Background & Overview:
Trauma affects us all in so many different ways. It might show up as an inability to perform a certain movement in our yoga practice or manifest as sleeplessness, headaches, or autoimmune disease… Trauma is not restricted to survivors of horrific atrocities. In fact, our nervous systems may become overwhelmed and we may begin to accumulate it anytime we feel a lack of support, even in everyday situations. By nature trauma is quite slippery: the body buries it when we lack the resources to digest it fully, and the latest research demonstrates that we also inherit it from previous generations, so many people are in complete denial even though they may be carrying a significant trauma load. I can’t think of ANYBODY I’ve ever met who would not benefit from possessing a better understanding of trauma. It is a pivotal and missing exploration, equally for people suffering from physical and/or mental afflictions to those looking to optimize their already-brilliant performance to super-human levels.
Further, I have come to believe that practicing yoga without an understanding of trauma is yet another inadvertent form of spiritual bypassing that can be quite dangerous. Although pure awareness dissolves many kinds of samskara (conditioning), research has demonstrated that traumatic conditioning often requires special treatment, including a safe environment and the compassionate presence of another being in order to allow the nervous system to rest in a particular zone of activation. Unfortunately, whether due to lack of informed consent, excessive use of force, well-intentioned ignorance, outright abuse, or techniques that can trigger dissociation, yoga classes are often very unsafe places that actually exacerbate trauma. How many times have we seen practitioners and teachers pass on their unresolved trauma to countless others through acts of gross or subtle violence? Our own trauma also puts us at greater risk of being manipulated and further harmed by such violence. It’s about time we all start taking trauma seriously and create a revolutionary space within which global healing can commence.
In this intensive training, we will explore key concepts in trauma resolution and apply them directly to our yoga practice. We will study fundamental features of trauma physiology and gain awareness of how culture, philosophy, the practice environment and student-teacher relationships influence the nervous system and perpetuate or alleviate trauma in ourselves and others. Most exciting of all, we will investigate how elements of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga (such as bandha, mudra, pranayama, Kriya, visualization and chanting) fit in alongside some of the most ground-breaking trauma theories available, potentially enhancing evidence-based yoga interventions for PTSD. While trauma robs us of our capacity for joy, spontaneity, empowerment and connection, rehearsing these in our practice can serve as a potent daily reminder of our nearly unfathomable potential to live and to give. By inquiring deeply into neuroscience, psychology, yoga technology, our own personal circumstances and deepest intentions, we will begin or continue the never-ending journey of constructing a practice that truly serves us and our world.
JEN-MITSUKE PETERS holds a BA from Columbia University in Neuroscience & Behavior, an MA in Psychology/Neuroplasticity from Princeton University and an MA in Mindfulness-Based Transpersonal Counseling from Naropa University. She has practiced with and assisted her principal Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga teachers Richard Freeman & Mary Taylor for over 2100 hours in addition to training extensively in other yoga styles and therapeutic practices including several trauma-specific modalities with lead experts in the field such as Stephen Porges, Peter Levine and Diane Poole Heller. Her own experiences with trauma and chronic illness have awakened both her passion for healing and her deep trust in the transformative power of compassionate and mutually beneficial relationships. She has been teaching yoga internationally since 2005 and is a registered psychotherapist and coach in private practice in Denver, CO. Full Bio
JIYU is a Social Engagement System Expert, and this branch of the nervous system has been found to be crucial for trauma healing and conducive to all-around well-being. An extremely old (non-shedding and hypoallergenic) soul, he has been teaching yoga since the tender age of 11 weeks and is working towards earning his Therapy Dog certification sometime after his first birthday in July. Full Bio
Why I’m Passionate About This:
My main motivation for going back to school to earn my degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling was to develop a grounded Trauma-Informed Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga (TIAVY), one that can evolve with my own learning and the experience of interdisciplinary practitioners, scientists and healers willing to look again and again at what really works. TIAVY was the subject of my MA thesis, my all-consuming focus over the past 5 years, enriched by 9 years of previous study and research in Neuroscience at Columbia University, Princeton University, the National Institutes of Health & Max-Planck Institute, as well as 16 years of intense practicing and teaching around the world. My own trauma & disillusionment have fueled me. For the first time in my own practice, I am getting to the bottom of trauma that has been disabling for me, and for the first time in my career, I am thrilled to teach, because I have finally found a way to share yoga that feels authentic, intelligent and nurturing for me and my students.
We are seeing epic levels of devastation, from the tiniest microbes to Planet Earth as a whole. We are being faced with dark and frightening truths about members of our species and even those teachers and sangha members we have most admired, trusted and loved. It is up to us to do the difficult yet not impossible personal work that they have not done, despite whatever technical prowess or philosophical clarity they may possess. Although many of the practices we have inherited may be enormously valuable, they do not stand alone and must be done in the right contexts with conscious intentions and a richer understanding of how our bodies and nervous systems work. Our generation has access to ground-breaking discoveries that can only add to the wisdom and skillful means accumulated from the lineage of practitioners in the past.
Our best selves are needed. How do we want to show up in this world? Have we fallen into a rut of wishful thinking with our spiritual practices or are we truly doing what most touches our hearts and uplifts others? Is it possible that in following a guru or system we have forgotten our powerful ability to lead? We could perpetuate a privileged patriarchal culture or we could look into the truth about the harm it has caused and find out how to aid in the healing process. If our practices do not shed direct light on our interconnectedness and immediately begin to positively impact our interactions with all beings around us, then they contribute to the downward spiral that certainly affects our quality of life and in fact threatens our very survival. Let’s investigate how to prevent future suffering as Patanjali, Buddha and so many others have recommended, and use our talents and intelligence to change the course of history for the better!
