What did we study and who participated?
Reaching Out with Yoga (ROWY) was a 5-year collaborative research project between the BC Society of Transition Houses and Yoga Outreach, which piloted Trauma-Informed Yoga (TIY) in Transition and Second Stage Houses and PEACE (Prevention, Education, Advocacy, Counselling and Empowerment) Programs in British Columbia. The project studied how participating in TIY impacts the health and well-being of women, children, and youth with experiences of violence, and front-line staff who work in the anti-violence sector.
Staff working at the pilot site organizations were invited to participate in a half-day Using Yoga in Your WorkTM (UYiYW) workshop. During the workshop, staff learned grounding, breathing, and movement techniques to support their self-care and to offer skills and techniques they could use with the women, children, and youth they support.
We asked the 236 staff who took part in the UYIYW workshops to share their experiences of the workshop, and how, if at all, they were using the skills and techniques they learned.
What is trauma-informed yoga (TIY)?
TIY adapts traditional yoga techniques for the specific health and safety needs of individuals. Yoga teachers trained in TIY provide simple, clear instruction with options and use invitational (rather than directive) language. It uses breathing, mindfulness, and movement practices to reduce the impacts of trauma by focusing on choice, empowerment, and safety.
What did we find out about the use of trauma-informed yoga for staff of anti-violence organizations?
Staff reported that they enjoyed the workshop; were reminded to take care of themselves; learned new grounding, relaxation, breathing, and chair yoga skills; and gained some useful tools for their work with the women, children, and youth they support.
“Often before meeting with a client, when I know it could be a difficult meeting, I try to get grounded and be really present so that I can be present for the person I’m meeting with.”
“Just knowing that I can take five minutes and do yoga no matter where I’m at – in my chair, at work, at school, wherever it needs to be done.”
“It gave me more skills that I can use with my clients. It also gave me a better understanding of yoga, trauma, and how they can intersect…and some of the out-of-the-box thinking that we can use when we’re dealing with people who have experienced trauma. Like, it’s not one-size-fits-all, and here’s just another tool that can be used and I think that’s, like, amazing.”
“Really great, both for clients and us. Before we seriously started the yoga, we sometimes struggled with the tools to help clients ground themselves and ourselves in our work. The yoga has been very helpful in modeling empowering language and in providing these grounding skills.”
We asked about the following stress and coping symptoms on the staff baseline survey and again 6 months after the workshop, and the staff reported a slight decrease in all symptoms, including:
- Pain/discomfort in body
- Intrusive thoughts
- Sleep difficulties
- Difficulty having positive feelings/detached
- Feelings of hopelessness/not doing enough
- Appetite changes
- Thinking of yourself or others negatively
These outcomes are promising and suggest that yoga-based practices can support anti-violence workers in both their personal and work lives.
How can I use these practices in my own work?
As part of the Reaching Out with Yoga project, a number of resources were developed to share the useful tools and practices widely and to enhance the sustainability of the project. Please go to the ROWY Resource Library webpage for access to the following free downloadable resources, trauma-informed yoga online videos, and links to more learning.
More research findings will be shared there in the coming months, so please check back! To find out more information about the Reaching Out with Yoga project and resources, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘Using Yoga at Work’ chair yoga poster to have in your office or staff room.
Trauma-informed chair and mat yoga videos ranging from 10-30 minutes. Videos are available in English, Tagalog, Punjabi, Arabic and Mandarin.
Interested in booking a Using Yoga in Your WorkTM workshop?
Visit www.yogaoutreach.com to find more information about booking a UYiYW workshop for your staff team or starting a yoga program at your agency.
The Reaching Out with Yoga project was made possible through funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
We want to acknowledge and thank all of the ROWY research participants, Transition and Second Stage House Program Staff, and PEACE Programs and counsellors who contributed to the success of the project and helped inform the development of the resources.
This guest blog was written by Renee Turner during her time with the BC Society of Transition Houses.