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How Trauma-Informed Yoga Changed My Life

Written by: Jenna Wurtzberger, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Jenna Wurtzberger

Trauma-informed yoga is a type of yoga practice that focuses on creating a safe and non-judgmental space where you can feel comfortable exploring your inner world. You don't have to worry about performing or achieving anything specific in this space. The practice is designed to help you connect with your inner self, let go of negative thoughts and emotions, and embrace the present moment.

Three women outdoor practicing yoga near body of water

One of the main principles of trauma-informed yoga is to work with the season of your life while accepting and comforting your past versions. This means the practice is tailored to your individual needs and goals, and you are encouraged to listen to your body and do what feels right for you. There is no pressure to push yourself beyond your limits or compare yourself to others. For many years, I believed that my body needed to be molded, sculpted, and transformed to be valued by others. As a trained dancer, my body was meant to be admired for its ability to create shapes, movements, and synchronicity with my fellow performers on stage. It was an illusion of being perfect while I was actually bleeding, crying, and tearing myself apart for the tiniest of mistakes. I left my humanness offstage and continuously strived for something that was unattainable. I started a regular yoga practice in my late 20s, which was a life-changing journey. Initially, I was attracted to the physical aspect of yoga because I knew I could execute the asanas in an aesthetically pleasing form. As an outsider, I appeared proficient in yoga. However, it was another way to seek validation and prove my worth. As I continued practicing yoga, I discovered it was much more than physical exercise. It helped me explore my mental, emotional, and spiritual layers as a human being. Unlike dance, yoga became my therapy and gave me a deeper understanding and peace. During my time in various trauma-informed yoga trainings, I experienced a range of events, stories, and emotions that helped me recognize some of the traumatic experiences I had faced as a young dancer. Not everyone will agree with my opinions about the dance world, and some may even consider me overly dramatic. I honor and respect everyone's views and acknowledge that my story may not be the same as every other dancer's. Nonetheless, I can now see how these past experiences impact my behaviors, thoughts, and interactions. I have undergone three significant shifts in my mindset throughout the last ten years. These shifts have been subtle yet transformative, and I want to share them with you. By sharing my experiences, I encourage you to embark on a journey towards wholeness through the practice of trauma-informed yoga.


Subtle mindset shift No.1


Instead of exercising for physical appearance, we move our bodies in celebration. The countless hours I spent working out to lose weight or change the shape of my muscles left me with a residue of self-doubt. I didn't trust my body's signals and punished it for being either 'too much' or 'not enough.' I never enjoyed exercising because it felt like another way of performing. I needed to present myself as someone so dedicated to my art that I would ignore my body's signs of needing rest, food, and connection. I believed my body was someone else's object to manipulate, and it was also my responsibility to make it desirable enough to be shaped and used for their creative ideas. I consider myself a dancer who is in the process of recovery, rediscovering my body and its incredible ability to move with grace, ease, and strength. I no longer exercise to change my body's appearance in the mirror; I now move my body because it feels like a celebration. I approach my yoga practice with curiosity, empathy, and pleasure whenever I unroll my mat.

Some days are more difficult than others, but my mindset has shifted overall. I can't pinpoint the exact moment, but can credit it to my yoga practice. Trauma-informed yoga classes have helped me understand that I have the power to make choices, listen to my body, and appreciate the effort that goes into showing up. Through my yoga practice, I have realized that how I treat my body reflects how I treat my mind and the world around me. I can see a clear difference between my current and younger self, who struggled with exercise. Our bodies are capable of amazing things, and when we stop trying to conform to society's definition of a "valuable body," we open ourselves up to positive changes in other areas of our lives.


Subtle mindset shift No.2


Instead of clinging to control, we find freedom in the unknown. Yoga has ethical rules called yamas and niyams, which guide a yogic lifestyle. However, following these ethics can be challenging in today’s fast-paced, capitalistic, and demanding society. I struggle with the concept of surrender or ishvara pranidhana in Sanskrit. Understanding that control is an illusion has been a journey for me. In the larger picture, we never really have control, but we can surrender to our daily rituals and routines to create more ease. I must confess that I am a control addict. I prefer things to be on my timeline and like to know what is expected of me. In the past, I thrived in authoritative dance environments where I was told what to do and when. It helped me relax at the time, but it was only an illusion of control, a way to feel empowered in an environment that offered little agency.


Trauma-informed yoga has helped me calm my nervous system and go with the flow with less effort than I ever imagined. It’s interesting to reflect on how I react in a yoga class that embodies the old qualities of my dance training. Now, I feel my body tense when I am told exactly how, when, and where to do something. My younger version would not have believed that I could love the freedom, ease, and agency within a physical practice. Letting go or surrendering is a challenging experience for humans. Our brains do not like the unknown and will make up stories to fill in the blanks. It’s our negatively biased survival system that has kept us alive,so we should be grateful for our minds doing this for us. However, because of this survival instinct, our minds are only focused on the known and are challenged when giving away control and letting the universe do its thing. But the truth is, the universe will do its thing anyway. So, is it worth the energy and effort to fight what we cannot control? Yoga has taught me that it’s easier to trust and find joy in the present than to worry about the past or future.


Subtle mindset shift No.3


Instead of constantly feeling the need to be productive, we embrace the different seasons of our lives, just like nature's changing seasons. In our culture, people are often praised for constantly working, producing, and creating, which affects their health. I experienced this burden as the pressure to do more, work faster, and rest less took a toll on my body, mind, and heart. However, practicing yoga has taught me everything has its own time and place. Nature provides us with a perfect mirror for our lives. Just as the seasons change throughout the year, our bodies, minds, and hearts also go through different phases of growth and change. A yoga practice is a beautiful mirroring of the natural cycle of seasons and the changes they bring. In the spring, we begin our practice by gradually warming the body and paying close attention to its daily needs. We allow ourselves to build progressively heat and strength while being mindful of our body's limitations. As we move into the summer season, we embrace the warmth and release ourselves into more challenging asanas. We allow our body to soften and surrender to the heat, just as we offer to the season's joys. When autumn arrives, we reflect on our experiences and let go of anything that no longer serves us as we relax into deep stretches. We embrace the idea of shedding, like the leaves falling from the trees. We take time to reflect on the things we are grateful for and the things we need to let go of to move forward with a lighter heart and a clearer mind. Finally, we end our practice in savasana, finding stillness and rest, just like the winter season does. We give ourselves permission to rest and recharge, to reflect on our journey so far, and to prepare for the next season's growth and transformation. Yoga is not a one-and-done solution. Instead, it is a personal expedition that leads to self-awareness and discovery, necessitating a steadfast commitment, unwavering consistency,


and persistent patience. Maintaining an unyielding commitment is essential, whether your practice is strenuous or gentle. It is also about being compassionate towards oneself and acknowledging that progress takes time to manifest.


Contact me for a consultation if you want to start your yoga journey. Together, we can create a plan tailored to your needs and goals. We can discuss the benefits of trauma-informed yoga, and I can answer any questions you may have. Yoga can be a transformational practice, and I'm excited to share it with you.


Follow me on Instagram, YouTube, and visit my website for more info!

Jenna Wurtzberger Brainz Magazine
 

Jenna Wurtzberger, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Jenna Wurtzberger is a passionate movement educator focusing on the mind-body connection in dance, yoga, and exercise. Growing up a competitive dancer, she recognized the transformational power of moving her body to music with others. She has developed trauma-informed movement practices for all ages to experience the joy, connectivity, and ease of moving our bodies with intention. She owns Bomiart Movement Society with the mission to educate our bodies, encourage our minds, and empower our hearts to achieve wellness.

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