Free, No-barriers yoga aims to help healing for Indigenous trauma survivors in Regina
“Getting in touch with yourself mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically if we’re talking about the medicine wheel, is really a big part of our healing journey as Indigenous people.”
Shyla Gable began teaching yoga in 2019 and wanted to address a specific audience; Indigenous trauma survivors.
“I wanted to create something that was accessible to Indigenous people, you know we all know where the Mâmawêyatitân Centre is, this program is free, so there’s no cost. Yoga memberships are expensive … and again, just accessible in the body,” she told CTV News.
She offers these free, no-barriers classes bi-weekly, focusing on energy, breath, and dealing with the impacts of trauma. She sees anywhere from four to 12 people every class, ranging from mid-twenties to mid-sixties.
By creating a safe space, Gable’s class allows participants to take part in different levels of yoga, while partaking in a group activity aimed at strengthening and healing.
“You know I look at yoga as a ceremony, so we’re coming together, we’re sitting in ceremony together, creating good energy and connecting to our breathe, connecting to our ancestors, moving our bodies in a safe way.”
Trauma-informed yoga has been a practice since around 2002, with the goal of creating a mind-body connection to those who have experienced trauma while taking back ownership of their physical bodies.
Gable said a trauma based approach to yoga allows for a safer, more accessible practice especially for Indigenous trauma survivors, as it addresses their unique needs.
“Science shows that trauma gets stored in our tissues, in our body, and when we take some time to really connect to our breath, move our body in a safe gentle way, we can begin to heal, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically,” she explained.
“And when we find that balance inside we can have a better relationship with ourselves, with Creator, with the land and with our families.”
Gable also teaches yoga at a workshop held by All Nations Hope Network called Healing and Strengthening Indigenous Sisters and Two Spirits.
This course is a trauma informed workshop that incorporated Gable’s yoga to present accessible information around history, traditional Indigenous roles, and colonial violence, while teaching tools to assist with the healing of trauma.
“It’s important for this [program] to exist because we’re trying to raise awareness and we’re constantly trying to honour the lives of Indigenous people in general … our workshop is a ceremony that honours our bodies and to release any energy that doesn’t serve to our highest good,” Kaitlin Bird, councillor advisor for the MMIWG2S+ Project, told CTV News.
Bird said the course is open to any and all people who want to learn about the on-going epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirits, as well as survivors.
“We all know someone who is missing and murdered, even if it’s not a direct connection, we all know of someone, at least here in Saskatchewan,” Bird said.
Having this open discussion of teaching, while incorporating yoga as a healing tool is a newer approach for All Nations Hope, and Bird believes in the continual practice.
“If your spirit is calling to you to keep attending these workshops it’s because your spirit knows that it needs it, it feels for it … and it’s also a good introduction to Shyla, because she does free workshops like that all the time.”
For Gable, seeing growth and confidence in her students is reward enough.
“What’s really beneficial for me to see the students come back every week and notice those changes in their own energy in their own way of being … being in touch with those parts of themselves that maybe they were never aware of or never noticed before, so it’s really rewarding in that way.”
Finding their identity again after experiencing trauma is necessary for the healing process, as both Gable and Bird agree.
“Knowing how to pray, or knowing what the customs are for ceremonies, or even knowing a bit of the language, these things are very interconnected to their identity,” said Bird.
As for Gable’s free yoga classes, they are now held bi-weekly after losing government funding.
But participants in the class told CTV News they need the classes weekly in order to stay on track with their healing journey.
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