I have been really struggling with anxiety and depression the last several months. So much self doubt showing up. Doubt in myself and the path of teaching trauma-informed yoga to women that has chosen me. The fear of not being able to make a living piecing all of these parts of my life together. The challenges of witnessing the suffering of others and yet again processing my own triggers. The recurring themes of “Just get a real job.” ”No one seems to care about traumatized women, no one cared about you and certainly no one is seeing value in what you are offering.” (The last statement is from a voice in my own head; the one preceding it is from everyone else.)
Deep in my very gut, however, lies this awareness, this essential truth (Satya, one of the ethical guidelines that comprise the Yamas, the first of eight limbs of yoga) that I am where I need to be. Even in uncertainty. Even in fear. Trust emerges tentatively.
I explore grounding and presence through yoga, and often, just movement that doesn’t look like yoga or dance, to seek sensation in my core, which disappears when I am triggered.
I emerge and listen. I hear the stories of triumph from my students, victims who are now survivors. The survivor who shared how owning the tools of her embodied yoga practice has allowed her to transform from shame and unskillful action into choosing compassion for self and skillful action, over and over and over again. The young woman I teach in prison who stood up in court sharing that the practice is teaching her about her emotions, and her own ability for self- regulation and choosing skillful action. A new yogini friend, fellow survivor and trauma-informed teacher who drove a good bit to come here to laugh and cry over soup and deep conversation, sharing our own stories of continued healing. My activist friend from a distance, Skyping and discussing our mutual yearning for real, raw, authentic, creative relationships. My student today sharing how much the Dharma talks and themes of the practice has impacted her life. I cried then, and am actually still crying now.
I think of all the amazing people I have had and continue to have the privilege to teach. As Donna Farhi says, as yoga teachers, “We hold people’s hearts in our hands.” I invite courage, patience and the willingness to explore all of the nuances of the ebbs and flows and uncertainties of life. I thank God deeply and profoundly for the continued experience of breaking my heart open wider instead of shattering this heart into sharp edges and shards. I can move forward. I don’t have to have the rest of my life figured out today. I just have to show up. Grounded. Ignited. Open.
Rachel Allen, B.A., is a Certified Music Practitioner, Sound Healer, Reiki Master, and Registered Yoga Teacher with a trauma informed/social justice framework. She has 20 years experience working with hospice patients and their families, patients in a variety of health conditions, survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence, adults with mental illness, individuals struggling with addiction, and incarcerated women. She has supported compassion fatigue and self-care workshops for a wide range of professions, including physicians, shelter workers, and those caring full-time for individuals with ALS. Rachel is a well-known activist and community organizer in the Laurel Highlands region of Pennsylvania, and teaches Creative Movement at Saint Francis University in Loretto, PA. She teaches at conferences and retreats nationally, weaving live music, yoga, and creative movement into themes of compassion, self-acceptance, and transformation. Connect with her via her website, www.yogasong.net, and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Editor: Carol Horton
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