From Trauma to Teacher


Guest Blogger: Lisa Melton

I feel dark today. I’ve woken up with a heaviness in my body; my skin constricting my happiness. I go to the washroom and can’t even look at the “You are beautiful” sticker that is fused to my mirror. My first thought this morning? Wishing I had a knife so I could carve out my insides and start afresh. I crave lightness, to feel good in my skin, to feel calm in my mind. My distaste for this increasing heaviness pushes me to question why I fill myself with unhealth. I know my being is too full. I know I am uncomfortable. Yet I continue. I have done this my whole life. I have always hidden it and yet, today, it feels unbearable and as though I am experiencing it on a new level.

For some reason I am taken back to my first day of Yin Yoga Teacher Training (YYTT). I was so shy and embarrassed by my body. I convinced myself that everyone would laugh at me because I wasn’t skinny and wearing Lululemon. I was convinced everyone would judge me for invading their sacred space with my old yoga pants and my used, two dollar flip-flops. I never imagined that I could ever teach a class. Me? Stand in front of all these thin, powerful women and try teach THEM something? To have them listen to me speak and have them give a shit? right. Don’t get me wrong, I have done some serious work on myself in regards to dealing with and overcoming my life’s experience to date. Somehow, I was gifted with an incredible chance to experience this YYTT. But I was terrified. But, I went.

For four days I was essentially a mute, frozen by my fear. I was overwhelmed by information that was spoken in a language I hadn’t really heard before. I was floored by the amazing women I met. One woman was from Iran and I was struck by her tenacious articulation. Another woman possessed her Master’s in Divinity, she struck me with her ability to express what she needed in any moment. Yet another woman was a badass,tree hugging, animal activist who always graced me with her smile and her willingness to listen. These women, among the others in the group, helped me to begin feeling like my voice mattered… like I mattered.

Day after day, everything got heavier and more challenging. By day four I was raw. I was exhausted. But, I went. From day four on I wept every day. And for the first time, I didn’t judge myself for it. I wept in front of others and they respected my need to do so. They just sat with me or handed me a box of tissues. They allowed me to have that moment with myself – what a gift! Day after day, things began to change inside. I no longer weighed myself upon waking. I no longer worried about my clothes not being expensive enough or ‘yoga’ enough. I stopped looking in the mirror. Not because I couldn’t look at myself but because I was now able to see myself so much clearer without it. I began to feel good in my skin and I no longer woke up feeling as though I wanted to scrape my insides out.

Our incredibly inspirational yoga guide gifted us all a yoga pillow that she made. I, for whatever reason, used it to cover my eyes during our morning Asana sessions. I loved the way it removed my sense of sight and how it helped me delve deeper into my body. Suddenly it occurred to me, having the yoga pillow over my eyes allowed me to quiet the acute hyper-awareness I had utilized as a way to survive in this life of mine. In that moment, I no longer needed that comfort and protection. In that moment, I was ok without it. When i removed the yoga pillow from my eyes I fully embraced this new vision, a new way of looking at the world and my position in it. This was when it happened. We were asked to teach the class. Gulp!

Nervously, I stepped out in front of my peers. I was to teach them two of my favourite shapes. I was terrified. But, I did it. In the beginning, I stumbled over my words as though rocks had been sporadically placed beneath my feet. My first shape was feet up the wall. I had always loved how I would feel tingles down my legs, as though the stars were filling me up with hope inside. The next pose was a supported heart opener with the yoga pillow over the eyes and a sandbag across the stomach. At this moment, Olafur’s ‘Tomorrow Song’ came on my iPod. For some reason, unknown to me at the time, I hopped up and grabbed my journal. I began reading a piece of writing I had done on what Yin means to me. Suddenly I felt confident in my words, calm in my delivery and my heart was truly open. This moment changed my life. My voice mattered. My life experience mattered. My ability to connect with these breathtaking souls mattered. The song finished and I quietly went back to my mat. After collecting themselves, one woman said it was like she could feel me, another said I felt really authentic, another mouthed the words, “I love you”. This moment changed my life.

