Yoga for Trauma

Steph and Hala

Steph with Hala Khouri at the “Yoga for Trauma” training in Seattle, February, 2013

I’ve recently returned from Seattle where I completed an 18 hour training with Hala Khouri. You may know her from her Yoga Activism organization, Off the Mat Into the World. If you don’t, check out the amazing work they do:

Hala is a yoga teacher and Mental Health therapist specializing in a modality of treatment called Somatic Experiencing. In private practice, she works with clients one-on-one to heal trauma through this body awareness approach developed by Dr. Peter Levine. For more on SE and it’s development, visit:

The workshop was put on by two Seattle-based organizations, Yoga Behind Bars, and Street Yoga. About 35 people gathered at the Samarya Center for the 2 and a half day workshop.

I was inspired by the outreach and healing work done by the Samarya Center in Seattle. LOVED the flyer!

I was inspired by the outreach and healing work done by the Samarya Center in Seattle. LOVED the flyer!

Hala Khouri also has a wealth of experience teaching yoga to populations considered “at-risk,” such as adolescents in juvenile hall, prison populations, and people involved in street gangs.  She graciously shared her knowledge with those of us who attended the training, equipping us with tools and even her curriculum which she developed for Yoga Ed so that we too could go out into the world and help those in our local communities through the practice of yoga.

Coming from Wyoming, I am always in awe of how many helpers and healers are already using yoga to help the populations they serve. To me, the concept still seems quite new and somewhat misunderstood here, though it is catching on more and more. One of the most helpful and encouraging reminders I took from the weekend was  how experiential this work is. When teaching us about how to approach organization directors and administrators about starting a yoga class, she emphasized how crucial it is to present the research, but followed that by saying, “…but don’t believe me because I’m telling you. You have to experience the effects for yourself.” For me, this is too true. Yoga is a mind-body science that teaches us how to ground ourselves in the midst of stress and chaos, how to better regulate emotions and impulses, and it gives us greater connection to our selves and each other. It is a physical practice, which is why I often have trouble putting into words how it helps – how it heals. After this training, however, I feel more prepared to make a convincing case for yoga and its therapeutic effects.

Thanks to all of the organizers and to Hala for beautiful, strong, and inspiring teachings.

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