WATCH | How trauma-informed yoga is helping people heal after assault and abuse

A traumatic event is not a once-off experience. The memory is carried in our minds, stored in our tissue.

The violence that could have taken only minutes to inflict can be felt for decades in the body. But we are made for more than just surviving.

There are emotional, mental, and physical tools that can transform someone’s story.

Julie Fernandez uses trauma-informed yoga practice to assist survivors of sexual assault and domestic abuse. Through her classes, she’s helping them thrive again.

“There are many spaces to heal when it comes to the immediate effects of violence, but not enough that address the long-term effects of trauma,” Fernandez says.

She works with Exhale to Inhale, a non-profit operating in New York, Connecticut, and Los Angeles. Since they opened their doors in 2013, the organisation has supported over 3 000 people.

After experiencing trauma, survivors can become numb. It warps perspective, particularly of the self. Shame can corrode one’s ability to speak out, ask for help, and find healing.

“We need to provide safe spaces for survivors to reclaim their sense of security,” Fernandez says.

Through a combination of breathwork, mindfulness, and yoga, Fernandez leads classes where people can rediscover who they are. “Our goal is to help women reclaim their power, reconnect with themselves, and become strong enough to make healthy and positive life choices,” she says.

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The progress made on the mat doesn’t end when the session does, and Fernandez encourages her students to meld what they’ve experienced in class with their everyday lives.

One particular breathing exercise can be used to de-escalate a high-stress moment at a shop or at home.

Fernandez places emphasis on practising kindness and compassion towards ourselves as a key aspect of cultivating inner wholeness.

No matter the extent of what we’ve faced, we can take the steps to begin healing. “Every person deserves to feel safe,” Fernandez says.

To support the work of Exhale to Inhale, visit here.