My life has been a messy mural of sexual, physical and emotional abuse. Two failed marriages. Drug and alcohol addictions. And a level of self-hatred and hopelessness that, in many life questioning moments, I never thought I could overcome. I have always searched for love, thinking that in hearing those three words I would be saved from myself. And here, in this moment, a stranger only had to mouth those words for me to hear a voice arise from inside myself. I didn’t need to actually hear her say those words to me – I could hear my voice in my ears. This is the first moment that I thought, Yes! I could be a teacher. From that day on, whenever I said, “I’m not a teacher” at least one woman would say ‘Yet!’. And then I too began saying ‘yet’.

So, I bring you back to present day. The day where I awoke to a life of darkness, another day where I wished I could take that knife and carve out my insides as a means of cleansing myself. This day where I find myself restricting my tears in spite of this quiet soul’s whisper that says “It’s ok, it’s just a little healing”. Truth be told, I have not done Yin since I completed the teacher training. Boy, do I feel a difference! Sharing my experience here has helped me to understand that I have been given a gift. For me, to teach Yin would be a radical act of surrender and self-love. Teacher training changed my life. My eyes have been opened to what I am capable of feeling and I can no longer go back to my old self soothing patterns of over-consumption on any level. That first teaching experience, combined with a number of experiences since, has shown me that I can be a teacher. Because I matter. Because my existence in this life matters. My wounds can be my weapons and I can share my experiences so others can ignite their own self-love.

I used to think that in order for my life to matter, I had to die in the name of something honorable. Today, as I write this, I believe that in order for my life to matter, I need to live in the name of something honorable. That something is me.

Yin Yoga Teacher Training Immersion: Guest Teacher Bios

See event details here.

Monday July 6th: Dr.Tanya Gee, Dr.TCM is a registered Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Vancouver, BC.  She is the founder of the Bodhi Tree Healing Centre, a multi-disciplinary medical clinic devoted to serving all of humanity.  Best described as a  story teller, belly laugher, international educator and speaker as she inspires by example and encourages everyone to live simply and with consciousness. Dr.Gee has over 20 years of clinical experience in the field of Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine and esoteric studies of the Tao, Buddhism and more. What interests her the most is the unlimited power of love and the triumph of the human spirit.

Wednesday July 8th: Harmony Shire RMT is a fascial therapist focusing on the realignment of connective tissue. Practicing for eight years, she has found her passion in teaching the benefits and awareness of the fascial body and it's effect on daily living. An early advocate for fascial therapy, Harmony's knowledge of this understudied tissue is connecting and informing the yoga world, and shifting the way we view our practice. She has a full massage practice on Bowen Island and Vancouver, as well as co-teaching workshops.

Thursday July 9th: Muscles and Meridians Workshop by Obediya Jones-DarrellObediya is the head therapist of Superior Martial Arts.  He has had the opportunity to work with high level athletes such as Olympians, Yoga teachers and Professional Dancers to the general population who participate in the activities of daily living. Obediya helps these people do efficient stretching for injury prevention.  In this workshop, Obediya introduces specific stretching techniques and how to do some thai yoga based assists. Through a guided discussion he demonstrates how traditional concepts of yin and yang, the foundation of Acupuncture, and scientific principles from anatomy and physiology can work together to help you and your clients achieve balance during your practice.  

Friday July 10th: Dia Penning is yoga activist and Director of Curriculum and Training at World Trust Education Services in Oakland, CA. Through education rooted in love and justice, World Trust serves over 30,000 people each year. Using her 25 year foundation in the arts, social justice and yoga and challenging dominate paradigms through film, story and dialogue, Dia encourages deep reflection about how yogis approach service; within the yoga community AND out in the world. Please visit her website or Facebook for additional information.

Monday July 13th: Tanya Hollo is uniquely skilled in guiding people in the discovery of magic in everyday life. Weaving a strong scientific background with years of experience in various spiritual traditions and the healing arts, she loves empowering people to heal and transform themselves in a fun and accessible way. She believes that Yin yoga is a profound tool for self-discovery, and that through practice and integration, the skills learned in Yin can be used to transform the planet, one shape at a time. Tanya works as a naturopathic doctor in Gastown, Vancouver, where she is consistently humbled to witness patients on their healing paths.

