A Brief Introduction to Trauma-Informed Ashtanga Yoga

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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.

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 Yoga, 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. TIAyoga 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. The brilliant framework of Ashatanga Vinyasa Yoga adapted to the individual as I learned it from my principal teacher Richard Freeman forms a base from which additional therapeutic modalities can be implemented. 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!

3-Workshop Polarity Series in Denver Fall 2018!

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3-Workshop Ashtanga Vinyasa Polarity Series
Saturdays 8:30am-11:00am in Denver

  1. October 27, 2018 — Krama/Vikrama:  Standing, Balancing & Inverting
  2. November 3, 2018 — Prana/Apana:  Forward Bending & Hip Opening
  3. November 10, 2018 — Ida/Pingala:  Twisting & Backbending

Investment:  $135 for the series
Please pay in full via PayPal to jendpeters@gmail.com to reserve your spot!  

I’m excited to offer this series of 3 Saturday morning workshops in Denver (location disclosed after registration), each detailing a different set of yogic polarities and focusing on a different category of asana.  Each class will build on the previous one and address methodologies that are difficult to learn in other class formats, including basic pranayama in support of the theme of the day.

This series is intended for students with a vinyasa yoga practice, who are interested in deepening their understanding of external forms, the internal forms of breath and bandha, yoga philosophy and its intersection with psychology and neuroscience.  Students can expect to gain skill, confidence and benefit from practice like never before.  So get your yoga on early and have the rest of your Saturday to enjoy other fall activities!

In case you’re considering enrolling in one of my 200-hour teacher trainings in 2019 (more details coming soon), this would be a great way to sample my teaching style, and as an added incentive, those taking this series can apply $50 towards tuition!

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.  Looking forward to seeing you there 🙂

Jen’s Mulabandha Workshop in Denver on 11/18/18!

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MULABANDHA

Registration is now open through Ashtanga Yoga Denver:  Mulabandha, the “root bond,” is an essential yet elusive facet of the ashtanga vinyasa system. Yoga scriptures favored by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois describe Mulabandha as a goddess whom we may learn to serve with sensitivity and devotion. Practicing in that spirit, we prepare an altar in our body-heart-minds and constantly invite Mulabandha to manifest if she is so inclined. This requires the fine-tuning and balancing of many opposing patterns throughout the body. In this workshop, we will do a variety of cleansing, breathing and asana exercises that will draw our focus inwards towards delicious detail. Warning: you may be flooded with nectar and fall in love with the goddess! This workshop will not involve acrobatics and is suitable for all levels of inquisitive ashtanga students. Investment: $45 in advance/ $50 at the door (space permitting).