Cohort 1, the month-long intensive (July 22 – Aug 16, 2019) will take place Monday through Friday, with the addition of one Saturday following Week 2 (see anticipated schedule in photos below).
Cohort 2, the 9-weekend training will run 9am-5pm Saturday and Sunday with the addition of 3 Friday evening sessions 5-8pm. Dates for Cohort 2 are: September 6-8, 14-15, 28-29, October 5-6, 18-20 (Meditation Weekend), 26-27, November 2-3, 23-24, and December 6-8, 2019. Daily schedule will strongly resemble that of Cohort 1.
Coursework & Requirements
We will workshop ASANA, PRANAYAMA, MEDITATION & KRIYA while maintaining a trauma-informed focus. Postures from the Ashtanga Vinyasa Series 1 and 2 will form the basis of our asana explorations, and we will approach them looking to see what they have to offer each practitioner, providing variations to accommodate everybody and looking closely at transitions while moving at our own individual pace and encouraging each other to be inquisitive about our experiences as opposed to achievement-oriented.
We will do 3 TIAVY SELF-PRACTICE classes similar in format to traditional “Mysore-style” Ashtanga classes. Jen will be assisting and striving in every way to construct a consent-based environment where all individuals feel safe and inspired to do what will be most beneficial for them, as well as offering opportunities to inquire into individual interests.
We will also delve into SANSKRIT CHANTING, YOGA PHILOSOPHY & TRAUMA LITERATURE. A number of traditional chants will be practiced, and we will consider some classic yoga texts as well as relevant trauma literature, investigating how modern science can help us to set our priorities in practice. We will also discuss common interpretations of yogic scripture that may be triggering or less than life-affirming or fully applicable for trauma survivors. Included will be the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Bhagavad Gita, and the work of Bonnie Badenoch, Peter Levine, Pat Ogden, Stephen Porges & more…
Integral to the curriculum is GROUP DISCUSSION & SATSANG, incorporating concepts covered so far and looking at the myriad perspectives generated by fellow group members.
We will learn how to apply TRAUMA THEORIES IN PRACTICE & TEACHING and begin to try out our skills with our colleagues. We will investigate hands-on assists and consider the contexts in which such techniques may be helpful as well as situations where touch can be highly inappropriate. We will discuss a variety of alternatives to touch and investigate our intentions behind every aspect of class composition.
We will delve into GROSS & SUBTLE ANATOMY & PHYSIOLOGY, applying what we learn directly to our practice. These workshops will be based on the inspiring work of Richard Freeman & Mary Taylor as well as Simon Borg Olivier & Bianca Machliss.
We will also savor RESTORATIVES & THERAPEUTICS. We will use simple props, learn some basic preventative measures and therapeutic interventions for common injuries, and consider how our language and attitudes as teachers and students can drastically affect how we go about the practice and the results we obtain from it.
We will hold space for a 2-DAY MEDITATION RETREAT. This will involve about 6 hours of meditative practices per day, some seated and some involving walking or other moving meditations. We will look at the most recent literature that shows both the benefits and dangers of meditative practices in populations touched by trauma and seek to provide a positive experience for each participant.
Fridays free of programming are chances for an optional GROUP ACTIVITY. Being in the company of seekers is said to be perhaps the most important boost on a spiritual path, and Denver offers so many venues!
PLEASE NOTE: In order to receive a certificate of completion, your attendance at all events is mandatory. In cases of emergency, you may need to make up work in private study with me or make other arrangements. I will also be requiring 8 short 2-page essays on the readings, 3 due before the training and the remaining 5 due within 3 months of the close of the training. These will provide opportunities to more fully integrate your learning, get feedback from me, and inspire direction for your future studies. The reading list and assignments will be distributed by May 15th.
Who should apply?
This training is best suited for curious Ashtanga Vinyasa practitioners and teachers with any level of experience and proficiency OR for healing professionals who want to bring yoga into their practices in a serious way. We will be going into considerable detail and requiring some deep soul-searching. The amount of insight and support you can offer yourself, students and clients is proportional to the depth, regularity and sincerity of your well-rounded personal practice and surrounding relationships. If you do not currently have an established practice or are unfamiliar with Ashtanga Vinyasa, lessons with me (live or on Skype) or another qualified teacher prior to the training are recommended.
I am seeking a varied and complimentary group of people willing to share both strengths and vulnerabilities, a heart-centered group of folks with a sense of humor and growing appreciation of themselves and others not just for what they have done or can do, but first and foremost for who they are, both in an unlimited eternal sense as well as honoring how we are showing up at any given moment in time.
This training will take place at my home, which will be wonderful in many ways, but different from typical trainings in others. There will be no shower available, parking is a quick walk down the hill, and at least some of the time a puppy will be present! Throughout the training we will be interacting as a cohort (of 10 or less) and also breaking frequently into smaller groups or partners to encourage active assimilation of the material. You will be working mat-to-mat and interacting closely with me and your colleagues, which will allow for the formation of deep friendships. This will also give us all an opportunity to thoroughly irritate each other with our less-than-conscious habits! I therefore beseech those who apply to agree to uphold the highest standards of conduct and hygiene, and to be willing to constantly reassess your impact on self and other while incorporating constructive feedback.
PLEASE NOTE that this training is not intended to treat YOUR trauma, nor will participants be encouraged to work outside of their Scope of Practice in treating others. Resolution of trauma may require a multifaceted approach and team of professionals.
The cost of the training is $3600. (If you choose to purchase the required reading, this will be an additional cost. Room and Board in Denver are not included.) Upon acceptance, a $350 non-refundable deposit will be required to hold your spot. Full tuition is due by June 15th (Cohort 1) or July 15th (Cohort 2). After these dates tuition will not be refunded unless another student fills your spot.