Domestic violence survivors heal through yoga



This Yoga Program Helps Victims of Domestic Violence Heal

Three women at a domestic violence shelter in Brooklyn sit down on yoga mats facing the door on a rainy February evening. The women, who have all experienced sexual or physical abuse, begin by observing the sounds around them and the texture of the mats under their fingers, then progress to a few standing stretches.

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The free class is offered by Exhale to Inhale (ETI), a nonprofit organization founded by Zoë LePage five years ago, when she was a psychology student at Barnard University and a yoga instructor in New York City. "When I saw what trauma did to several of my loved ones, I set out to create a program that I wished they'd had," she says.

ETI teaches a unique form of trauma-informed yoga that combines the calming and grounding effects of traditional yoga with sensitivity to the shelters' clientele. For example, teachers don't move around the room or touch the students, and the lights remain on. "Individuals who are dealing with trauma may be hyperaware of movement or triggered by contact," says LePage.

"Residents rave about the way yoga helps them sleep better and stay calm under stress."

Research has shown that trauma-informed yoga can reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (which include insomnia, anxiety, and negative thoughts), and observations by the agencies' staffs confirm those results.

"It has been incredible to witness the impact of these classes on our clients," says Shoshana Indyk Levie, senior counselor of community-based services at STEPS to End Family Violence in New York City. "The yoga room has helped them reconnect with their bodies."

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"I see the evolution of the women as their practice grows," says founder Zoë LePage.
Woman's Day Staff

The classes are taught on a volunteer basis by yoga instructors who have been trained in the ETI method. Many instructors, like Kathryn Cornelius, have experienced trauma themselves. "I have a feeling of solidarity with my students," says Cornelius, who has been an ETI instructor for nearly two years. "I'm grateful to offer them even a tiny window of respite."

Kathryn recalls one shelter resident who arrived late to a yoga class at a Brooklyn shelter last fall. "She told me about her family situation, then said, 'I was telling myself all day,Just get to yoga. Just get to yoga.' That's how I know what I'm doing helps." Other residents have raved about the classes' beneficial effects on their sleep quality and ability to calm themselves when facing their abusers in court.

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Since first partnering with three shelters in New York City in 2013, ETI — with the financial backing of private donors and a few corporate sponsors — has grown to serve a total of 20 shelters there and in Los Angeles, offering about 13 classes a week. LePage estimates that ETI has reached nearly 2,000 individuals.

"I hope we're offering them an experience that translates on and off the yoga mat," she says.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue ofWoman's Day.






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Date: 06.12.2018, 16:58 / Views: 72464