by Nancy Kochuk
Retreat Center of Maryland is offering a special workshop on teaching trauma-sensitive yoga for teachers, therapists and other health professionals who work with trauma survivors.
Yoga and meditation are known to help promote healing for individuals who have experienced trauma - whether from emotional or physical abuse, sexual assault, war-time experience, natural disasters, illness or other difficult experiences. Students in trauma-sensitive classes learn how to work with the mind, body and breath in ways that foster healing, resilience, self-awareness and self-compassion.
What are the hallmarks of a trauma-sensitive class? Each class is different and geared to the needs of participants, but it starts with a safe, supportive and respectful environment. Special emphasis is placed on offering options. Students must be free to make simple adjustments that make their poses more appropriate for their own bodies - as well as to opt out of any pose. Giving trauma survivors choices is a bedrock principle.
Trauma-sensitive yoga practices nurture and support students and help them reestablish ownership of their bodies and minds, an essential step for healing.
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Nancy Kochuk received her 500 hour yoga teacher certification in 2015, is a member of the Board of Directors of Retreat Center of Maryland, teaches gentle yoga at the Yoga Center of Columbia, and is the volunteer coordinator and teacher for Maryland Prison Yoga Project.
On the way to Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp, August 2018 (Photo by Chris McCloskey)
In all things of Nature there is something of the marvelous.
by Chris McCloskey
As we prepared for our trip to Yosemite high country this August, a big fire was burning that closed Yosemite Valley to visitors. While the fire caused us to consider the potential impact on our trip, we decided to make the annual pilgrimage anyway. As we got closer to Yosemite on our drive from San Francisco, we could see a haze of smoke over the mountains. My husband Joe assured me we would drive through it on our way to the high country and all would be fine. When we entered Yosemite, no one was manning the ranger station, and the valley was indeed closed. We took a left on Tioga Road and headed up to Tuolumne Meadows and the high country. At Tuolumne Meadows we connected with a ranger who told us the sky had been beautiful the last couple days in the high country, which was wonderful to hear. We settled in for the night at Tuolumne Meadows Lodge and prepared to start our big hike the next morning.
It felt like a miracle to be hiking that first day. The sky was blue, the air was clear, the flowers were blooming, the water was flowing, and the mountains were beautiful to behold.
We hiked eight miles to get to the first High Sierra camp, Glen Aulin. There we were so lucky to meet Emily, a naturalist who works for Yosemite. Emily took us on a nature walk that afternoon and taught us so many things about the nature of the park. She showed us edible berries like gooseberries and tiny, wild strawberries. She showed us a type of baby pine needle that we could eat and explained a special use for the corn plant on the trail. She taught us about how unique the ecosystem of Yosemite is due to its high rock faces, and we learned all about how fish that had been introduced by humans are impacting the frog population.
As we continued our journey for the next week at Yosemite, we were blessed with good weather, including a little rain (that held off until we made it up the trail), more beautiful sights like butterflies and gorgeous lakes and waterfalls, and lots of time outdoors, hiking and breathing and looking and listening. Another wonderful benefit of spending an entire week hiking at Yosemite was how restful and rejuvenating it was. Truly! We were outside every day, hiking. We exerted a lot of energy each day, and when I walked into camp each night, boy, was I tired. But I tell you what - every single night, as soon as my head touched the pillow and I turned the flashlight out, I fell sound asleep! Then, unbelievably, when I woke up the next morning, I felt refreshed and ready to go again.
The dictionary defines “retreat” as a place of privacy or safety, a refuge. On this journey to Yosemite, we let go for the week our daily concerns, turned off our cell phones (except for 20 minutes on a granite face at May Lake, the only place with cell coverage), and were bathed in awe at the beauty of the sights and sounds and the feel of the air on our skin with each step we took on this beautiful journey.
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Chris McCloskey is the secretary of the Board of Directors of the Retreat Center of Maryland. A Yoga Alliance Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher, E-RYT500, Chris has a love for the practice of yoga, meditation and hiking, and loves to share what she is learning with others.