By Zoe Seiler, contributor
Decatur, GA – Trauma sensitive yoga focuses on the healing and breathing aspects of yoga. Stacey Beth Shulman has been teaching yoga full-time for about 10 years with the mission of bringing gentle movement and attention to breath to people of all shapes and sizes.
“It’s not fitness focused yoga, but the goal of trauma sensitive yoga is to gently bring you back into your body, even offer opportunities to befriend your body,” Shulman said. “Because when you’ve experienced trauma you get disconnected from your body and we often feel like our bodies have somehow betrayed us or we’ve betrayed our bodies.”
Shulman finished her yoga teacher training about 12 years ago and began teaching full-time when she was laid off from her human services job about 10 years ago.
The practice of trauma sensitive yoga uses rhythmic movement and pauses in various yoga poses as a different way to experience the body.
“It’s about becoming more aware of your body and becoming more aware of your breath rather than trying to make your body better. It’s really about trying to recognize and accept your body as it is,” Shulman said.
Her trauma sensitive yoga classes are for people experiencing trauma for various reasons, especially for those who struggle with posttraumatic stress disorder and complex PTSD.
A common example of PTSD is a soldier coming back with PTSD because they experienced a horrible accident or another traumatic event, and they have flashbacks of that one single incident, Shulman said.
“It’s almost like with single-incident PTSD, it’s like a bell starts to ring and ordinarily when we experience a traumatic incident, because we all do, the bell rings and then eventually it stops ringing,” Shulman said. “But with PTSD the bell continues to ring and it doesn’t ever really stop.”
Complex PTSD focuses on multiple incidents, such as physical or sexual abuse, so multiple bells may ring at the same time or at different times. Complex PTSD causes someone’s nervous system to be on high alert so that person never really calms down or relaxes, Shulman said.
“Trauma sensitive yoga has a positive effect on your nervous system that allows your body and your nervous system to begin to calm down,” Shulman said. “When your nervous system is calmer then you’re able to live a more satisfying and fulfilling life because you’re not always on high alert looking for danger.”
She also incorporates some elements of trauma sensitive yoga into her general yoga classes.
“I love my work so much. I love that I can offer something that every single person can do. They might do it differently than somebody else. It might not look the same as your neighbor across the street doing yoga but every single person can do yoga. I love that I can offer something that so many people can benefit from,” Shulman said.
Marti Yura and her husband opened Vista Yoga in 2009, located at 2836 Lavista Road, Suite D. Yura started out in the fitness industry and eventually began teaching yoga full-time.
“I really wanted (the studio) to be more of a center for people. I envisioned it like a holistic center,” Yura said. “I know the power of yoga just in my own body.”
Yura worked in Chicago with her yoga teacher a few years ago. While she was there she noticed a class called yoga for all bodies. Yura met Shulman at an event shortly after and thought there was a niche that could be offered as Shulman teaches something similar.
“What Stacey does, which I think is great, is she brings in that therapeutic mindset but also includes all bodies,” Yura said.
Vista Yoga is opening up for in-person social distanced classes. The classes can have up to seven people and an instructor with 10 feet in between each mat. The studio also requires masks and has implemented a cleaning protocol. Classes are also available online.
Shulman additionally teaches classes at Decatur Yoga and Pilates. Debra Kelley opened her first location in 2003 in downtown Decatur and later opened a second location in 2018 located at 2570 Blackmon Drive, Suite 400.
She too left a corporate job to pursue yoga. After taking a partial leave of absence from her job in 2000 to become a certified teacher, she resigned from her job and began teaching yoga full-time. She also helped open some studios in the metro Atlanta area.
Kelley said the studio focuses on personal responsibility and acceptance. She invites people to be where they are, love where they are and move forward, she said.
“Yoga is really just about being in your body, closing your eyes, really connecting deeply and intimately with yourself, breathing, and it’s about acceptance,” Kelley said. “It is about accepting exactly where you are and allowing yourself to do what you can do and be okay with it.
Kelley met Shulman when her studio hosted a teacher training that focused on therapeutic yoga. Shulman has been teaching primarily restorative classes at the studio, as well as classes geared towards trauma.
“She’s doing the essence of what yoga is because it’s all supposed to be therapeutic,” Kelley said. “If you look at the cover of a yoga journal and you see someone twisting into a pretzel, it’s a little off putting for a huge segment of people. Stacey was really bridging that gap from the beginning.”
Kelley only has one studio currently. Due to the coronavirus pandemic she decided to close the downtown Decatur location and is focusing on the remaining studio on Blackmon Drive.
She doesn’t plan to open the studio for in-person classes until it is safe to do so but she was able to shift to virtual classes that are live streamed and are available on demand. The studio is also offering classes outdoors by the lake in Avondale Estates.
The outdoor classes follow protocols such as temperature checks, wearing masks onto the mat, providing alcohol spray bottles to clean the pilates mats and staying six feet apart.
“My whole goal on this is to serve my clientele and keep them connected, for us to all stay connected,” Kelley said.
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