I am just settling back into my life here in Madison after being away for a week in St. Paul and Minnetonka, Minnesota. I am still coming down.
I went to St. Paul to spend time with my last remaining grandparent (my maternal grandmother) who is dying and is in hospice. I also signed up for an intense yoga training in Minnetonka. I signed up for the training before my grandma got sick and was placed in hospice.
The week was emotionally raw for me, for my mother, and probably for those around us--feeling the heaviness of our sadness. The yoga training was with Matthew Sanford, founder of Mind Body Solutions--a nonprofit "with a mission to transform trauma, loss, and disability into hope and potential by awakening the connection between mind and body."
I've taught yoga to folks with disabilities previously, and I currently teach trauma-informed yoga to survivors of sexual trauma. The MBS training was intense, powerful, and taught me some incredible ways to change and transform my teaching and my own yoga practice.
One thing I really enjoyed was, what Matthew said, "teaching the sensation of the pose." Too often in yoga, we're told (and we believe) we must look a certain way; our Dancer's Pose must look like the one on the cover of Yoga Journal Magazine. This is bullshit, though--and extremely exclusive and isolating to people whose bodies don't and will never look like those bodies. Learning the sensation of a pose is a very interesting, and I believe more intense, way of practicing yoga than just learning how to physically get your body into how the yoga community tells you the pose should look.
Though I really liked this approach, the difficulty of allowing oneself the sensations of a pose is that it can stir up many emotions, and many hand prints of trauma.
As as survivor of two rapes, and one sexual assault, I have spent years not being in my body. I have spent years fleeing or distracting myself. That being said--I've been in therapy, I take anti-depressants/anti-anxieties--I've dealt with a lot of what has happened to me, but healing is a journey--a process--a non-linear one--and I find myself remembering aspects of my trauma(s) that I haven't remembered before.
It was interesting to hear firsthand from a few folks with disabilities how badly they wanted to be in their body; how badly they wanted to feel certain sensations. My trauma has largely made me afraid of my body, and afraid of the sensations I feel. During all three of my sexual traumas, I didn't fight or flee, I froze and left my body--which is a very common response. There was an assumption at this training that everyone wants to feel things and that everyone wants to be in their body. This is so not the case. You have to meet people where they're at--and for many survivors of sexual trauma--they are not ready to be in their body or to feel their bodily sensations. This needs to be respected.
The MBS training was very difficult for me because of my previous trauma as well as because the training ignored survivors of sexual trauma. I found this incredibly odd since women who have disabilities are "raped and abused at a rate at least twice that of the general population of women" and "among developmentally disabled adults, as many as 83% of the females and 32% of the males are the victims of sexual assault" (NCDSV). Now, I understand trainings can't possibly include everything, but to have no mention of survivors of sexual violence within the disability community (in a training for mostly able-bodied people who are planning to teach yoga to people with disabilities) seems very problematic to me, and something I hope MBS improves upon.
My other main issue with the training was the abrasiveness of Matthew Sanford, himself. I understand he is incredibly passionate about his work (and he should be!), but I left each day feeling like the lonely, learning disabled, curly-haired 3rd grader that I used to be. I do not have a physical disability, but my learning disabilities are very real, and the abrasiveness reminded me of old teachers I had who constantly told me I was "stupid" or "worthless." To be clear, Matthew Sanford did NOT say those things to me, but his tone of voice was eerily similar. I cried a few times because of this, and because, let's be real--when a white man is booming his voice at you, it's a bit triggering.
Overall, I'm very glad I did this training. I learned a lot about myself and about how I want to teach and how I don't want to teach. That alone, made it worth it to me.
Being with my grandma was also very healing for me. I felt those closest to her I have ever felt. I'm glad I was able to see her so often during that week. I was able to feed her, rub her back, and talk to her about her past. It was emotionally heavy, but healing.