June 25th, we taught the final class in our 12-week EMBER trauma-sensitive yoga and meditation curriculum to our first group of students at Tapestry, an extraordinary therapeutic community at the Ohio Reformatory for Women. The 11 weeks leading up to that class had been lively, sometimes sobering, and always moving. Most powerful of all was witnessing the sensitivity, tenacity, and courage of the twelve participants, who proved themselves willing to share, be honest, and take risks.
At the heart of trauma-sensitive yoga is the practice of reclaiming the body. Many of our students had histories of overwhelming experience that left them vulnerable to intense and unpredictable agitation. Often, in response, they had learned to "numb out". In class, students progressed through gentle movement sequences that encouraged them to explore the ebb and flow of physical sensation, to feel and respond to the body's cues. The aim of the sessions was to help them develop a tolerance for a range of sensations, so that they could ultimately find steadiness and poise in the face of discomfort – and with that the capacity to take compassionate action to ease somatic and psychic distress.
Perhaps the most stunning aspect of the class was the students' eagerness to take that journey, even - sometimes especially - when it proved challenging. While practice in class could be fun and light-hearted, it was also grounded in painful reality, in the women's zeal to find effective means of responding to what was often unimaginable stress. In their generosity, insight, and hunger for change, they taught us - as yoga teachers, as mindfulness practitioners, and as human beings - at least as much as we taught them.
You can read their comments, and those of the Tapestry staff, on our "Testimonials" page. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all twelve of the women and to the brilliant Tapestry staff, whose support and enthusiasm for EMBER inspired us throughout. We are looking forward to returning to Tapestry, and to a second group of students, in September.