The Yoga for PTSD Training has long been a signature offering of Sedona Yoga Festival. It’s just one of the many ways that SYF walks the walk — by recognizing that yoga is so much more than asana, and requires instructors to not only commit to furthering their education, but to consider ways to make their classes welcoming and accessible to all people.
This year, we couldn’t be more excited that the training will be led by the founders of Retreat to Spirit, Amina Naru and Pamela Stokes Eggleston, joined by instructor Kwasi Boaitey. We’ll be examining trauma-informed instruction through the lens of not just PTSD, but social trauma as well, and exploring how to truly make a yoga class welcoming for all practitioners, regardless of race or background. We’ll also address the importance of creating a space that truly embodies the teachings of yoga, and how they pertain to issues in our greater world — how we can address the traumas of the world, and still create a refuge in our practice.
We sat down (digitally) with Amina and Pamela to discuss.
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Sedona Yoga Festival (SYF): How did you get started doing trauma-informed work, and what can we expect from the training in June?
Amina Naru (AN): Pam and I are the former co-executive directors of the Yoga Service Council. Pamela was working with veterans and caregivers, and I had my own business working with incarcerated youth and adults. Through the Yoga Service Council we created a Best Practices series with Omega, a series of books that outlined yoga for people who were incarcerated, people recovering from drug addictions, and for schools.
While working with the YSC we petitioned YA to make it a mandatory part of 200-hrs, or perhaps 220hrs. We are currently actively working to make trauma-informed training a staple in 200hr teacher training. Because everyone has experienced some sort of trauma. And people who have aren’t just showing up in prisons or community centers or the VA — we’re showing up in the yoga studio and in “mainstream” yoga.
Pamela Stokes Eggleston (PE): There are plenty of microaggressions happening within yoga spaces, and it’s causing more harm than good. It’s multi-layered. Yoga teachers are stepping into their classes with an intention to serve or help, but often first-time students walk away from a class thinking “it’s not for me,” or didn’t have a good experience — and it’s due to a lack of training for new teachers.
Really teaching asks you to teach to who shows up in the room, and to really see that person. It also requires basic self inquiry and self reflection. We always talk about the yamas and niyamas, but to integrate them may take someone really examining the way they’ve done things. We know that yoga is an embodied practice — a mind, body, spirit practice. We know that people are getting the bare minimum in a 200-hour YTT, and often a 500-hour YTT. But how can we transmute what has been looked out, to not stay on the surface level of spiritual bypassing that “we are all one”? We can’t ignore the fact that George Floyd got murdered or that there are people in the Ukraine and Russia who don’t want this war. We need to speak to what’s happened. There was trauma as a result of Covid, for example — we need to be able to serve people in these difficult times. That’s the kind of information we’re plugging in, adjusting our training to reflect.
The terms “trauma” and “trauma-informed” are always going to be evolving, because there’s always going to be trauma. It’s really about how we look at it, how we go through it — it’s how the yoga teaches us to ride the waves. The reason I believe that we are here and why we’re at a precipice is because we’ve danced around trauma. We’ve been so individualistic, particularly in Western societies, that we don’t see ourselves in others. This is a different level of work. You have to be willing to change and shift your practice. This goes beyond the studio. This is an inside job.
SYF: What about people who think that politics don’t belong in practice? That yoga is an escape?
AN: There’s a negative connotation around what politics is, what a politician is. But if you really look at it, politics are just life happenings. Life happenings are war. Life happenings are Black people getting murdered by cops — life happenings are Black Lives Matter. People come to yoga to escape — and that’s when the bypassing happens. The new reality and the new paradigm and the new ways of thinking — we have to step into that as yoga teachers, yoga therapists, as whatever the work we’re doing in this healing space. If we are not willing to do that work, and this would be my kind of mantra, one of many, to anybody that signs up for this program: You have to be willing to step into that full on and go through it.
Don’t miss this incredible opportunity to learn from these luminaries. You may purchase a single ticket to the Trauma-Informed Training, or as an an add-on to your All-Access Pass. Learn more about ticketing options here.