Tuesday July 14th: Nicole Marcia has been a yoga teacher, therapist and trainer since 2004. In 2009, she was awarded a master’s degree with a specialization in yoga therapy from Lesley University in Boston, MA. Since then, she has been employed by Vancouver Coastal Health at their Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addictions, where she developed a comprehensive yoga therapy program for in-patient clients in various stages of recovery from mental health and addiction issues. She also serves as the director of training at Yoga Outreach, a not-for-profit organization providing volunteer yoga teachers to marginalized populations. In 2010, she completed the Trauma Sensitive Yoga Training at the Trauma Center in Boston, MA, and a course on the fundamentals of teaching yoga and meditation in military communities conducted by Warriors at Ease in Silver Spring, MD. She is a faculty member at Stenberg College, Ajna Yoga and Langara College Continuing Studies.

Thursday July 16th: Dr. Elisabeth Ormandy was introduced to yoga by her Grandfather when she was young. She officially started her yoga journey in 2002 with the practice of Ashtanga. Four years later Elisabeth travelled the ocean from Edinburgh to Vancouver where she nestled among the mountains and started to explore other yoga styles and philosophies. With inspiration from Anusara, Iyengar, and Yin-trained teachers, Rajanaka Tantra philosophy, and the human body, she settled into her own yoga rhythm. Elisabeth’s focus on wellness-based, ethically conscious living feeds her passion for yoga as a practice that goes beyond physical asana. In addition to teaching yoga, Elisabeth is a lecturer at the University of British Columbia where she teaches undergraduate classes in ethics, political theory, and animal welfare. She is Co-founder and Executive Director of the Animals in Science Policy Institute, a research consultant for the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BC SPCA), and a volunteer researcher for the David Suzuki Foundation. Elisabeth lives in Vancouver with her partner, Oliver, and together they are preparing to turn their tiny house dreams into a reality.

Join us for two weeks of Yin bliss! Tickets and info are here.

Announcing the Complete Schedule for the July '15 Teacher Training in Vancouver

Monday July 6, 2015
Danielle HoogenboomIntroductions, Intention Setting and Yin Overview
Dr. Tanya Gee: Yin, Yang and the Dao. Mysticism and Medicine

Tuesday July, 2015
Danielle HoogenboomPoses, Placement and Form
Danielle HoogenboomPose Variations and Props. Working with Diverse Populations

Wednesday July 8, 2015
Harmony Shire: Anatomy: Fascia and Function
Harmony Shire: Anatomy: Bones, Organs, Muscles

Thursday July 9, 2015
Obediya Jones Darrell: Meridians and Muscles from Eastern and Western Views
Obediya Jones Darrell: Assisted Yin, Partner Work and Thai Massage

Friday July 10, 2015
Dia Penning: The Business of Yoga & Navigating Politics
Dia Penning: Systems, Privilege and Karma Yoga: Yoga off the Mat

Saturday July 11, 2015
Danielle HoogenboomElements and Understanding: Learning to Un-Sequence
Danielle HoogenboomVariations and Long Holds: Dissecting an Inner Practice

Sunday July 12, 2015
Danielle HoogenboomGroup Teaching and Body Feedback: Learning together
Danielle HoogenboomEmotional Wellness and Class Themes

Monday July 13, 2015
Dr. Tanya Hollo: Organs and Emotions
Dr. Tanya Hollo: Natural Health and Nature's ConnectedCycles

Tuesday July 14, 2015
Nicole Marcia: Trauma Sensitive Yoga for Mind, Body, Spirit
Danielle HoogenboomWord, Sound, Power: Finding your Unique Voice

Wednesday July 15, 2015
Danielle HoogenboomAsana Lab and Practice Teaching
Danielle HoogenboomPresentations, Group Reasonings and Future Resources

Thursday July 16, 2015
Danielle HoogenboomSpiritually Speaking: Sacred Modern Living
Dr. Elizabeth Ormandy: Ethics in to the World. Living Yoga to Create Change